FIREWATCH defied all of my expectations and kept me invested in a way that only books have previously been capable.
It does not shy away from complex issues or themes, tackling that bull that is dementia head on.
There are two aspects to the experience that stand out while playing Firewatch: its aesthetic and its writing.
Most of the dialogue is between Henry (player) and Delilah, a fellow Firewatcher who is also your supervisor.
Taking up the summer job of watching for fires in a national park, Henry is escaping trouble at home. In his self-imposed isolation he builds a close relationship over his walkie talkie to the only person he has available contact with; Delilah.
Just a voice on the radio, you can see Delilah’s watchtower on the horizon. But apart from that and glimpsing a few silhouettes, Henry is alone.
The beauty of Firewatch is evident as you walk around the modest yet suitably detailed map.
Lighting is capitalised on flawlessly. Sunsets bathe rocky outcrops in an orange glow and the world swims in deep blue below a silver moon.
Each area of the map, accessed via rope climbs or cutting back trees, has its own slightly different feel that is tailored to suit the narrative.
Abandoned camps hi-light feelings of isolation, unique landmarks open up dialogue with Delilah and open spaces (i.e. the lake) let you witness events from a distance.
There are also a few hidden quirks to uncover: lock boxes contain map details, rare turtles can be adopted (and named) and peculiar items can be interacted with opening another brilliantly written conversation with Delilah.
Like other narrative driven games you are given dialogue options, all of these feel like natural responses but they are often difficult to choose as you decide Henry’s challenging life choices.
I cared about Henry, his safety in the Wyoming wild, his marriage and where Delilah was leading him.
There are no major twists or shock reveals, the story is told at its own pace, letting you settle in as Henry on his Firewatch; coping with the encroaching flames.
Firewatch is a succinct (maybe 4 hours), breathtakingly pretty and emotionally engaging experience that deserves a page in gaming history.
Developer: Campo Santo
Writer: Sean Vanaman
Platforms: Playstation 4, Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS