Desert Ruin Puzzle Solutions in The Witness

Desert Ruin Puzzle Solutions guide will help you with screenshots and description to solve light related puzzles found in the northwest corner of the Witness’ island. They are mostly related to light and how it shines onto the puzzle panels.
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If you are like me and got stuck on the very first puzzle, you might want to look at the puzzle panel from different angles and you will probably notice scratches that indicate how the puzzle should be solved. Things, as its common with The Witness, become more complicated as you delve deeper into the ruin, but at the end you are rewarded with activation of another laser beam and Desert Ruin Trophy. Check our guide for all puzzle solutions in the Witness if you need a hint for solving puzzles in other areas.

The greatest reward for a person playing The Witness is solving the puzzles. Using a guide to solve them should be your last resort, when you are at your wits’ end. We found ourselves in that position many times while playing this game and that is why we provide these guides. Proceed with caution because there are spoilers ahead.

the witness desert ruin puzzles location map

Red puzzle panels in the desert

If you go north of the Symmetry puzzles and their little island you’ll come across what looks like a ruin of some sort of temple in a desert environment. You will see a bunch of red octagonal puzzle panels and a door leading inside the temple that is locked until you solve the surface puzzles. This had me confused for a while, because there did not seem to be any hints as to how to solve the puzzles. I actually solved the first panel by going through every possible combination. Only by accident did I notice sort of a scratch marks appearing on the puzzle panel once I looked at it from a certain angle. These puzzles are solved when you shine a light source at them from a particular angle (sun, light bulbs or other). Here are the solutions for the surface Desert Ruin puzzles.

1st Underground puzzle solutions in the Desert Ruin

You have now unlocked the door that takes you inside the Desert Ruin. Panels standing up are somewhat obstructed by shadow. to the right of the entrance is a switch that can turn on three differently positioned floodlights. Use that to first uncover the full pattern of the panels standing up. The one on the floor is a bit difficult. Each floodlight uncovers just a part of the pattern when looking at the puzzle from a different angle. It took a while to assemble the pattern based on these pieces. I actually used photoshop to rotate the three angles into a same one. You can do the same by drawing the uncovered bits on a piece of paper and making sure they are all facing the same way. Or just use our screenshot bellow.

Desert Ruin underground 2 – water reflection puzzle solutions

Going down the stairs you enter a room with several puzzles and a water puddle in the middle. You will probably notice right away that the solution to the puzzles is seen in the reflection of the puddle under a certain angle. Keep in mind that up is down in the reflection and vice versa. You can also take a step back and solve the puzzle while looking at the reflection from afar.

Desert Ruin underground 3 – water level puzzle solutions

This is the lowest level in the underground and you find yourself in a room filled with water. Time to use all the knowledge you’ve gained so far. There are switches on several pillars that will start dropping or raising the water level. The trick for each puzzle is to find the best angle to look at it as the water level changes and get the light to shine on its reflection to reveal the solution. I was stuck here for quite a while until I found the right angles.

Desert Ruin underground 3 – elevator room

The last room in Desert Ruins is where the elevator is at. Puzzles are solved using the same mechanics you’ve used so far. There is one tricky one, but we’ll tell you about the solution (hint: look behind the panel). Once you power up the elevator DO NOT STEP INTO IT TO GO UP. Activate it from the outside and wait for it to reach the top. This is crucial for activating the Desert Ruins laser beam and getting the trophy (which we’l discuss in the end).

Desert Ruin Trophy – activating the laser beam

Once you activated all the puzzles here you need to turn on the elevator switch, while not being in the elevator itself. It will go up and you will probably notice that the bottom of the elevator has some patterns that are very similar to puzzle panel patterns. Once the elevator reaches the top you can draw along the marked lines and this will activate the Desert Ruins laser beam and earn you the Trophy. Congratulations!

Desert Ruins elevator activate laser beam trophyIf you are stuck on some other sections you can check out our other The Witness Puzzle Solution Guides.

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  1. L

    The final part with the elevator is not actually necessary. The laser beam will activate nevertheless. It actually is one of the + puzzles for the black monoliths. Go check the one nearby. You should see that symbol in orange.

  2. C

    Theres another hidden puzzle like the one under the elevator. If you stand on the plank’s on the right on Underground Water 2nd picture, you can kinda get it to activate. It’s on the white washed pillar just out of the picutre on the right, though I can’t find out where to connect it to

    1. I
      Iris Schaaf

      Try to make a straight line from right to left in the water.

  3. W

    In this area there is a bunker close to the sea. Go to the end of this area, head towards sea. Go down the stairways and you’ll find it. However i don’t know how to open it.

  4. J

    My laser is not hitting the mountain like all of the rest. He is hitting somewhere in the horizon, nothing special.
    Is it correct?

    1. W

      follow it and you’ll be able to change it’s direction

  5. C

    The last puzzle for underground level 3, because the view is obstructed, is the only way to find the answer through trial and error for the very beginning and ending of the pattern? I got it by guessing a couple of times cause you can see where the middle section leads, but I’m wondering if I missed something where in the whole pattern is revealed. In my opinion it kinda undermines the game if they force you to guess, even if it is a small section. I spent a long time searching for the solution instead of just guessing and was kinda annoyed when I was forced to guess. Please tell me I missed something so this itch of mine can be scratched. Thanks.

    1. L

      are you talking about the the one before the elevator? You have to raise it up(slide on the back) and stare at the water head on and a bit to the left. You can see it quite well, actually

      1. C

        Yea, that’s the one I’m talking about, but the reflection only shows the middle section (as shown in the picture above for this puzzle). Wondering if there’s an angle where you can see the whole thing.

        1. S
          Some old fool

          I too would love to know this! I can’t accept that they’d make us guess this answer, there must be a proper answer. Please let us know if you worked it out!

          1. N

            As Larry said (might not be super clear) behind the puzzle there is a slider which tilts the puzzle downwards which lets you see the whole thing, I too guess I thought that was the trick since even without tilting there were only a few possibilities. Also I think the tilt mechanism only works once you solve the one to the right of this which becomes redundant if you did it without tilting.

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