Take watch over the physical and mental fires in the wilderness.
I’ve never been to Wyoming, especially the wilderness in 1989. Yet this is where I currently find myself, stood atop a rickety wooden tower. It looks amazing.
Firewatch first piqued my interest when I saw illustrator Olly Moss’ was involved (you might recognise his work from the Resistance 3 box art, or some fantastic silhouetted Star Wars illustrative posters ), but it’s a big step from a single illustration to creating a whole world.
Happily Firewatch excels with this – it feels like the perfect place to spend a few hours – during the day the sun pierces the trees overhead creating gorgeous shafts of light, and there is a beautiful orange glow as night falls to reveal an expansive star filled sky. It’s peaceful and tranquil, just as the wilderness should be. You can quite happily amble through, taking in the scenery, looking at the details never feeling the need to sprint past to reach the next story point.
You play Henry, who after some difficult choices in life runs away from it all and takes a job as a fire lookout. These difficult choices you get to pick as part of the games opening narrative, and while it’s a multi-choice affair, and will no doubt give you roughly the same outcome whatever you pick, it gets you on side with Henry extremely quickly and provides some level of affection towards him.
Despite being set in the wilderness you have human contact in the form of Delilah, Henry’s supervisor and fellow fire lookout who you chat over a two way radio – it’s a lovely way to interact – and this relationship is really the driving force of Firewatch. The options presented to you never feel like they’ll make a huge difference, but at the same time it doesn’t feel that important. It’s like this is a snapshot of Henry’s life and he’ll always head towards the same goals and outcome, you just help nudge him along the path in differing ways.
The story unfolds fairly slowly at first. You’ll chat with Delilah, whose tower you can see off in the distance. She’ll ask you to see who is setting off fireworks. Check out a broken phone line. Each task let’s you learn a little more about Delilah, but also a little more about Henry. The tasks are fairly simple; walk from point A to point B and interact mostly, but they give rise to the conversations on the way that build up the narrative.
As time passes a mystery begins to develop. The story doesn’t give you all the answers (or even questions) so you’re forced to make them up yourself; Who is Delilah? Can you trust her? Are you alone out here? It gives the whole thing a welcome tension and intrigue. When the story picks up it can feel a little rushed, that the quieter side of working in the wilderness is forgotten just to speed along to the finale.
Unfortunately the actual conclusion feels a little bit of a let down. As with any mystery there is misdirection along the way, so the outcome you start to piece together in your head can seem more satisfying that the one the game provides. The game is also fairly short – despite wandering around looking at the beautiful forest I indulged in it only took around 6 hours to complete. I’m also not sure if I’d want to jump straight in and start another play through as there doesn’t feel like I’ve missed that much (aside from the turtle that was in the pre-release pictures, how could i miss that!?!). Personally I rather enjoyed the fact I could finish it in an afternoon, that it wasn’t going to sit on the shelf unfinished (I’m looking at you GTA V) but obviously you may feel that for around £15 you expect more.
If you want to spend a few hours enjoying a story and actually getting to a conclusion (instead of just spending another evening grinding to increase your light level in Destiny) then I can’t think of many better ways to do that than with Firewatch.
Beautiful and engaging, if a little flawed. You won’t regret visiting Wyoming