Firewatch Review

Firewatch is one of the more divisive games I've ever played. There's a group of people who love the ending and a group who absolutely hates the ending. One thing is certain, though; Firewatch is incredible. Another entry into the Environmental Storytelling Genre, Firewatch puts you (quite literally) in the shoes of Henry, a man who has seemingly lost everything he loves. Henry, after a brilliant prologue sequence that both sets up the story and gets the player incredibly and emotionally attached to the character, packs up a bag and moves to Wyoming to be a Firewatch. Thinking the wilderness and isolation will be good for him, he finds a connection with a woman he's never met. Delilah, the manager of the area in which Henry is posted, has a Walkie-Talkie that she uses to talk to all of her lookouts, but a unique connection is immediately evident between Henry and Delilah.

Firewatch's forests are some of the best looking environments you'll see in games.

Firewatch's forests are some of the best looking environments you'll see in games.

It's a unique way to tell a story and would be disastrous in the hands of most developers, but the team Campo Santo has built is a super-group (to steal some words from the music industry). These are people who've worked on major franchises and some incredible games, so the talent is there. But still, it's a hard concept to pull off, using nothing but dialogue to build a relationship with a faceless person. That's where the incredible voice acting comes in. Rich Sommer (Henry) and Cissy Jones (Delilah) have this incredible chemistry that's infectious. You really are made to care about these two strictly based off of the short bursts of conversation between the two. The subtle flirtatious comments and the sarcastic and witty banter between the two is endearing. 

The game takes place in the forests of Wyoming in 1988, near Yellowstone National Park, and a majority of the time spent in the game is simply just wandering around the stunning world Campo Santo has built. The colors of the trees, the light shining through the cracks in the rock, the sky, everything about this world is incredibly well realized. The art style, at first glance, can seem cartoon-ish, but once you forget about that, the world is vibrant and alive. You can adopt a turtle, explore caves, steal an 1980's style "Boombox" from a couple of teenage girls who are having a little too much fun trashing the beautiful forest. There's no typical map or pointer in this game like you might see in other games, instead you have to find your way around by using an old school compass and an actual paper map. It can be overwhelming for some, and one wrong turn can lead you in the completely opposite direction of where you intended to go. But that's one of the most amazing parts of this game, getting lost and radioing Delilah for help or just to chat.

This is how you'll be getting around the world of Firewatch.

This is how you'll be getting around the world of Firewatch.

It isn't without it's problems, though. For such a short game, small world, and myriad load times, Firewatch really struggles on the PS4 (Update: Campo Santo have released a patch that fixes the framerate issue). And like I said, the ending can be a bit of a let down for some. The game builds this relationship and builds this tension that may not have a satisfying conclusion, but that shouldn't take away from Campo Santo was able to do with Firewatch.