Arriving home after valentines I didn't really feel like sleep. I read somewhere this game was only about 4 hours long. With nothing to do the day after (today) I decided staying up till 5 AM wasn't TOO horrible. And boy am I glad (or not) that I did. I'm still unsure of what to make of this game, but I am glad that I played it. I think you might too, let's find out.
Plot (no spoilers, of course)
You are Henry. A man in his late thirties who decides to take a job as a member of Colorado's forest fire-watch to get away from the troubles of his life. You're all alone out there, except for Diana (your supervisor) who you only communicate with through a WalkyTalky, or are you...?
It seems as if someone is watching you, and a major mystery ensues. Is someone watching? Tailing you? Multiple someones?
It's impossible to go any further without spoilers, but I will say this. The story left me wanting. The mystery, for me, was disappointing. It was well paced to begin with, absolutely fantastic in the middle, but unfortunately right at the end it took a bit of a hit.
Graphics & Sound
This area is very simple and complicated at the same time. It's gorgeous. That's a thing that can be said, chanted, preached even. It is of course a matter of preference. If you're someone who really dislikes heavy warm colours, this game's aesthetics will get on your nerves. If you like the feel of these colours, much like the feeling of a warm lava cake surrounded by cold vanilla ice-cream, then you will be enchanted, immersed and amazed by the game's look.
Sound & Music:
The game excels here. There's no question about it, the ambiance of the world is immersing and often times has you on edge. The music is perfectly paced, balanced and queued. It's tense when it needs to be and relaxing when the time is right.
Not to forget the voice acting, again, it's very simple. It is absolutely amazing. The best voice acting work I have ever heard in any video game ever. Honestly. Nuff said. (but for real, the emotions in the voices seem real, the dialogue is genuine, it just feels real)
This is where the game will take a bit of a hit for some people. It certainly is what people call a "walking simulator" - I myself am a big fan of many "walking simulators" such as 'The Vanishing of Ethan Carter' and 'Mind: Path to Thalamus' so I'm not deterred by the genre, if you are this game is probably not for you.
This catagory will be split up into 3 parts: Navigation, Interaction, Non-coded processing (Yes I did just make this up, but bare with me)
Since this is a "walking simulator" you'll be doing a lot of walking, or hiking, in the case of this game. For me this is nothing to frown upon. It's a chance to breath, time to think and enjoy the game world, which in this case is really quite beautiful. For some, however, this will turn them off the game, make it quite boring and uninteresting.
All you have is a map and a compass (the game takes place in the late 80s early 90s) those are your only tools to navigate the world. There are no map markers, no mini map and no fast travel. Only clear instructions from your supervisor, a place name and your wits.
Again, the game is very much sticking true to being a "walking simulator" so the problem with interaction is that there is not a whole lot of it. There are a few items to pick up, examine, etc., but not much more than that. The game doesn't need it because of the characters.
The main form of interaction is the interaction between you (Henry) and Delilah, your supervisor and only connection to the outside world. As stated before the dialogue is extremely well written and delivered. It really is what make the game good, honestly it is far and beyond the level of quality of anything I've played before.
Yes, I made this category up, but it still is an interesting part of the gameplay that I feel has a right to be mentioned. What I mean by "non-coded processing" is processes that pertain to the game that are completely separate from the game code itself.
The game is both about the mystery of what is going on, but also your character. That's where this area comes in. It's how you perceive Henry. How you process the story. The fun of the game is trying to figure out what's going on yourself. Taking in your surroundings, noticing every little thing to add to your theory.
I'm fumbling with my words here. What I'm trying to say is that this game takes place in your head as much as on the screen. Many games do this of course, every move you make in CS:GO takes place in your head, but this is different. This goes to a deeper level. I can't quite explain it.
'Firewatch' is truly an experience, to say the least. I would highly recommend it to everyone that isn't bothered by the lack of game mechanics. In fact, the game made me think at several points "I would very much enjoy this job." - That being said, it's not a very good game. Yes, I don't think it's that good of a game. It's certainly not boring, and it was certainly worth the 4 hours I invested in it. And yet, it feels more like a piece of artwork than a game. I'm not saying this in the pretentious way of "Oh yes (smokes pipe) 'tis art, 'tisn't a mere game." I'm saying it's more like a painting than a novel. And while a picture can certainly tell a thousand words it can't compete with a novel (average 100 thousand words)
My impression of 'Firewatch' is that it is an aesthetically gripping game with spectacular voice acting and scrip writing. The music is good quality and fitting. The story, incredibly, is what ruins it for me. To being with, as previously stated, it's intriguing, it get's your heart razing, but in the end it withers off. My best attempt at a metaphor for how the story goes is as follows: You take a balloon and you inflate it, to begin with it gradually gets slower, as you approach the middle it starts growing faster and faster, when the balloon is bloated and you're satisfied with it being ripe for popping. You raise your needle and poke the hole, but instead of the satisfying popp you felt the balloon promised, you get a sad withering balloon of disappointment.
Essentially what drove me to play the entire thing was the relationship between Hank and Delilah along with the stunning look of the game.
It's unique. And as a "walking simulator" connoisseur I will say that it advances the genre in a new way. It's well made but the story ending disappoints. So now onto the main question: Is it for you?
It's worth mentioning that 'Firewatch' is Campo Santo's (the game maker) first game. They are a studio compiled of Indie masterminds that worked on titles like Telltales: 'Walking Dead'
Do you like: Warm colours & stunning scenery - World class acting & writing - Calm gameplay - Using your head? If the answer is "Yes." Then this game is very much for you although the ending of the story did disappoint. It's still an experience worth having.
If not, then unfortunately, this one is not for you.
Price: 19.99$ on Steam