Firewatch

I recently acquired Firewatch as part of the annual Steam summer sale. It had been on my radar ever since I had stumbled upon their gorgeous website.

The game starts with a lovely text based intro where you make some basic life choices before you emerge into the wilderness, which is the setting for Firewatch. You come here for the job of a fire lookout to get away from your complicated life. What follows is at once a lonely, thrilling and gripping experience all at the same time.

This is not a review of the game but an exploration of the emotions and feelings that the game evokes as you get further into it. The world of Firewatch is a lonely one. Your only human interaction is with your supervisor over a radio walkie talkie. Now you might think that this would make for a boring game. What holds everything together however is the forest, the central story line and the incredible voice acting by both the main characters of the game.

Firewatch is a relatively short experience lasting around 4 hrs. Any longer and it would have probably drawn out the experience unnecessarily. Firewatch can best be described as a exploration narrative. Itโ€™s why the game dosenโ€™t offer much of a challenge in the game play area. So players looking for something more, wonโ€™t find it here.

What it does have is an incredibly strong sense of place. The unique art style really draws you in. A sense of loneliness pervades throughout the game. Yet the world around you and your simple objectives continually drive you forward. There is a central mystery that kind of strings you along across the world of Firewatch. Your mostly navigating across the world from point to point with the help of a map and compass.

Your only companion on this journey is your supervisor Delilah. Your conversational relationship with her is the central driving force of the game. Every conversation has a set of choices that must be selected within a few moments of them being offered to you. While these choices donโ€™t determine the final denouement what they do is shape the your ongoing relationship with Delilah. It was a very rewarding experience to see how these small but frequent choices affected her responses towards you.

Firewatch takes place over the course of only a few months and during that time you actually experience a relationship over a walkie talkie mature and grow in a way that actually feels real. The most important thing I realised was the game never puts a hard label on the kind of relationship that develops.
In the end itโ€™s all about the connection you as the player make with this place, and the people that traversed it before you. Itโ€™s about reconciling a past relationship while exploring the possibility of a new one. Itโ€™s about discovering things about oneself in moments of intense solitude.

Go play Firewatch. Or rather go experience Firewatch. Itโ€™s a prime example of the magic of video game storytelling.

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