Campo Santo’s Indie flick, Firewatch, is a little game with a big heart. Its bright, animated world is a joy to explore but the driving force is its story. Tense, intriguing and just a little bit shocking, Firewatch is one of 2016’s most surprising hits.
The user interface is well designed and unique.
The story follows Henry (voiced by Rich Sommer), who’s retreated from the city to get away from his complicated, hectic life to work as a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness. Perched atop a large tower overlooking the park, your job revolves around patrolling the area and keeping the wilderness safe. As the story progresses, it soon becomes apparent that you’re not the only one out in the wilderness. With your only companion a woman named Delilah (voiced by Cissy Jones) available over a walkie talkie, the game would have failed had the dialogue and voice acting not been good but thankfully Firewatch excels in this department.
The smartly written script is delivered well with some genuinely funny moments between the two characters and an authentic chemistry. All too often games like this tend to fall apart with lacklustre animations or lip syncing but with a first person perspective, your only clue to Delilah’s existence is the device you hold in your hand. Its a smart move and one that attracts the attention directly to the narrative which is meaningful and every line (no matter how silly or pointless) used to build the characters.
Firewatch’s graphics are beautiful and its art style unique and vibrant.
Along with the script is the unique way the game presents itself visually. The user interface pops with bright colours and prompts that come up on the screen as you hover over items. With a mini-map missing and your only clue to your whereabouts a map and a compass, the world is just big enough to get lost in without it becoming frustrating. The lack of a minimap brings the attention to the environments and its a good thing too because they’re stunning. Graphically, Firewatch has a unique colourful art style but it doesn’t fall into anime territory. With a real time lighting system, seeing the sun rise and set over the horizon while you walk through the forest or look out over a cliff edge is incredibly calming.
Although Firewatch is an incredibly beautiful game and its story enough to see you through until its conclusion, the ending left me a little disappointing. Of course, I won’t spoil anything here but if there’s one thing that tarnishes the experience for me its this. Its not that its bad per se but the game spends an awful lot of time building tension and teasing a big reveal or something shocking about to be revealed but when the finale rolls round, it just didn’t have that wow factor for me.
The real time lighting system is really well done
The time I spent with Firewatch was glorious and highlights some of the best things about video games. The open world is beautiful and a joy to explore; the unique game play forcing you to use a map and compass rather than a mini-map is something lacking in many other games. The smartly written script helps to drive the narrative forward and with such a tight focus on the environment and the story, Firewatch is a unique Indie title that deserves to be played. With such a short play time, its one that you can easily get through in around 6 hours tops if you explore everything but don’t let the short play time fool you, Firewatch is well worth its weight in gold.
Verdict - 8/10