Now this… This is art.
Firewatch begins on a simple, but heartbreaking premise (which I won’t spoil here) which is probably enough to sell the game on its own.
And, for those reasons, our protagonist Henry arrives in the Wyoming wilderness, looking to put his past misdeeds behind him. His only company for many, many miles around is a woman named Delilah, who Henry communicates with over the radio.
As Henry, the player chooses how to respond to Delilah over the radio to the many questions and talking points she poses, bringing about another layer of control over what many would simply brush aside as a “walking simulator”.
Honestly, this bond between the two main characters might be one of the highest points of the game. And if you’re thinking that sounds somewhat disappointing, cease your blasphemies immediately, because this is some of the most well written, deep, meaningful dialogue I’ve ever come across in this form of media.
And all that is to say nothing of the fantastic performances given by both Rich Sommer (Mad Men) as Henry and Cissy Jones (Fallout 4) as Delilah. The performances of the main characters needed to carry this game given how dialogue heavy it is, and both the leads bring Firewatch to another level entirely.
I’d honestly be tempted to say that Sommer and Jones have singly handedly raised the bar for voice acting in video games as a whole. That’s how great they are. They both drew me deeper into the world of Firewatch through their characters, and made it an incredible memorable experience.
And to say any more about the characters or plot would probably be giving away too much for the reader who hasn’t picked up the game yet. Although I will regrettably state how disappointed and let down I was left feeling by the ending, after all that had transpired.
While the actions the player is actually performing over the course of six-or-so hours in Firewatch isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it does help set it apart from being disregarded into the “walking simulator” category. For the most part, the game will have you exploring the surrounding wilderness, except you’ll have to make use of your compass and map to guide yourself, throwing in another dynamic to simply running around on a set path.
Again, saying any more of the players actions over the runtime of Firewatch would be giving too much away, which is quite a shame, as I imagine the latter section of the game coupled with the ending will end up being incredible divisive for the player base.
The general atmosphere that the game creates around the player is also extremely commendable, and is yet another way that Firewatch draws the player into its world so brilliantly.
The sheer emptiness and loneliness is something that the game absolutely nails, and the further the plot and the overall the game progress, the creepier it started feeling to me, not merely because the only person I had to talk to was on the other end of a radio miles away, but because Campo Santo have completely succeeded in creating an environment completely cut off from society.
Now I’m not exactly an authority on the Wyoming wilderness, but I can definitely imagine it both looks and feels how it is depicted in Firewatch. Vibrant colours from the trees and rocks bounce off the screen at you, and the sole lighting source of the sun is used to bring a new, dynamic life to the wilderness in the game.
All this, coupled with the aforementioned voice acting really brings both life and energy to Firewatch, absolutely making it one of the standout games of the year so far. If we aren’t talking about this as one of the games of the year in ten months time, we must’ve had one of the greatest years for video games ever.