When faced with adversity, most of us would like to imagine that we would face our problems head on and confront them. In reality though, the most appealing path is to get as far away from your issues as possible and hope that the distance means you won’t have to deal with it, at least for a little while.
This is the case in Firewatch, a first person adventure mystery game from Campo Santo. In the Summer of 1989, playable character Henry takes a temporary job as a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming, far away from civilization and his own personal hangups back in Colorado.
Campo Santo is a small team formed in part by ex-Telltale staff, and that DNA is clearly evident in the branching conversations you have over the radio with one of the few people Henry comes into contact with in Firewatch, Delilah. A disembodied voice on the other end of your walkie-talkie, Delilah is your supervisor, and maybe something more depending on how your conversations play out.
The relationship you craft with Delilah is Firewatch’s biggest narrative strength (the visuals are on a whole other level, but I’ll get into that later) and the the fact that you never get to see Delilah in person only adds to the bond you create. You’re both just two voices on the radio, and you can choose to be as brusque or open with your supervisor as you like.
Voice actors Rich Sommer (Henry) and Cissy Jones (Delilah) have a very natural cadence and fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. The opening conversations you have with Delilah are very awkward and stilted; two strangers lobbing barbs and quips as they get to know each other. As the game progresses, the conversations become a lot more natural.
The mystery part of Firewatch sadly doesn’t measure up to the interactions you have with Delilah. For fear of spoilers I won’t give too much away but the ending fizzles quite a bit, especially in light of how well Campo Santo builds up the tension. The game makes great use of its soundtrack and the natural creepiness of being along in the forest. Are the trees creaking because of the wind, or something a bit more sinister? In some open areas I found myself looking back over my shoulder every time I heard something out of the ordinary.
Firewatch is an atmospheric game, looking very much like a painting come to life. Well-known artist Olly Moss was in charge of creating the 2D assets for this game which Campo Santo recreated in stunning fashion.
Over the three-ish hours of the campaign you’ll go through a variety of wilderness locations from deep forests to arid valleys to caves and the day-night cycle that advances with the story means you’ll never see the same location in the same lighting twice. Firewatch has a very unique art style which practically pops off the screen. If it weren’t for the linear nature of the story I would have loved to walk around the environment and just soak it all in.
Firewatch is difficult to encapsulate in a few spoiler free paragraphs because so much of it is predicated on how you get along with Delilah and the choices you make as the Summer progresses. While the resolution of the mystery that is driving the story forward falls flat, taking a walk in the woods is certainly worth it just for how amazingly personable and realistic the dialogue is.
Has anyone else played Firewatch? What did you think of it?