I can think of nothing quite like going for a hike then getting lost in the wilderness, and the small team at Campo Santo has brought us such a wonderful gem of a game. Firewatch is a game about a man named Henry who takes a summer job in the wilderness of Wyoming to get away from his troubles. After a two day hike, he finds himself deep in the forest cut off from the outside world with a small tower to stay in and a radio that allows him to keep in touch with his spunky new boss Delilah. The job seems easy enough as he has to watch for fires and report any smoke he sees to the boss lady. However, as he start to explore the area around, life begins to become interesting. There is more to this place than Henry first thought and is now forced to solve a mystery.The consequences would be quite severe for failure.
After watching the trailer for Firewatch, I was a little worried the game might be rather flat and unable to keep me engaged. Generally speaking, adventure games like this do not have enough happening to keep my short attention span locked in. I kept telling myself I would give the game a shot, play an hour or so, and see what it was about. I can say, however, that Firewatch pleasantly surprised me.
I quickly found myself gripped by the story and, within the first five to ten minutes, even came close to crying. Without all of the extra stuff going on, you are really able to connect with Henry and start to understand the gravity of the relationship you share with Delilah. As our conversations went on, I found myself honestly hurt or worried about her. I wanted to know who she was, what she looked like, and where she was from. There is something about the way you bond with someone when you have no one else to turn to, and when there is no one else to tell the thoughts swirling in your head.
I won’t go too far into detail about what the mystery you have to solve is because I want people to be as on edge as I was. I constantly found myself sitting on the edge of my seat with my foot bouncing, willing Henry to run faster so I could find the next clue. There are not really any puzzles in this game. Instead, it is mainly running from point A to point B where you pick up an item or find out more information. With that being said, I never felt what I was doing was pointlessly running around since the story really helps drive and motivate your actions.
The graphics are amazing, albeit not hyper realistic, but the style adds a lot to the game’s world. I often found myself just stunned by the scenic backgrounds you come across from waterfalls to the perfect sunset. The soundtrack is used strategically as it adds tension and emotion to key parts of the game. It is not always present, but different songs fade in and out whenever the moment calls for it. Great graphics, sound, and story are not all that make this game so wonderful, but the actual play mechanics are very simple and smooth. The team at Campo Santo really put some thought into every button used allowing you to play without having to focus too much on the buttons. I played using the keyboard and was fascinated by the choice to make the mouse scroll wheel a default selection button in the game. The navigation system makes you feel you are using land navigation skills and forces you to think about where you are going instead of just following a way point or navigation arrow. It adds to the immersion of the game and helped it seem like I was hiking around in the forest.
A huge congratulations are in order to Campo Santo for creating such a wonderful first game. I enjoyed Firewatch because you don’t have to worry about the big bad boss at the end of the dungeon or if you have the best gear around. You get to focus on Henry, Delilah, and their crazy story. For that reason, I highly recommend this game to anyone who wants to just relax for a few hours and adventure around. I can not wait to see what this awesome little development team will come up with next.