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Firewatch (2016) Game Review

Walking simulator is a highly-immersive experience.

Firewatch is a first-person mystery-adventure game about a lookout who experiences strange events following mysterious fires in Yellowstone.

Released last year to praise from gamers and critics alike, there seemed to be a point where all everyone wanted to do was talk about their experiences with this game which is not too surprising seeing how along with Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture it helped launch the walking simulator as a key new genre of indie gaming.

Set in Wyoming in 1989, you play the role of Henry who has taken on the position of a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest as a way to escape the issues currently happening in his life when his wife Julie develops early-onset dementia. He is alone, apart from his supervisor Delilah, who he chats with over the walkie-talkie and generally keeps him company over the course of the summer as he mans his fire lookout. Initially, the summer starts off uneventful but soon things take a darker turn as he finds himself being stalked by a mysterious figure and strange occurrences begin to happen as he attempts to uncover what is happening.

Firewatch
Firewatch, 2016 © Campo Santo

A relatively brief experience at between four and five hours depending on how good your map reading skills are, which did on its release create some issues for developer Campo Santo as the Steam return policy meant that gamers could have essentially played the game and get their money back. Still despite the short runtime, this doesn’t stop it from being an immersive and engaging experience.

Perfectly capturing the isolation of the job, you experience the world through Henry’s eyes as he walks around his assigned area keeping track of fires as well as handling issues in the park, such a rowdy teenagers setting off fireworks and even though the graphical style is similar to that we saw used for Overwatch this is still a realistic world which the game takes place within using bold reds, oranges and yellows while taking place over a variety of times depending on the day being played through and it all unquestionably looks fantastic so you will often find yourself taking a moment or two to just admire your surroundings.

Firewatch
Firewatch, 2016 © Campo Santo

As with the Telltale Games, there is a certain amount of personal choice throughout the game, which shapes your experience with dialogue choices that enable you to play Henry either seriously or funny depending on the type of story you want. Where these dialogue choices really come into play is with the relationship between Henry and Delilah, which is played out entirely over the radio and it’s a relationship that is entirely believable from the start thanks to the sharp scripting which makes it one of the best aspects of the game, especially when their conversations frequently reveal secrets that both of them have.

Those expecting an action packed experience will be greatly disappointed by this title, as it contains none, instead being fuelled by the mystery of Henry’s situation especially as you gather clues from the surrounding area building towards what frustratingly comes off as kind of a flat ending especially when it feels like we are building towards a moment of conflict that ultimately never comes.

An enjoyable if brief experience, this game provides a handy stop gap between games, while engaging enough to prove there is life in the walking simulator genre.

Firewatch (2016) Game Review

Game description: Firewatch is a first-person mystery-adventure game about a lookout who experiences strange events following mysterious fires in Yellowstone.

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