Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On : PS4
Developer: Campo Santo
Release Date: 9 February 2016
Firewatch is a much-anticipated story driven indie game that recently launched on PS4, Xbox One and PC. The game got a lot of attention due to its unique art style and unique approach to story telling.
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Firewatch follows the story of a volunteer fire lookout in the aftermath of the Yellowstone fires of 1988. You take on the role of Henry, a character with a complex back story stepping into the unfamiliar occupation of fire lookout. Henry explores this beautiful expanse of wilderness set in Wyoming with the aid of a more seasoned fire lookout, Delilah.
The game is set up like a beautiful movie with a carefully scripted plot line and beautifully crafted copywriting. You find yourself becoming more and more immersed into the ongoing narrative, where you try to figure out what the hell is going on as increasingly suspicious things keep happening.
I really loved the characters and the way the developers used the narrative options to bring their humanity to life. Unlike most games that allow you to make decisions and choices, there is no way to be a golden boy with a perfect moral compass. Henry is inherently selfish and the games doesn’t allow you to forget that, forcing you to move outside of your moral comfort zone.
While you choices don’t have a major effect on the overall storyline, the mere fact of enticing the user to interact throughout the story results in a strangely gripping and involved experience. Understandably, the Campo Santo team had a limited budget and had to be careful how far they went in exploring this game, you will find many areas that you wish had been expanded on. Interacting with many of the items in your watch tower for example provides a low-level of interaction which is a shame. Armed with just a radio, map and compass, the game mechanics are very straight forward with lots of exploring along very scripted paths and events.
However, the visuals are really a key factor in this game. The challenge of translating the beautiful concept art and poster work into a three-dimensional world was not a small one, but one that Campo Santo excelled at. The lighting changes throughout the story adding palpable tension to the story. This lighting coupled with fog effects and an ever-changing colour palette makes Firewatch a truly breathtaking visual experience. At launch the PS4 version did have quite a few frame rate issues, however this has since been fixed with a recent patch.
The game is fairly short at about 6 hours of play time, but leaves you thinking at the end of it, continually questioning the decisions and actions of the characters. If you think of it as an immersive movie experience, Firewatch truly is an amazing piece of entertainment. If you are looking for a challenging game to put your skills to the test then this isn’t for you. Firewatch’s story driven approach gives it a very low barrier to entry, making it a great game for anyone to pick up and enjoy regardless of their gaming experience.