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    Firewatch

    Game » consists of 8 releases. Released Feb 09, 2016

    A first-person mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness developed by Campo Santo, where the protagonist's only lifeline, emotionally and physically speaking, is the person on the other end of a handheld radio.

    fffsbg's Firewatch (PC) review

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    • fffsbg wrote this review on .
    • 4 out of 5 Giant Bomb users found it helpful.
    • fffsbg has written a total of 9 reviews. The last one was for God of War

    I Kind of Want to Be a Fire Watch Volunteer Now

    Firewatch manages to be both fundamentally derivative and wholly original in the same breath. While it clearly takes notes from the derisively dubbed "walking simulators" like Gone Home or Dear Esther, it does so by taking the best of both and transforming that into its own beast, one predicated on totally isolating you, the player, and leaving you to your own devices.

    You may be controlling an over-the-hill, heavily bearded, and possibly unhinged man named Henry whose decisions have led him to the dry forests of Wyoming, but its incredibly easy to imagine yourself in Henry's hiking boots. Thankfully easy, too, since getting into, understanding, and believing everything Henry does and says is one of the biggest steps Firewatch needed to achieve in order to succeed. You're given some choices in the beginning that lets you craft Henry to be your own--just enough room for every player to have similar experiences and to let your choices bite you in the ass. It's when you're out of the text adventure, however, that you truly become Henry. The UI is incredibly minimal, often all simple shapes and colors, and the crosshair almost feels like it was slipped onto the screen to prevent anyone from getting motion sickness. The only menu you'll ever deal with selecting dialogue options for responding to Delilah, your only source of companionship throughout the roughly 4 and a half hours spent playing Firewatch. There is an incredibly sparse inventory, but you can progress through the game just fine without ever consulting it--in fact, I only ever opened it by accident. You can open a text box to view the writing on various in-game documents, but I far preferred to just read off right there. Instead of a minimap, you have to pull out your map and compass and, through your own confusion, find out where exactly you are and where to go in this Wyoming National Forest. It's this sparseness of game-ey conventions, as well as the lack of easy orientation, that really envelops you into Firewatch.

    Don't forget about the in-game camera like I did. There are sights you'll want to remember.
    Don't forget about the in-game camera like I did. There are sights you'll want to remember.

    Not to mention you can see your feet when you look down.

    I don't normally go for atmospheric games. Often, it seems like it was in exchange for making them just frustrating to control or move around in, to the point where actively playing the game was such a bummer that I'd be taken out of the lovingly crafted environment. In fact, I was tremendously bored with BioShock Infinite for this exact reason. The flipside, of course, is the first BioShock, where a top-notch and hugely lived in world was enjoyable to explore, thanks to the mechanics of the game both being enjoyable to have a reason to look behind every nook and cranny in addition to threats hiding behind every corner--you really felt enclosed.

    Firewatch is in the latter half, where whatever you latch onto is satisfying enough to really be able to drink in the sights and sounds the developers have presented. While most of the game is exploration, because of the previously mentioned lack of minimap, UI, and other resources, just finding out how to get there becomes an adventure in and of itself. Not to mention the middle half--where the game becomes fan-fucking-tastic--where just moving around becomes a danger. There's a kernel stuck in the back of your throat, an itch in the middle of your shoulders that has you constantly on edge when you're struggling to reckon just how to arrive at your next destination during this paranoia-inducing middle. When you're given a reason to peek around every corner, question the nature of your visit, while being this isolated, there's legitimate fear. It's a connection between story and gameplay that's rarely seen, and its very welcome.

    Firewatch is gorgeous, even on my four-year-old laptop that struggles to play Payday 2.
    Firewatch is gorgeous, even on my four-year-old laptop that struggles to play Payday 2.

    Despite the choices you're given both at the beginning and in responses to Delilah, you never feel like you've impacted the story. It's no surprise to hear that two of the founding members are graduated writers from The Walking Dead Season 1, as the structure--or rather, your impact--on the story plays out in an incredibly similar way. You can see the repercussions of your choices in dialogue, but ultimately the story they want to tell gets told, and you're just along for the ride. There was a story between Lee and Clem, and it was always going to end a certain way. All you could do was maybe leave it under a certain context, and in some ways, that was endlessly satisfying. TWD had little to no panicking to complete various threads, because there was only one story that mattered.

    The sense that there is a story is going to be told, however, is where Firewatch's similarities with TWD end. No matter which option you chose, TWD's ending left the player feeling like the time they invested really mattered. There's only one possible ending for Firewatch, and it doesn't matter whether you really cared for Delilah or were an abrasive asshole to her. Some threads, like the one about rowdy teen drinkers (are there any other kind?), are swept under the rug rather than resolved. For such a small, intimate game, it feels truly rushed and overstuffed in the last 20 minutes, like there was too much story for them to deal with. The ending of Firewatch is such a letdown and so dissatisfying that it leaves the player with a strong sense of "so what?" It's the sort of ending that I loathed in Life Is Strange, the kind where you don't feel like anything you've done was of any purpose. I have my parents to remind me that video games are a waste of time, I don't need myself telling me that.

    No Caption Provided

    Storytelling hiccups aside, Firewatch's narrative is, mostly, paced impeccably, stringing you along by revealing just enough at a time for you to be chomping at the bit and eager for more. As a consequence, Firewatch is one of those games you'll want to complete in one sitting--not just so you can have all the details fresh in your head (and it's already hard enough to keep track of where everything is, I can't suggest trying to refamiliarize yourself), but because Firewatch is very much a product for a modern generation. Just like how some television is becoming designed for binge watching as opposed to weekly episodes, Firewatch is designed around you getting into a particular rhythm then actively subverting it--something that will connect much stronger if there isn't a 48-hour-difference in between in-game days.

    In fact, the framing device of days--after all, Henry signed up to volunteer for the summer, and there are about 90 days in that--can be either chapters or line breaks. The way Firewatch toys with what day you're on in the scope of the summer ends up really playing into the previously mentioned comfortably monotonous atmosphere that it nails so well. The kicker comes when you put together just how long a summer, all alone in the forest and away from your normal life, just happens to be.

    Firewatch is a game about learning to not run away, and perhaps the highest praise I can give it is it doesn't have to spell it out to the player like they're some kind of idiot. If one begins to look at the seemingly disparate parts of what goes down during Firewatch as pieces of a puzzle instead of checkpoints in a video game (they're both), a message becomes clear. It's just such a shame that message has the wrong punctuation mark.

    Other reviews for Firewatch (PC)

      A tale of two story angles turns into a tale of missed opportunity and incredible disappointment. 0

      Stories in gaming vary from light-hearted, to dark in tone, and anywhere in between, and many take twists and turns in order to surprise the audience, subvert expectations, or to keep things fresh and intriguing as the player progresses. Firewatch certainly changes its story arc and expectations partway through, but it ends up doing so in a confusing and flaccid manner that acts as a betrayal of its original intentions rather than a heightening of interest. This ‘hiking simulator’ co...

      2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

      Safer in the Forest 0

      Firewatch is the first game from Campo SantoA beautiful game with nostalgic art design, fantastic sound, and very good voice acting performances from Henry and Delilah.Getting around the map proved to be a bit of a chore sometimes, simply because of the vastness of the environment. Getting lost is tedious, but lets be honest, hiking feels exactly like this feels. You get desperate to find the path to where you want go, and albeit to my annoyance, it makes total sense in creating drama. The FOV w...

      1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

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