Guest Blog by John M @RoundEggFilms
Have you ever spent a night alone, deep in the wilderness, with civilization far and away from view? Have you ever wandered the vast expanse of a mid-western nature reserve, with friendly faces few and far between? Have you ever gone rock climbing? Navigated thtough rough, treacherous trail ways without the use of a GPS? Well I can safely say that I’ve never done any of those things. I probably never will. But after playing Developer Campo Santos’ flagship title Firewatch (a story oriented first-person walker) I felt as close to those experiences as humanly possible, without ever having stepped away from the comfort of my PC. Fire watch is also available on the Playstation 4, OS X and Linux.
Firewatch, as the name suggests, follows the story of Henry, a middle aged lost soul of sorts who takes on the lonesome job of fire safety lookout near Yellowstone National Park. His motives for this sudden, drastic change in lifestyle boils down to the result of a “choose-your-own-adventure” segment at the game’s onset. Although your choices are limited, this unique method of exposition succeeds in drawing you closer to Henry, a man whose troubled past haunts you as if you were somehow inadvertently responsible for it.
As a story, Firewatch is an incredible journey which chronicles the seventy nine days Henry spends in the wilderness during the summer of 1989, with no one but his far-away radio dispatcher, Delilah, for companionship. As she feeds him intel on the local happenings in the preserve via a handy two-way radio, their witty, humorous banter quickly sets the tone for the rest of the game. Although you never see them in the flesh, Henry and Delilah soon become incredible characters in their own right, and watching the budding yet tragic romance grow between them is enough to keep you emotionally invested until the very end.
As good as the story may be, Firewatch heartbreakingly falls behind when you begin to look at it as a game. In fact, Firewatch doesn’t really feel like a game at all, and aside from the first person controls and the occasional collecting of key items or jumping over obstacles, you’ll be left wondering why you aren’t watching this whole story unfold as a movie on the big screen, or more appropriately, reading it as a paperback book.
The core of the game revolves around investigating specific areas of the preserve and reporting your findings back to the enigmatic Delilah. How you get to these various locations is entirely up to you, allowing you to freely roam the wilderness armed only with a map and a flashlight. But unless you’re a diehard explorer, these short-lived hiking segments are a breeze to complete and you’ll be viewing the end credit sequence before you even knew what hit you (I clocked in at just over three hours long) Otherwise, there’s no enemies to be had, no perils to avoid, and what they consider puzzles are laughable at best
What Firewatch may lack in gameplay, it greatly makes up for in visual grace. The beautiful, stylized graphics are a treat to look at, and gave me a warm, comfy feeling from start to finish. They developers at Campo Santos really managed to capture the lonesome-yet-serene feeling of outdoor living and made it permeate from every one of the game’s finer features
I’ll admit, Firewatch took me by surprise. Although there isn’t much to it: the gameplay is shallow and short and there is little to do in Yellowstone but enjoy the view, I still found myself captivated by an incredible pair of main characters and their masterfully woven dialogue. It’s good for a play through or two, especially if you want to hear every string of possible banter between Henry and Delilah, but the average gamer probably wouldn’t miss it. I recommend Firewatch for those who value story and narrative over crunch and content, but at 20 dollars, it’s difficult to recommend Firewatch to anyone at all. Do yourself a favour and wait for a heavy discount before jumping in to this bittersweet experience, it’ll help dull the pain after beating it in three hours.
Guest Blog By John M @RoundEggFilms
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