Review — When ‘Firewatch’ Makes You Reflect on Life
Firewatch had been added to my wishlist not too long before it was on sale on Steam. I bought it for £8.99 while on offer (great deal). So I highly recommend you to get it right now, and I will explain you why. Spoiler-free.
One of The Best And Immersive Stories
This is definitely the best part of the game. You are Henry, a random and normal guy in his 40s, who’s decided to become a fire lookout during the late 80s in an attempt to isolate himself from his current life . So what better way than to be in a forest on his own where his only link with humans is the sweet voice of Delilah, his supervisor, from his talkie-walkie. Through the summer and the ongoing missions given by your boss, you start building a link with her, a complicity, even some sort of relationship. But sooner or later, some strange things will happen that you’ll try to understand. And then you will learn more about Delilah and the story of this forest, while you wonder whether everything is in your head, or if all is some kind of conspiracy.
Now, you don’t even start as a fire lookout right away. The beginning of the game is actually split between some of your past and your very first step into the forest. It gets you more immersed into the story as you discover the life of Henry as it is and the reasons why he has decided to spend his summer alone looking out for fire in a National Forest.
An Easy And Intuitive Gameplay For Everyone
Firewatch is a first-person mystery adventure game. And even if you don’t like first-person (Nya doesn’t), this game is an exception. Besides making you feel more like you are part of the story, it also makes for easy gameplay. The reason is that they didn’t focus on it as a main point to enjoy the game. It’s well made, but it’s simple and straightforward. It can even feel like a walking simulator. You basically walk around the forest, pull out your map or compass when you’re lost, and attach ropes to climb down some hill or even jump smaller ones. So nothing complicated with too many keys to remember or quick decisions to make. Even if some stressful moments will make you run.
It’s not an open world but the forest is quite big. Some rocks and trees play the role of invisible walls, but you can explore this dense and empty forest. Some cache, hidden there and there, will even update your map and the paths you can take.
Simple Tasks With Interactions
The ‘quests’ given by Delilah are simple. The only struggle is to find your way around with the map. But there’s no difficulties in accomplishing them. The reason for this is because the story matters. It matters so much that you even skip days automatically. Jumping from day 5 to day 20 for example.
In the end, you focus on the relationship with Delilah and the strange events happening at the same time. And I got so much into it that I hurried to see more of the story. The whole interaction with Delilah is smart and interactive, it’s not just a story you follow and read, you play a role in it. And every time you interact with her, you can chose what you want to answer, if you want. You can just ignore her and simply do your tasks as a look-out. But the things happening will make you talk to her, and get into it.
You won’t even be looking out for fire, or anything related to your primary tasks. But you will start to investigate and explore every bit of the forest to find the answers you are looking for.
Graphics Are Minimalist But Beautiful
The graphics fit the atmosphere of the story. It’s simple and minimalist, drawing style. But it’s actually beautiful and it’s as effective as any high budget Final Fantasy-like game.
The different parts of the forest are well represented, from the dense parts full of trees, to the big lake or the rocky parts. Often I found myself stopping, looking at the sky or the horizon and it’s a feeling that you don’t get in every game.
In the end, you feel like Henry, relaxing in this beautiful forest, despite the crazy events that will happen to you.
After finishing the game for the first time, I’ve felt something I haven’t felt in a long time with a video-game. The biggest con of the game is that it’s incredibly short. I managed to finish it in 3.4 hours according to Steam. And the real price of the game, £14.99, can be a turn off for such a short time which I understand.
I love the way the game starts, explaining you through simple lines, how Henry’s life is, getting you to the point he decides to spend his summer alone in the forest. It’s so immersive that you start getting around the forest the first days just like him, just like you’d do in real life.
Your only contact with the world is through a talkie-walkie, which is a brilliant idea. You start getting into this story and the relationship with Delilah fairly quickly. She’s also the only possible interaction and the only person you can talk to about the crazy events happening. She’s your only support, but you start wondering if it’s all a conspiracy, or it’s all in your head.
So Is It Worth It?
The ending was a bit disappointing, to be honest. You get such high expectations when you feel you’re reaching the end, and then it just doesn’t deliver. The good thing is you can replay the game a few times from the beginning.
The fact that the game is short, that there’s only a few (10) but interesting Steam achievements, and that you can pick your answers, will make you want to restart it all over again. If you weren’t lucky enough to get the 10 achievements the first time around, some of them will sound funny like adopting a turtle or be attacked by a raccoon. There’s a lot of funny bits in this game, and the idea of showing the pictures you took with a camera you found during the game in the ending credits is a nice touch.
I am curious to see how the choices will impact the reactions of Delilah. I don’t believe it will impact the story because you are following a mystery you will resolve and it will be the same no matter what. But I am curious to find out all the small differences.
To conclude, I will say that this is a game for adults despite the graphics and the simplicity of it. It actually talks about life in general and mature topics — happiness and relationships but also madness and illness. It may be short, but I loved it and not many games made me feel what Firewatch did.
To me, this is Platinum.
French geek. Let’s get this straight. I’ve put my ass in front of a computer at the age of 4 or 5. I couldn’t even read but I could put a password on the family computer. My first videogames were Pacman/Galaga/Pole Position trio (& Dig Dug for the bonus). I’ve always been a gamer. Aging, I’ve started expanding my horizons.
Disclosure: We may earn a small commission from products or recommendations mentioned in this post. This in no way influences our opinions. You won’t pay more for purchasing through these links, and we’ll be grateful for your support.
Originally published at louderthansilver.com on February 4, 2017.