Firewatch is a first person story driven mystery adventure developed by Campo Santo and published by Panic.
Don’t fear….there are no spoilers here. So read on and get a peek at what to expect in Firewatch…..the full review will be out soon!
You play as Henry (voiced by Rich Sommer), a middle aged married man who seeks solace in the solitude of the Wyoming wilderness in the summer of 1989 as a fire lookout.
During the introductory sequence of the game you are taken through the basic controls of the game, and setup some of Henry’s past by responding to a number of situational descriptions. The majority of these situations revolve around Henry’s relationship with Julia, his wife, and lead you to the decisions that made Henry seek to separate himself from the outside world.
This helps to give you connection with Henry early on as there is generally 2 choices given for each situational response, and some of them are not simple choices! This also sets the tone for the majority of the game and also gives you a good idea of how interactions will work in the rest of the game but more on that shortly.
With Henry’s past established, we are given our first glimpses of the breathtaking landscape that Campo Santo have brought to life. The Shoshone National Forrest, the location for you fire watch tower, and home for the summer of ‘89.
The cell shaded style of the landscape, perfectly developed colour pallet, beautiful dynamic lighting, haunting soundtrack and ambient forest sounds, all blend together in a beautiful display that at times, will take your breath away. And whilst the character model of the protagonist looks more akin to the heavy from TF2 (at least based on your first person view of Henry’s hands), it blends in well with the style of the landscape around you.
It’s at this point, on your first hike through the forest to get to your fire lookout tower, you are introduced to your supervisor, Delilah (voiced by Cissy Jones), your only form of contact for the summer. Your communication with Delilah is generally cantered around a timed choice of responses which assist to give you the illusion of significant choices and diverging story lines. However, this does not seem to be as significant as the choices lead you to believe with a relatively linear story line and clearly staged events which are in no way impacted by the choices in conversations you have with Delilah.
This, however, is not a negative for the game. The impact of the responses you choose to give Delilah are far more subtle and tend to have more of an impact on how you develop a relationship with Delilah….totally professional or maybe a little harmless flirting?? It’s the differences in conversations with Delilah that add substance and life to this seemingly solitary isolation of the wilderness. This also makes the long treks through the forests to investigate drunken camping teenagers a lot more interesting than a lonely running simulator!
Just how much you choose to invest in the relationship between you and Delilah is up to you, after all you are still married. However within a few days of your arrival some strange occurrences start happening and this relationship may be the only way to make sense of things from here on out.
Things start to move fairly swiftly after roughly the first hour of gameplay and follow a rough timeline marked out in days….Day1, Day 5, Day77 etc. The game takes around 4-8hrs to complete depending on if it’s your first, second or third play through. So it’s definitely feasible to play through in one sitting for some, which I STRONGLY recommend if you can (and have the time to). I found for the better part of the game I was on the edge of my seat, trying to
As you progress through the story, the underlying mystery of the Wyoming forest starts to surface. A seemingly harmless group of teenagers camping, a strange foreboding fenced off area in the forest, missing person reports, strange threats left for you to find…..how will the summer unfold before you and how much can you rely on your only lifeline, Delilah? The only way to find out is to play Firewatch!