Firewatch is a first-person story, in which you play as Henry, who has escaped his life to work as a fire lookout. Set during 1989 and a particularly hot summer, strange happenings set you on an adventure to unravel the mystery of the Wyoming wilderness. So is Firewatch a roaring spectacle or just a dull ember? Read our review below to find out..
So there’s been a swath of story heavy “walking simulators” hitting the Xbox One store recently, and for me Campo Santo’s Firewatch is by far the best of the bunch and here’s why. From the get go you’re given a solid back story to Henry and his relationship with his wife, from the very beginning when they first met right up to the point where Henry walks away to become a fire lookout. There’s a few multiple choices to be made during this first part of the game and although don’t have a massive effect on the story as a whole, they do affect some of the smaller details such as the breed and name of Henry’s dog.
In essence Firewatch is a walking simulator, but there’s a whole bunch of stuff to do that immerses you into the game that little bit more, there’s no indicators that constantly point you in the direction you need to be going so you have to make use of the compass and map quite often, along with the sign posts that are dotted around the wilderness.
There’s also a lot to be said for the story and the way in which it’s delivered. There’s always some form of back and forth via radio between Henry and Delilah, Henry’s Supervisor (the only person who Henry has any contact with), and it’s quite intriguing to see how their relationship forms, with some adult humour and serious conversations. Extremely well played by the voice actors Cissy Jones (Delilah), Rich Sommer (Henry) and very well scripted by the writers who were also responsible for The Walking Dead Season 1.
The gameplay is restricted somewhat, the game does look open world, but in reality there’s set paths that you must follow, although getting from A to B can be done at times by taking different routes. You’re also restricted to where you can and can’t go depending on where in the story you are, as at certain points you’ll find useful equipment that will allow you to access certain paths that were not accessible in previous chapters, such as the fire axe which can be used for cutting through thorny bushes to access short cuts, and climbing ropes that let you scale up and down some steep inclines.
There’s also some side stuff to encounter too, such as a couple of critters that you can find at certain times of the game, as well as some letters back and forth between two previous fire lookouts, You can also choose to engage in a conversation with Delilah about these if you so wish, adding a little more depth to the world.
The story is not that long, but (without giving away any spoilers) the story twist, and the way in which the game culminates is brilliant, and is definitely quite memorable. Once you have completed the game you unlock thoroughfare mode, which gives you access to all the tools needed to go back in to the game and go off exploring at your own will. there’s no story here but you can still initiate some conversations with Delilah. You can also choose to listen to whichever track you want from the games soundtrack. There’s also a developers commentary mode which can be played at any time.
Visually Firewatch isn’t super realistic but has a nice art style which does provide some stunning scenes throughout the game. There’s a little more interaction that your typical walking simulator, not to mention that you can actually run in Firewatch. The audio is superb, as mentioned already the voice acting is superb and complements the well written script, and is accompanied by a decent soundtrack.