Editor’s Note, Nov. 15, 2018: The following review is posted for archival purposes only. It is shown in its original form, and may not meet our current editorial standards. Some supplemental images or video cannot be displayed and are not included.
- Interesting Plot
- Gorgeous world building & art style
- Unstable frame rate on PS4
Firewatch’s suspenseful and mysterious narrative more than makes up for it’s lack of actual gameplay.
Firewatch is a first-person adventure game set in the mountainous wilderness of Wyoming. You play as Henry, who, after going through some life changing experiences, decides to take a break from the city life and get a summer job as a firewatch. At his new job he meets his boss / fellow firewatch Delilah (or D for short) over the radio that he carries while hiking the terrain. In order to not spoil the whole story, I’ll just say that after they meet over the radio, some very strange things begin to happen, and the rest of the game involves unraveling a mystery in the forest.
Firewatch is not a long game, it can be played in about 5 hours. I’ve seen people on the Internet heavily criticizing the game for “being too short” or for “not having enough stuff to do,” but what they don’t understand is that that’s not the point of Firewatch. It’s not an action game or survival game, it’s an adventure game. It’s meant to tell a story about the characters within it and, in my opinion, it excels at doing this. It’s more of an interactive story than a video game, and that’s just fine with me.
Like I said above, the game’s plot focuses on a series of unusual events that happen while Henry is working in the wilderness that surrounds his watch tower. He and Delilah begin to investigate the strange happenings, and uncover a whole lot of stuff they were never meant to see (again, sorry for being vague here, but I don’t want to spoil anything). The game’s creepy atmosphere really adds a lot to it’s mysterious plot; the world is beautiful and serene, but you can’t help but feel like you’re being watched from the bushes as you explore. It felt like, at any moment, something was going to jump out and get me. A lot of the game felt like an 80s horror film to me. The story hooked me in right away, and it kept me right up to the end; I loved every minute of it.
The game’s world is just as mesmerizing as it’s plot. Campo Santo did an amazing job creating a beautiful world for Firewatch. The art style was gorgeous, incorporating realistic shadows and physics while also keeping a colorful, cartoon-ish feel. But while the world was gorgeous, the game did struggle at times to keep a stable framerate on the PS4, hitting lows of around 20 frames per second. This is unacceptable considering the game’s small size and simple art style, and can most likely be blamed on the game’s engine, Unity.
Gameplay wise, the game has little to offer, but in this case I don’t think that’s a negative attribute as the plot makes up for it. Most of what the player does involves running to and from places, completing small tasks for Delilah, with the story unfolding in between or during these assignments. While it may sound tedious or boring, I was much too distracted by the intriguing mystery unfolding before me, or taking in the gorgeous game world to really notice. Other than walking and climbing, there are a few supply caches scattered around the map; they’re usually full of useless crap, but they also have a few letters you can read and maps that you can use to update your own map. These supply caches are pretty much the only thing that resemble an active objective for the player. As I’ve said before, the game is more of an interactive story, and less of an actual video game.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Firewatch. While it may not offer a true gamer’s experience, what it does offer is great storytelling and a great atmosphere. Firewatch is the video game equivalent of a “page-turner;” it was hard to put down my controller.