Game Time – Firewatch

 

Firewatch 4/5 Stars

Firewatch is a single-player mystery/adventure game from indie developer Campo Santo. You play as Henry, a man who has come to the Wyoming wilderness to escape the pain of a marriage that has been torn apart. Henry is a forest fire lookout in a remote tower, and his only contact with humanity is his supervisor Delilah. As Henry talks more to Delilah an intriguing mystery unfolds, as he begins to wonder if these woods are truly as empty as they seem.

The mystery the game unravels turns out to be much more poignant than I had expected, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, I will simply say it’s well worth the playthrough and will keep you guessing until the very end.

Visually speaking, Firewatch is a beautifully crafted and stunning game. The Shoshone Forest is brought to life in vivid detail as you walk from one plot point to another. You are treated to all the beauty of a deep woods hike without the mosquitoes.

The game truly shines in the excellent voice acting and clever dialogue. Henry and Delilah are brought to life, and the mystery of their characters is almost as compelling as the main story itself. It’s in this relationship that some of the game’s big questions get asked. Does running from life’s problems ever work? When under stress in a new situation, can you stay faithful to old commitments? Can you go through the fire of life and still make the right choice?

Firewatch’s writing is a real treat—almost like sitting down with a good book while also getting the interactivity of a video game. The game manages to have authentic moments of humor, tension, and sadness, all equally well-written and true to life.

The biggest critique of the game is that it feels like a glorified hiking simulator. While there is a lot of walking in Firewatch, as with most things in life, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Credit is due to the level designers who made Firewatch’s forest feel so big while also being interesting and navigable. I got lost several times throughout the course of playing, but it was rarely frustrating. I was never lost long, and these accidental misadventures led me to hidden bits of story and Easter eggs off the beaten path of the main story.

Ultimately, I found Firewatch to be an excellent, story-driven gaming experience and one I would certainly recommend. Between the beautiful vistas and long walks in the woods, Firewatch tells a heart-wrenching story about what happens when the fire comes and life is burning down around you.

Chris Clark | Portland | Northern New England