Firewatch is one of the most interesting games I’ve played in quite a while. It only lasted four hours, but for those four hours I was absolutely hooked. Its blend of adventure and story telling was engrossing, and the story it told was more compelling than I could have imagined.
You are placed in the hiking boots of Henry. Henry’s story is introduced via a text introduction. During this introduction you are given different choices as he meets his wife. Things get humorous, and then they get emotional. This game will suck you in right off the bat. After the introduction you find yourself in Two Forks Woods which is the setting for the game. Isolated in a watchtower your only company is a voice on the other end of the radio, Delilah. The story unfolds over a series of days.
I don’t want to discuss the story because it’s one that is best left unspoiled. Delilah and Henry are wonderfully voiced, and the dialogue is probably the best dialogue you will find in a video game. It’s an adult story, with adult themes, and a lot of adult language, but all done in a way that actually works to create an engaging and deep story. There are many laugh out loud funny moments throughout the game, and the mystery will keep you hooked. This is a game that tells its story well. The ending is sure to be polarising, and it infuriated me initially until I took a step back, and viewed it in the context of the character’s lives. (Just play it and you will get what I mean.) There is a kind of depth and meaning to the story that is incredibly rare to see in a game. I played the game yesterday, and have still been dwelling on the story, and the meaning behind it for much of today.
Graphically Firewatch looks fantastic, it’s unique art style is memorable, and does an amazing job of creating the atmosphere of Two Forks Woods. Exploring the woods was a lot of fun, and there were lots of interesting things to see. Navigating was sometimes difficult, and the map was not always very clear. A few times I found myself back-tracking because I’d gotten totally turned around. While I did at times have difficulty navigating I actually even enjoyed that aspect of the game, as that felt like part of the adventure. That said I’m sure some will just be frustrated as they get lost.
There are times where the frame-rate really seemed to struggle. For some reason this seemed to mostly happen in the middle section of the game, and at the beginning and towards the end I didn’t experience this issue. When the frame rate was bad, it was noticeably bad, and even turning around was made glitchy. Hopefully they fix this in a patch. I was playing on the Playstation 4, so I don’t know whether the PC version would suffer from similar issues.
Firewatch’s gameplay mostly just serves as a vehicle for the story. You explore, interact with objects, and interact with Delilah as you follow along with the story. There isn’t a whole lot more to it than that, so whether you enjoy the game or not is likely going to come down to whether you enjoy the story. There seemed to be a few interesting things to discover off the beaten track, and most of that you can chat with Delilah about. Even exploring is just so that you can hear more interaction between the two characters.
Whether Firewatch is worth the asking price is going to be up for debate. As I mentioned I finished this game in just under four hours, and that was even allowing time for me to get lost, and do some exploring. While you could replay it years later for the story, there is no sense of instant replay-ability here. I have no regrets about the $17.99 I shelled out to play this on the PS4, but it may be understandably too expensive an entry price for some for what the game is. It was an engaging, unique, and fun experience with a memorable and thought provoking story. In the are video games art debate, this game seems to suggest they definitely can be. That said this game isn’t for everyone. If you want action probably look elsewhere.