is a first person adventure video game developed by Campo Santo and published by Panic for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, and PlayStation 4. It was the debut video game... read more
is a first person adventure video game developed by Campo Santo and published by Panic for Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, and PlayStation 4. It was the debut video game by both companies. Firewatch follows the story of a volunteer fire lookout in the aftermath of the Yellowstone fires of 1988.
Firewatch takes place in the Wyoming wilderness in 1989. Players take on the role of Henry (voiced by Rich Sommer), a fire lookout who is assigned to his own tower in Shoshone National Forest. Through exploration of the surrounding area, Henry uncovers clues about mysterious occurrences in the vicinity that are related to the ransacking of his tower while out on a routine patrol and a shadowy figure that occasionally appears watching him from afar. Henry's only form of communication is a walkie-talkie connecting him to his supervisor, Delilah (voiced by Cissy Jones). Players may choose from a number of dialog options to interact with her when players discover new interactive objects or environments, or refrain from responding. The player's choices will influence the tone of his relationship with Delilah. As the story progresses, new areas will be opened up for players. The game also features a day-night cycle, but time will only shift if players successfully complete all the objectives set for that period of time.
It should be noted that at many points throughout the game the player has various dialogue choices. These change certain character traits and relations. The below may differ from some players narratives as a result.
The game starts by showing main events in the relationship between the protagonist and girlfriend Julia in the form of summary texts with glances of the player preparing for a day of work at the park. The player can make some choices in the texts that change course of their relationship. The synopsis takes place from meeting Julia in 1975, getting into a positive relationship, having a few bumps in the road, then Julia getting diagnosed with an early form of Alzheimers at the age of 41. It steadily makes the relationship go downhill, Julia's parents learn of it and by the player's choice she either goes to a nursing home or to her parents' home. The intro ends in 1988 when the player finds their current job from an ad in a paper. On his first day, Henry spots fireworks erupting over a nearby lake. Delilah asks him to warn off the people responsible. He arrives to find two teenage girls drinking heavily and skinny dipping. Regardless of what he says, the girls take off across the lake, shouting insults at Henry for “leering” at them. He passes a cave on the way back to his tower, discovering it’s been locked. Delilah says the key has been missing for some time. As he nears his tower, a distant figure shines a light on him, then runs away. Henry finds his tower has been ransacked.
The next day, Delilah asks Henry to investigate a possibly downed communication line. It appears to have been intentionally cut by the teens, who left a note telling Henry “go to hell.” Enraged, Henry and Delilah plot to get revenge by scaring the girls off. But when Henry finds their encampment, it is deserted. A note left at the site blames Henry for wrecking their camp and stealing their stuff. Henry and Delilah are confused, but happy to be rid of them.
Life returns to normal for a few weeks. Henry and Delilah grow closer, with Delilah admitting she spends more time talking with Henry than any of the other lookouts. The player can choose to share the details of his troubled marriage with her. While exploring, Henry can find notes from other lookouts discussing their time up in the mountains, along with missing persons reports from hikers who disappeared in the area.
Henry finds an old, discarded pack belonging to a boy named Brian. Delilah tells him that Brian and his father, Ned, were previous lookouts before Henry. Ned was a heavy drinker and an outdoorsman, while his son was into fantasy novels and role-playing games. Delilah was fond of Brian and lied about his presence there, since it was against the rules for employees to bring their children to the towers. The pair left abruptly in the middle of summer and never returned.
Things take a turn for the worse when the two teens are reported missing by their families. Fearing an inquiry, Delilah falsifies reports to say that neither she nor Henry encountered the girls.
The next day, Henry hikes down to the lake to go fishing and discovers a clipboard filled with notes, including transcripts of all his conversations with Delilah. He finds a radio similar to his nearby and is knocked unconscious by an unknown assailant. He awakes to find the clipboard and the radio gone.
Realizing that whoever wrote the notes likely knows that they lied about encountering the girls, Henry and Delilah mount an investigation. Henry recalls that the letterhead on the clipboard referred to a nearby meadow. When he gets there, he finds the area fenced off, with U.S. Government notices warning against trespassers. Henry breaks in and discovers a camp with expensive-looking radio and surveillance equipment. There are numerous reports detailing Henry and Delilah’s personal and private lives, as well as additional transcripts from their radio conversations. There is also an electronic tracking device, which Henry takes.
