Developer: Campo Santo
Platforms: Windows, OS X, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: February 9th, 2016
What is Firewatch? It’s a question I found myself asking again and again in the month leading to its release. The game in question was made by the fine folks at Campo Santo; it is a 3D adventure game for the PC and Playstation 4 set in the Wyoming wilderness of Shoshone national forest in 1989. You play as Henry who has taken a job as a summer Fire watchmen in the park. The majority of the story is told through radio conversations between Henry and his female supervisor Delilah. If you have an itch for an intriguing mystery told in a unique setting Firewatch may very well be the game for you. I’ll do my best to keep this review spoiler free.
Firewatch takes a unique approach to making us feel familiar with its main protagonist very quickly. Through a series of dialog options, we are given about 20 years of history on the player character. While some of these don’t feel story altering, it is a good way to create some comprehensive back story in a short time. In the span of ten minutes, we learn how Henry met his wife Julia as well as the incidents that lead to him taking such an isolating job in the national park service. The core gameplay is similar to that of a game like Gone Home, you walk around the park investigating disturbances radioed in by Delilah things like teenagers setting off fireworks, downed power lines, you get the idea. The game really shines in its dialog. The quips and chatter between Henry and Delilah keep you both entertained and invested. I’ve never felt bored despite the fact that the bulk of the gameplay is simply walking from point A to point B.
Visually the game is stunning. It’s cartoon-like art style, and colorful imagery really brings the forest to life in an amazing way. I’ve learned while writing this that there is even a way to order original prints of the photos you take in game.
Firewatch won’t take up a whole lot of your time(I beat it in one sitting of about four hours), but it does leave a bit to be desired. The ending seemed rather abrupt to me; one mystery was resolved, but Henry had no real pay off. It’s hard to justify such an in-depth backstory on a character when none of his personal problems are ever resolved.Firewatch has well-written characters and enough of a mystery to keep you wanting more. However, it seems to leave you that way. At a twenty dollar price point if you have an afternoon to kill it’s worth your time.
Score: 7 out of 10