Firewatch is the debut video game of developer Campo Santo and publisher Panic. The first person indie adventure relies heavily on rich storytelling and will grip players with its witty and humorous dialogue, edge of your seat tension and will leave you questioning your own sanity and what it truly means to be alone in the wilderness with nothing but a Walkie Talkie as your only point of contact with the outside world. It is is available for PlayStation 4 and Steam for £14.99.
Players will take on the role of Henry. Right at the beginning of the game a sort of prologue section will play out which gives players a bit of backstory as to why Henry, a normal man has taking it upon himself to volunteer for the role of a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness in 1989. Players find out that Henry’s long-time girlfriend, Julia, is suffering from an illness. What is really interesting however is the choices that players are given to react to the situations of the prologue, for example, Julia is offered her dream job but in order for her to take it, she needs to move away. Both options that are available to the player are equally selfish, but that’s just it, Henry feels like he is an actual human being, he doesn’t want Julia to go but is unable to compromise due to his own selfish reasons. For the rest of the prologue, we see Henry’s and Julia’s relationship deteriorate until things get so bad Henry turns to drink to nullify the strain his relationship is having on his psyche. Eventually, Julia is taken away by her family and Henry is left picking up the pieces of his former self. It is here that the game really begins with Henry arriving at his watchtower. This is a rare form of story-telling but it is done to perfection in this title, the choices the player makes in the prologue do not directly impact the story of Firewatch but instead affects how people view Henry and their opinions of him which is really very powerful and unique.
Henry’s only point of contact to the outside world is a walkie-talkie which connects him to his supervisor Delilah. After Henry’s first assignment of stopping teenagers from using fireworks, he quickly realizes that he may not be as alone as he thought with the appearance of a mysterious figure of a man in the distance that seems to be watching Henry. As the days go by more and more occurrences happen that threaten the well-being of Henry and Delilah as well as the pairs mental state to the point where distrust and anxiety take over. The story is a narrative driven experience which relies heavily on the relationship between Henry and Delilah and how they deal with the situations that present themselves.
There are several downsides to this game however, the main one being that the game can easily be played and completed in 3 to 4 hours depending on the player, making it extremely short. The other problem with the game was unfortunately with the ending (no spoilers) but the ending seemed to fall flat, the story was built up and up and then just sort of ended.
Firewatch is a first person adventure and platformer with a heavy focus on the exploration of the game’s detailed environment. Players will have a variety of tools to help them navigate the game world, the most important being the map and compass which allows players to find their way through the dense forests to different locations throughout.
Players will also acquire pieces of equipment such as a rope to ascend and descend steep cliff faces and a fireman’s axe which can be used to open up padlocked doors and clear the way of rubble. During the course of the game, players will be able to make different and unique dialogue choices referring to the different environments or encounters that crop up. Delilah, Henry’s only interaction with the outside world is there to offer advice to players and to keep Henry company. The back and forth dialogue between the two characters is really something to be admired as their relationship starts out awkward but as the game progresses they become closer and are almost reliant on each other.
The story is a linear experience in which the player will have to deal with different objectives while getting to grips with the game’s controls and mechanics. Scattered throughout the world are supply caches that other fire lookouts have left. Inside these crates, map information can be found and copied onto the players own map which shows different locations as well as different routes that can be taken. Also found in these supply crates are notes that serves as the backstory for different characters mentioned throughout the title. At any time the player can use the walkie-talkie and ask Delilah different questions relating to what Henry is seeing or thinking as well as replying to Delilah. The gameplay is simple but the superb dialogue and voice acting really add to the story, which in itself is a rollercoaster of emotions relating to Henry and his downward spiral in his private life to him coming out of his shell once again and stepping up to responsibility.
Visuals and sounds
The visuals are very reminiscent of borderlands, comic style graphics meets modern visuals. It’s safe to say that Campo Santo’s debut is absolutely spectacular visually. The environments that are on the show are stunningly detailed and rich with so much color that it is easy just to stop and stare at the magnificent beauty of the skyline as the burning Sun sets, creating a comforting orange glow that seeps through the trees into a truly wondrous example of game development.
The sounds that accompany, are just as important as the visuals. Even separate they are both breathtaking in their own respects but combined they create something else entirely, they both work with each other so well. Hiking through the forest and hearing the wind rustling through the trees, the foliage dancing in the breeze, the birds chirping away just adds to the peaceful atmosphere as well as the feeling of isolation, of no one else being around but the player creates truly beautiful and tense moments that makes it in its combined state an awe inspiring game, made even more by the fact that it is an indie title.
The music featured in the game is an original score, composed by Chris Remo. The soundtrack is beyond impressive, combining tranquil tones with suspense-filled dread that gets under your skin and leaves a lasting impression that will not be forgotten for quite some time.
Overall, I will give this game an 8 out of 10. Firewatch offers superb voice acting, an exemplary narrative and an absorbing storyline with visuals that explode with colour and realism that pulls players into a real wilderness with real problems and real characters that explores the ideals and relationships of people and forces them to work together to overcome odds that are stacked against their favor. While the story is disappointingly short, taking just 4 hours at best to complete, all the other factors present come together to create a brilliantly detailed world with an interesting storyline and even more interesting characters that make the player feel alive and real.
|+ Beautiful game with stunning visuals||– Very short game|
|+ Captivating characters||– Disappointing ending|
|+ Witty, humorous and entertaining dialogue|
|+ Tense storyline|