Henry and Delilah briefly discuss destroying the camp, but decide against it. A short while later, Henry spots smoke coming from the camp and realizes it's burning. He returns to his tower, only for the tracker to start beeping. He traces the signal to a backpack nearby, which has been booby trapped with a piercing alarm. Inside the pack, he finds the missing key to the caves.
Delilah reports seeing a figure in Henry’s tower. He races back, only to find a walkman taped to the door. The tape inside includes an incriminating recording of Henry and Delilah talking about destroying the government camp, which is now burning out of control.
Henry decides to search the locked up cave. Once inside, someone closes the gate and traps him. Lacking the climbing equipment to delve deeper into the rock, Henry finds a separate exit and discovers an old campsite belonging to Brian. The site is filled with drawings of castles, dragons, and knights. Henry also finds climbing equipment there, along with a note from Brian saying he hid it so his dad would stop forcing him to learn how to climb.
Henry takes the equipment and returns to the cave, determined to find out what is going on. There, he makes a startling discovery: Brian’s crumpled body, lying at the bottom of a huge cavern. Delilah is devastated by the news, blaming herself for breaking the rules and allowing Brian to stay.
The next day, an evacuation order is given for all the lookouts, as the government camp fire has spread and grown too dangerous. As Henry prepares to leave, the tracking device begins beeping again. Henry follows the signal, while Delilah grows increasingly distant. The signal leads him to another walkman tape. On it is a recording by Brian’s father, Ned. He admits that Brian died in a rock climbing accident. The shock was too much for him. Unwilling to return to society and answer for what happened, Ned admits he has been living in secret in the wilderness ever since.
Henry finds Ned’s hidden camp nearby. It’s filled with items stolen from the government camp, the lookout towers, and the teenage girls (who Delilah admits have been found safe). Based on evidence littered around, Henry pieces together that Ned had been using the radio equipment from the government camp to ensure that no one was looking for him. Ned also created the transcripts and reports in an effort to scare Henry away and keep him from finding the body.
Henry relates all this to Delilah, who refuses to listen, insisting that Ned murdered his son. A rescue helicopter arrives to get her. Henry begs her to wait for him, so they can finally meet in person. She agrees, but when Henry reaches the tower, she is already gone. They talk on the radio one last time. Delilah says she can’t stand to remain there in the “shadow of a dead boy,” saying she will never return. When Henry insists that they meet, she tells him to return to his wife.
Firewatch is the first video game from Campo Santo, a San Francisco-based developer founded by Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, who were the creative leads of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead; Nels Anderson, the lead designer of Mark of the Ninja; and Olly Moss, an artist. Chris Remo composed the score. Firewatch runs on the Unity game engine.
Development for Firewatch began with a single painting by Moss. Jane Ng, lead environment artist at Campo Santo, was tasked with translating Moss' key art into 3D environments while maintaining his stylized, elemental artistic vision. Moss, who had previously been known primarily for his graphic design work, joined Vanaman and Rodkin to found Campo Santo after spending many years working on the periphery of game development. In creating the aforementioned painting, Moss emulated National Park Service posters from the New Deal era in both color palette and iconography. The walkie-talkie interaction in Firewatch is inspired by the player's relationship with Atlas in BioShock, as well as the dialog system from The Walking Dead. The development team went on a camping trip to Yosemite National Park for inspiration for the game. The game is also inspired in part by Vanaman's and Anderson's experiences growing up in rural Wyoming.
The game is a first-person game played from the perspective of Henry, and Delilah will only talk through the walkie-talkie. This gameplay decision is made as the team hoped to avoid lip syncing and minimize the amount of animation needed, as both of which are very expensive for them due to the limited team size and resources. According to Anderson, it will be unfeasible for the team to add them to the game.
The game was announced in March 2014 with a tentative release date of "2015". At GDC, the company housed a public playtest away from the main building and game artist, Jane Ng, hosted a panel on the design and aesthetic of the game entitled The Art of Firewatch. In June 2015, the team visited E3 and confirmed that they would be bringing the game to PlayStation 4 as the only console version.
Firewatch received positive reviews. Aggregating review website Metacritic gave the Microsoft Windows version 82/100 based on 32 reviews, and the PlayStation 4 version 76/100 based on 29 reviews.