Note: Review code for Firewatch was provided to the reviewer by Campo Santo Games. Take all the opinions herein with that information in my mind.
Firewatch was #6 on my Top Ten Most Wanted Games of 2016, so I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise when I say that Firewatch was a game I truly couldn’t wait for, and that’s also why I am very pleased to tell you that the game is an utter delight.
Not to give anything away, but I think anyone playing on PC or PlayStation 4 will be emotionally devastated by the time they reach Day 1. From this moment on, the game proceeds to ask questions about insanity, losing your identity, and the true feeling of paranoia, fear, and loneliness that comes with being stuck in Wyoming with 1970’s technology.
One thing that may bother you, is Firewatch‘s optimization on PS4. We tried to play it on PC, but even with a high-end laptop, we couldn’t get it to run, but we know nothing about computers, well, close to nothing. Either way, when I was playing, the game constantly would suffer from hitching and overall sluggishness that detracted from my experience of the story.
As you might imagine in a game about exploring a forest and the mysteries with it, there is a lot of dialogue. Normally, I’d find this to be boring, but Henry and Delilah have a real dynamic here. It doesn’t hurt that Henry was voiced by Rich Sommers of Mad Men fame and Delilah was voiced by Cissy Jones of The Walking Dead: Season One fame.
You get a real sense of connection that I don’t think I have felt since I played Bad Company 2. Weird choice, I know, but that’s the kind of dynamic you get here. Henry is a goofball, while Delilah is the slightly promiscuous boss of yours.
You also get a bit of driving force behind these conversations in the form of dialogue choices, which can help or harm your relationship with Delilah, which is a novel idea that I’m sure many people will whine about, but the way it’s implemented here, you owe it to yourself to play the game to find out for yourself.
The way you explore the world is completely up to you, as this is an open-ended as well as open-world game, in a very traditional way. You can go anywhere that you have the equipment for, which gives it a very Metroid vibe, and while we’ve been seeing this trend more and more often, I think the game puts this game style to very good use. It creates this sort of sensation of “Hey, what’s over there?” and entices you to come back later to find it.
On that same note, you see that screenshot above? That’s a cache box. It’s used by pretty much anyone that passes by. In here, you can find little glimpses into what the history of Two Forks Forest is, exactly, and what brings people to it. Every time I came across one of these, I felt like I was reading someone’s diary. Like I was invading someone’s private life. I got a taste of this in Mad Max, but I really think this is a good way to try it back into the narrative of the game.
If I had one thing to say about Firewatch, is that the environments look stunning. Their high-bloom, rough sketch gives the environment a sensation of an artist painting a picture that you can enjoy time and time again, but still make an impact on.