Firewatch is an adventure game, developed and published by Campo Santo that was released in February 2016 on PC. The core team behind this game have got a plethora of experience, with some coming from big titles such as Mark of the Ninja, Brutal Legend and Bioshock 2 so I went into this game with high expectations.
You play as a middle aged man named Henry, whose wife has sadly got dementia, a crippling illness which tears people’s lives apart. Doing what a lot of people do in this world, Henry runs away from his problems to become a woodland ranger in a national forest. Your job is to mainly look out for signs of a fire in the dry woodlands and help prevent them spreading across the rest of the forest. This should be a calm and relaxing job for most, but you soon become the centre of a massive conspiracy plot as the story unravels.
Gameplay consists of hiking across rough terrain in order to reach objective points, loot supply crates which contain key game play tools such as ropes or walkie-talkies as well as notes left by past rangers which form part of the history of the park and give you some back plot to the story. Another core element to this game is the interaction you have with the only other human you have contact with throughout, Delilah – you maintain contact with her through your radio and talk to her every day. The two develop a relationship depending on how you respond to her in dialog and actions throughout the story. The dialog was probably the most compelling part of this game; the hiking between objectives did actually grow a little tiresome at times and grew very repetitive towards the end of the game.
The story is what carries this game hands down, I’ve been on a bit of an adventure game binge lately and this is by far the most interesting and gripping story I’ve played in recent memory. The relationship and bond between the main character Henry and Deliaha develops throughout the game and you really find yourself becoming completely immersed in this story. The game will leave you asking yourself moral questions too, and of course the ending will allow you to decide yourself on how everything works out in the end. You’ll probably finish the game with more questions than answers, and normally that would point to a case of bad storytelling, but in this case it is simply amazing that a story such as this can bring out so many emotions and questions regarding certain subjects.
Whilst the game isn’t the most graphically enhanced, it does have a nice art style that is pleasing to the eye. The game is ran using the Unity engine so we do get OK looking graphics but some of the texture quality and graphical effects are lacking which let Firewatch down sadly. The voice acting and sound effects are all really good though, again the dialog between characters is spot on and I cannot fault it even for one second in that department.
The forest in which you are situated is huge, although the game has set objectives throughout the story, you are allowed to roam around and explore anything you want. You will come across certain areas of the map that you can’t explore just yet as you won’t have the right equipment, such as axes or climbing gear, but you are free to check out every nut and granny if you please. You will find a handful of those supply crates I spoke about above scattered around the forest, along with a few points of interest too.
Due to the fairly linear overall story line there may not be room for more than two playthroughs of the game; yes you can choose to respond differently to Deliaha and that will result in different dialog between the two characters but I personally don’t see any other reason other than achievement hunting – to play more than twice. A single play through of Firewatch took me just over five hours to complete.
I had minor technical issues whilst playing, you will get some stuttering when you enter a more graphically heavy area such as near a large mass of water, or looking over a cliff with a long draw distance; I was a little disappointed in this as my rig is more than capable of playing this game on high settings according to the specs recommended. I was able to get a little bit of a performance boost by using an SLI profile for my graphics card and thankfully was able to get a steady 60 FPS with the odd stutter throughout my time playing. I did also fall through the world a number of times which did become a huge annoyance as it kept repeatedly happening but this was fixed by reloading the game.
My conclusion of Firewatch is that it a stellar adventure game, which whilst it does have faults with average looking special graphical effects and minor technical problems; it is still a joy to play through. The story kept me gripped right until the end, and the relationships that you form between the two characters are brilliantly executed. The price tag of £14.99 is completely fair and justified given the production values on offer for this title. The game has very rarely been on sale up until now so we might get a heavy discount in the upcoming Steam sale, so keep your eyes peeled.
Tom’s Score Card
1) Stay away
2) Not Recommended
3) Only recommended when on sale
5) Highly recommended
6) This is a must play