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Screenshot of Firewatch. © 2016 Campo Santo

If you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, but don’t feel comfortable leaving your home just yet, Firewatch can provide you with the best compromise. The first person adventure video game was released in early 2016 and it was developed by Campo Santo. Players will enjoy it on PlayStation 4 where it will be published by Panic, but also on Microsoft Windows and OS X operating systems.

Key facts about Firewatch

  • Firewatch is famous for its beautiful scenery, outstanding environment and the uncanny ability to revel in solitude.
  • Exploration is at the cornerstone of this first-person adventure game, so venturing off the traveled paths is the best way to enjoy the game.
  • Firewatch emphasizes the beauty of the decor, but also focuses on the two central characters and their interactions.
  • The dialogues spice things up, with the flawed individuals being prone to shifts in attitudes and their relationship is constantly changing.
  • Firewatch is not a game for kids and young teenagers, but rather mature players, who appreciate its original dialogue choices.

The Firewatch games

Firewatch was developed in 2015 and will hit the stores this year, but action takes place in 1989 in the wilderness of Wyoming. The game unfolds at a relatively slow pace, with Henry being the central character, working as a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest. Using a walkie-talkie to keep in touch with Delilah, his supervisor, he starts what promises to be a routine patrol.

This is not an action-packed game, but rather a title that grows slowly, seemingly on its own volition and sometimes things unfold at a snail’s pace. The adventure starts with Henry discovering some clues about strange occurrences and he discusses the matter with Delilah. What makes the Firewatch games so special is that players have an additional option in their dialogues, as they can also refrain from responding.

Depending on the decisions, players will witness how the relationship between Henry and Delilah changes. Interesting enough, despite their best efforts, players have no guarantee that the supervisor will stay friendly and honest. Firewatch adds a new layer of complexity by making these interactions truly unpredictable, but this is what makes the game so exciting.

What is Firewatch?

Firewatch is a game shrouded in mystery and unfolding in the wilderness of Wyoming. The protagonist is a solitary fire lookout on his first day at work, who is drawn away from his tower by strange occurrences. His only connection with the real world is a walkie-talkie and his supervisor Delilah, whom he never met in person. As players explore the surroundings, they discover that things are not what they seem and start realizing the impact of personal choices in this eerie environment.

Gameplay of Firewatch

When playing Firewatch, it is recommended to take a step back and put all your worries aside to get fully immersed into the gaming atmosphere. Henry and Delilah are the only two characters in the game, but their interactions are so complex, that it’s vital not to miss out on the conversations. Exploring the surroundings is all fun and games, but in the absence of these dialogues, Firewatch would’ve easily sank into near irrelevance.

Screenshot of Firewatch. © 2016 Campo Santo
Screenshot of Firewatch. © 2017 Campo Santo

The day/night cycle has a two-pronged effect, on one hand providing the much-needed diversity; on the other it emphasizes the slow passing of time. Compared to other first-person games, very little happens in Firewatch, but the quality of the game is not given by the frequency of important events. The slow-paced gameplay grants players more freedom and encourages them not to focus exclusively on the exploration side, but get more involved in the dialogues.

Delilah is your only friend and even though sometimes her puns can drive you mad, it is important to indulge her every now and then. Firewatch is just as much about building a relationship from scratch as it is about discovering the mystery that set you on this strange course in the first place. Campo Santo intended to create a mystery story and brilliantly succeeds, particularly because the gameplay is braided with these conversations.

Plot of Firewatch

Under normal circumstances, game developers choose between an action-packed title and one driven by a narrative. Firewatch doesn’t fall in any of these categories, since action unfolds slowly and the plot is not exactly Hollywood script material. The fact that Campo Santo managed to create such a gem without following any of the recipes for success makes this achievement even more valuable.

The narrative starts in 1989, when Henry begins his routine as a fire lookout, while briefly communicating with his supervisor Delilah. What begins as a regular day at the work, changes into something more because Henry discovers that some strange things are happening on his watch. Bold enough to explore the surroundings and occasionally taunted by Delilah he ventures deeper into the wilderness, hoping to find an answer.

Firewatch creates a strong link between the two protagonists, highlighted by the fact that they have nobody else to talk to. The walkie-talkie becomes an invaluable tool and one of the few instruments used by the player, but it takes new valances with each conversation. There are plenty of dialog options and players always have the choice of not responding to the questions, suggestions or ironies made by Delilah.

Screenshot of Firewatch. © 2016 Campo Santo
Screenshot of Firewatch. © 2017 Campo Santo

Campo Santo had no intention to create superheroes like the ones we embrace in League of Legends or Dota 2 games. Instead it did the exact opposite and had Firewatch revolve around imperfect, regular people. As the plot thickens, it becomes obvious that even though the two characters are to some extent all alone, they are not perfectly honest with each other. Discovering the reasons for why they choose to hide things and also a potentially hidden agenda makes the plot all more exciting.

Development of Firewatch

Campo Santo is not the best-known software developer in the world, but the San Francisco company broke the ice with this game. Firewatch is their first important game and it all started with a painting created by Olly Moss, one of the artists working on the first-person adventure game. The soundtrack was composed by Chris Remo and the game runs on the celebrated the Unity game engine.

The developers decided to import some of the elements from other video games and TV series, and drew inspiration from BioShock and the Walking Dead. The developers didn’t take the easy way out and although many of the concepts were borrowed from successful products, they did their fair share of work. The team traveled to the Yosemite National Park to get a feel of the challenges a fire lookout would have to tackle, but also to get inspiration for the game.

The team was so happy with the results that the game was announced in the first quarter of 2014 and they did their best to release Firewatch in 2015. Even though the deadline was eventually missed, developers made sure to keep prospective players in the loop. There are plenty who anxiously anticipate the release, with the E3 announcement acting as a catalyst and refreshing the hype.

Where can I download Firewatch?

Firewatch is not yet available for download, but players who are intrigued by the original concept can already preorder this title. It will be made available on the official website and those who prefer the hardcopy are entitled to expect Firewatch to hit the shelves of video games stores.

Screenshot of Firewatch. © 2016 Campo Santo
Screenshot of Firewatch. © 2017 Campo Santo

What are others saying about Firewatch?

Firewatch achieved something spectacular for a small development team, by setting a very high standard among fans of the genre. The critics and those who had the chance to take a glance at the new game were particularly impressed by the conversations between Delilah and Henry. They appreciated the depth of these dialogues as well as the fact that the relationship between the protagonists constantly changes.

Firewatch’s narrative and its relationship are intertwined, with both growing slowly but steadily, heavily influenced by the player’s choices. The game grows on you and it has the uncanny ability of retaining its mystery even as players discover one piece of the puzzle at a time. The best part about a game developed by a bunch of dedicated people with a genuine passion for the project is that critics are more likely to cut them some slack if they don’t get it right the first.

Firewatch tournaments

Firewatch is a single player game, with two characters and driven by a sense of adventure rather than action-packed multiplayer. You won’t be able to participate in any Firewatch tournaments, but the campaign is pretty much all you need.

My rating of Firewatch

I’m always rooting for underdogs and I have a weakness for indie developers and all those driven by passion rather than a hunger for cash. With Firewatch I am not even worried about the outcome because the game looks great and the dialogues are simply too good for the game to fail. I can’t wait to explore the wilderness, but also the deep emotions and thoughts that transpire from the meaningful conversations. These pack quite a punch and I strongly believe that they deserve a rating of 9/10.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Score
9
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