2016 isn’t too exciting for me on the gaming front, mostly sequels to already popular games. After watching some trailers, it all seemed like a bunch of “same old same old”.
Firewatch is like the underdog that comes out of absolutely nowhere and knocks you out. You end up lying on the ground, wondering how you even got here. That was how I felt playing this game that released February 9th, available on Steam.
How the hell did I get this far into the game? How the hell did they make me so emotionally vested in this character? How are they making me open this giant can of FEELS?!
These were all questions that were running laps in my mind as I played.
Firewatch works like an indie PC game. It is a first person adventure type that emphasises a lot on the sensory experience, along with an strong storyline. The whole experience is not so much gaming to me. It’s more like being in a movie and you are playing the protagonist.
The setting is in the 80s, in Wyoming USA. You are Henry; a married man, with a messy personal history who decides to take up a summer job as a ranger in the woods to get away from “real life”. You hike to your tower and meet Delilah, your fellow neighbour in the next tower, via your handheld radio. The radio is your main line of communication. And it is your only connection to life outside your tower. There is a deep sense of loneliness and stillness. Your job is to keep the forest safe from fires, watching for smoke from your tower. Which seems simple enough until a fire unravelled a series of mysterious events that were happening to just you and Delilah. You explore the wilderness further, equipped with your handheld radio, compass and nerves of steel. The journey will make you learn more about yourself, your interpersonal relationships and cause you to make choices that will affect Henry’s path in life.
Visuals in this game are absolutely stunning, in the most underrated way possible. It doesn’t boast realism, or special 3D technology. It’s highly stylised and artistic, but very endearing and not at all intimidating. The game play is simplistic with heavy emphasis on the small choices the player makes.
The soundtrack is also well-done. With a plot driven game like this one, soundtrack plays a key role and this one made me feel all kinds of emotions. I was already an emotional wreck 15 minutes into the game. Together with the visuals, I felt calmness, loneliness and the fear of the unknown all at once. You are by yourself for most of the game and that makes it a very unique gaming experience.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much at all. The trailer was beautiful, but it didn’t get me excited. Currently, all the major gaming channels on YouTube are playing this game and doing walkthroughs. I’m sure PewDiePie will make this game very popular indeed. That was how it caught my attention. Word of advice : DO NOT WATCH THE WHOLE WALKTHROUGH.
Don’t do it. Don’t do this to yourself.
This is the type of game that needs to be experienced first hand. It is something that you have to go into blind, without knowing what to expect. Only then will you get the full, amazing, emotional experience that this game has to offer. In terms of “replay-ability”, it isn’t something you can keep playing again and again as there isn’t any levels to achieve or side missions to complete. In my opinion, it is still worth it, just for that virgin experience.
Firewatch is a breath of fresh air from the zombie apocalypses, alien invasions and war battles. It is so realistic from start to end. It’s almost as if it actually happened. I sat there with my heart in my throat, watching all my assumptions and expectations of this game go into flames.
I sat there and watched.
It was epic.