It’s 1989. With your family life in turmoil, you’re looking for an escape, at least for a while. An opportunity to become a fire lookout for a summer in the Wyoming wilderness presents itself and before you know it, you’re looking out over the vast wilderness of Wyoming from a lookout tower. That tower is your new home away from home.
That’s the background for the game Firewatch, released earlier this year to much acclaim. I usually don’t do a whole lot of game reviews on here, mostly because I don’t have a whole lot of time to complete games properly anymore to give a proper review. However, Firewatch is so different and refreshing that it would be a disservice to everyone that hasn’t played it to not at least give you my thoughts on it. The story alone deserves a review.
Before I get into the game, let me take a little detour first. Video games are to many a waste of time. They see killing, guns and senseless waste of time. Although this may be true at times, you then judge the game based on the player, not the product itself. In reality, many games out there have fantastic stories that are utterly captivating, stories that pull you in, stories that make you want to know more about your hero. Or, as so often is the case in video games, they make you want to be the hero. For video games and players, the story is just as important as the gaming itself.
Firewatch is one of those games that pulls you in from the very moment you start playing. Your first radio contact with your fellow fire lookout establishes a dialogue with another person, a person you can’t see. Yet, this person shares your experiences and you share yours with them. Together you embark on an adventure that truly is intense and keeps you at the edge of your seat for the few hours it takes to get to the end.
The game itself is a typical first person type of game. You control the hero of the game, Henry, through his eyes. As you explore the wilderness, you interact with a variety of objects and people, you find clues and follow trails. In that sense, if you’ve played a first person type of game, the controls are easy to get into.
The story takes you from what Henry hoped would be an escape into the hunt for clues to a mystery that has haunted this area of Wyoming. Missing items, mysterious messages and abandoned, hidden camps are just some of the things Henry (you) encounter throughout your journey to solve the puzzle that becomes a threat to you as well.
As you dive deeper and deeper into the secrets of the park, the wildfire in your area begins to threaten you from another perspective, forcing you to take the wildfire as well as the threat into account, dealing with conflicts on multiple fronts all at once.
The production values of the games are excellent. The graphics are fantastic, going from beautiful scenery to ash raining down through thick smoke in the vicinity of the fire. The voice dialogue is also top notch and completely believable. All together, it’s a package that’s well worth paying $20 for.
One thing I should point out that beating this game won’t take you long. Four to five hours, maybe six at the most. As such, it’s fairly limited and I do wish there would have been more opportunity to explore further. However, this game is very clearly driven by the story and from that perspective, I can respect keeping the focus on the main objective: getting out alive.
Regardless of whether you are a gamer or not, if you love a good story, Firewatch is well worth it. It’s an adventure game that will keep you coming back until you’ve made it to the end. I plan on playing through it again before too long, just to experience it all again.