Firewatch is a first person adventure game that centers around a man named Henry who has taken a job in Shoshone National Forest. Things seem to be going normally until Henry finds some odd things happening in the forest. Play along with the mystery and go through relaxing lows and heart racing highs in this new game from Campo Santo.
When you first boot up the game, it greets you with a few choices on how you meet and go about life with your lover. This is emotional, and though gameplay wise it is fairly boring, it brings the player closer to the characters and further into the story. After this is done there are a few linear scenes inside of a garage that don't have much for terms of gameplay at all, and really do not need to be there to add to the story.
When you get to your tower the game starts to open up after the intro sequence where you meet the other main character named Delilah, another person in a lookout north of your own. She talks to you throughout the game giving you advice and asking you questions in which you can change the outcome by answering differently. There are no big changes to the end of the story no matter what answers you pick, though it does change the response dialogues that Delilah will say in future conversations.
Without spoiling the main story-line, it is very well thought out. It has a comedic twist of sorts when you realize what exactly is wrong within the forest, but just as you are getting comfortable with the realization of this twist, the game pulls over another twist by reveling back to a story told in the beginning of the game. This may have been a little too spoilery but I do not want to just flat out tell you what happens because the story is very well written and brings the player closer to the characters and the world that Firewatch creates.
STORY-LINE SCORE: 9/10
There is not much to be had when it comes to gameplay. Most of the gameplay consists of exploring the area of Shoshone National Forest and uncovering clues to solve the big mystery surrounding the entire game. You can bring up your walkie-talkie at any time (except for certain scripted moments) to talk to Delilah. You usually have a choice between a few specific dialogue options as you walk around the forest and encounter things. I remember a funny conversation I had with her when i found a bra in the forest. I laughed a little as the scene progressed. If you feel so inclined you can also choose to ignore anything that Delilah says, though she will get pretty annoyed with you after a while.
There are certain items that you can pick up and even store in your bag for future use as you tote around the forest, and some of them are used in the story while others either serve as just collectibles or plain trash that doesn't really need to be there at all. For all those treasure hunters, this is a good thing to have in the game i guess, though for me it was just a waste of time. I found that i didn't use most of the items i picked up unless i was instructed to pick them up. As the story progresses new paths are opened up and new areas can be freely explored. When the world is completely open there is this sense of emptiness whenever you have gotten finished with the area in the story. The scenery may be beautiful but exploring the game after the story mission is over in that area is meaningless because there is nothing there to get.
The biggest and worst part of the game has to be how long the game is. It only took me 4 hours to complete, and has absolutely no replay value to it. For the players that want to see all of the dialogue options you may want to play again, but for just the casual player, there are no real different endings that i have found (playing through the game twice now) and it definitely made me go, "That's it?" The story had a great conclusion but gameplay wise there was nothing else to do. That is definitely a big hit on the score.
GAMEPLAY SCORE: 7/10
The graphics in Firewatch are absolutely gorgeous. The constant mood that the sunsets and layers of mist gives you really pulls you into the world and makes you believe that you could actually be there. Now of course these are not "photo-realistic" graphics that we can achieve in this day and age, but this game would do very poorly, in my opinion, if it had gone with photo-realism. The style to the game has a very low poly, smooth, organic feel to it. All of the animations from the way you jump over trees and open doors to the way the grass and trees sway in the wind is all fluid. They all seem to be connected in a natural way. If this game was photo-realistic, some of the animations as they are now would just feel wrong together. The grass wouldn't wave right and the character would seem overly "fat". I think that the stylized graphics that Campo Santo created for this game really add to the immersion and make you really believe you are inside of a living game world that breathes as the player does.
Within the game of Firewatch there are many sites that you will visit on your journey across the forest. Each place seems to have its own color palate and it creates a game that is diverse in colors, but very unified in design. All of the textures are high in detail, though not in pixels. The detail that comes with, for example, the birch wood texture that you see above has large amounts of detail, but it does not have to have hundreds of pixels per inch and it does not need to be "photo-realistic". The style alone gives Firewatch its own emotional and atmospheric feel for the player that creates a bright, relaxing mood that can be tense when it needs to be.
The music in the game plays slowly in the background, almost to the point that you never notice it. You will go throughout the game and explore the world with a serene music that goes on in the background. During a part of the game there is this loud music that is completely different and distracting from everything else in the game. It distracts from the serenity in the game and pulls you out of it, making you want to investigate the scene. It does its job to make you feel uncomfortable in the scene that you find yourself in when the music starts to play.
There are times where the music will change to invoke a certain emotion in the player. There is a scene later in the game where the player figures out what exactly has been going on in the forest, and has to decide whether to do something drastic. The music becomes tense and fast paced, making the player's heart start to race as the scene progresses. At the end of the game the music becomes a mix of the serene and tense due to the nature of the very end of the game. I am trying not to spoil the game too much, but the music plays a huge part in making the player feel what the developers wanted them to feel at certain points in the game. The original score composed by Chris Remo is a masterpiece within its own work and deserves to be recognized.
MUSIC SCORE: 8/10
The game overall is a great story to go through. Though it is only 4 hours long, the story over the 70+ days you are in the forest brings you closer at every moment with relaxing lows and heart racing highs. I found myself relaxing and enjoying the scenery, sad as i revealed my story to Delilah, fell in love with Delilah, and jumped and yelled at the mysterious forces that are watching through the forest. The game brought me into the world of Firewatch. There were a few mishaps, though the game never crashed or bugged out on me. It was well put together, and though the gameplay was fairly dull and there was not much adventure in an area after previously going into it, the story kept me so invigorated within it that I never payed attention to these problems until later in the game. For a $20-dollar game, it is well thought out and well executed. I would recommend that you all go out and buy this game to try it yourself. Even if you do not like these types of games you might be surprised at how much the story sucks you in.
OVERALL SCORE: 9/10