The guys at Campo Santo have written a novel of a game, which coincidentally (and fortunately), we can immerse ourselves in, much like our favorite books. With the narrative of a more invested and mysterious Gone Home, and a slightly less virulent and volatile Bioshock, Firewatch successfully transforms the potentially dreary and dull boredom of the “walking simulator” into a deep and stunningly beautiful story.
From the moment I started up Firewatch, to the moment I somehow managed to pull myself away, I was put in control of the excellently voiced Henry (Rich Sommer), who attempts to escape relationship and family issues by bringing himself to the Wyoming wilderness, where he takes a job managing and watching wildfires. Firewatch instantly and comfortably settles into its time period. From the homemade, soft, wonderfully blocky art style, to the perfectly antique truck that I climbed into to kick off the story, the game softly and gently whispered the good parts of the 80s into my ear. It paid for my drink, swept me off of my feet, carried me away from the technology ridden time of today, and brought me home to the gorgeous, softly lit wilderness of 1980s Wyoming.
In classic Pokemon fashion, the game begins with text selections. While many games struggle to get a story going with an actual scene, Firewatch managed to capture my attention from the beginning, with nothing but text. Playing on something of a choose your own adventure genre, I made my way through the first few years of Henry’s potential mid-life crisis, which is fortunately prevented by his meeting Julia, the queen that he’s been unknowingly waiting for. The story begins to touch on the perfect amount of cheesy Nicholas Sparks material, and still manages to keep itself sane through its excellent writing. Events unfold, and Henry finds himself trying to, for lack of a better term, get away from it all, by applying for a job as a wildfire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness.
While the wilderness instantly welcomed me to explore it on my own, I soon met Delilah (Cissy Jones), a delightfully charming wildfire lookout who works in a lookout just a few miles away from where Henry is stationed. This is where Firewatch grasped the reigns of my emotional chariot, gave a hard tug, and never let go. My radio quickly became my lifeline, as it was my only connection to anyone outside of Henry’s mind (and my own mind for that matter). Within an hour of beginning gameplay, I found myself sensing something off, something that I couldn’t quite place, but I knew that this was something more than just making sure people follow the rules of Smokey the Bear. A relationship between Delilah and Henry quickly began to form, and I found myself hoping more and more to hear her voice while wandering through the wilderness to repair power lines and find supply caches. Like finding friendly NPCs in Fear, or seeing the light at the end of a tunnel in Tomb Raider, Delilah’s voice was a beacon of safety, and it seamlessly wove itself into the engaging atmosphere and ambience of the foliage and wildlife around me. I often found myself pressing the shift key to bring up the radio, hoping to find new talking points so I could begin a conversation with Delilah and fill the mischievous silence.
Unfortunately, brevity is where Firewatch falls. While it doesn’t fall enough to make it unworthy of my time (quite the opposite), it can’t be viewed as an open world game, or a game with constant replay value. While various conversation options could easily provide for a replay or two over a long period, Firewatch is a work of art which needs to be appreciated for what it is, and nothing more. Firewatch is more than worth its $20 dollar price tag, but if you’re looking for something to keep you busy for months at a time, look elsewhere. Firewatch should be viewed as a book, and it is just that. Read it once, dive into it, love it, appreciate it, and two months later or so, you’ll find yourself saying “I should read that again.” If you can see Firewatch for what it is, and forget the Call of Duties, the Battlefields, and the Battlefronts, it can be enjoyed like nothing else you’ve ever set your eyes on.
Through extremely captivating visuals, intense writing, and perfectly simplistic gameplay, Campo Santo has created an adventure that should be appreciated and loved among the best of the best for years to come. Like a beautifully delicious cupcake, Firewatch captures your attention instantly, holds it until the last second, and releases you in need of more.
9.75 out of 10
- Excellent, compelling script.
- Captivating voice acting.
- Perfectly simple.
- Visually flawless
- Ends too quickly.