A note to the reader: I will be as vague as possible on story points in this review, as I do not wish to spoil this game’s story for you if you are trying to decide whether or not to play it.
Firewatch is a game that defies convention, and in so doing shows the player that storytelling innovation is not a closed matter. Some might call Firewatch just a “walking simulator” or a first person exploration game, which is understandable if they commonly judge books by their covers. Within the frames of this game, however, you will find immersive storytelling that is done mainly via audio conversations, or things you find within the environment.
The story alone makes this game worth considering, especially for gamers that are around thirty years of age, or older. This is a mature game, yes in rating, but also in the types of conversations and decisions you make along the way. A gamer with less life experience likely will not fully grasp or enjoy the story being told.
I could see many gamers looking at this game and passing on it simply because it doesn’t have cinematic graphics. For the most part, I don’t believe that is the audience Campo Santo is trying to reach. I believe this type of artistic direction and style is an excellent choice for this narrative.
As for my experience with Firewatch, I went in as blind as possible, and I recommend that experience to anyone considering playing. I can say that this is honestly one of the most engaging games I’ve played. I was faced with choices and decisions, which tailor the game experience and make it more personal for me. I found myself asking, “Wow, how would I really respond in this situation?” As the game progressed, I really found myself being drawn to the characters and becoming concerned with how things played out. Granted, there are many games in the “choose your own adventure” type genre these days, but I came away from my short experience with Firewatch really enjoying the storytelling method, the main and side plots, and honestly wanting just a bit more.
I did notice some technical issues in my time with the game, though. There were a few times that I got stuck on a rock, couldn’t quite get the right feel when trying to interact with an object, saw quite a bit of screen clipping and noticed some inconsistencies when interacting with similar environmental objects. This review is based on my experience with the Xbox One version of the game, so I am not sure if these issues are also present on PC or PS4.
These technical issues are the only real blemishes I experienced with this game. I’ve spoken before how I prefer shorter games these days, and I feel that having an engaging narrative is very important for me. For that reason, I feel like this game is appropriately priced at $20. Some scoff and say that that cost is too high for a six hour experience, but those are also probably the people that wouldn’t really find themselves enjoying this game.
The Good Ole Days of Summer
Firewatch is immaculate storytelling in an unconventional way. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, you’ll enjoy it.