By Edwin Velez
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on September 20th, 2016 on Xbox One (Also available on PS4 & PC)
Developer: Campo Santo Publisher: Campo Santo
At the heart of Firewatch lies an extremely well written and delivered thriller, though from an outside perspective it’s a straightforward, semi-open world walking simulator. Players take control of Henry, an emotionally conflicted outdoorsman. It’s the summer of '89, and he has taken up a job as a fire lookout for the Shoshone National Park to get away from his troubled life in Boulder, Colorado. This is normally a fairly lonely job, but on the other end of his radio is his sole contact Delilah. Their connections and banter are what drive the game to its heights of narrative greatness.
Exploring the Shoshone is breathtaking. Vibrant foliage covers the hills, making hiking a visually appealing task. The mountain skylines, bodies of water, and picture perfect skies are a wonder to behold. As you explore the various trails in your sector, you will be given various tasks from Delilah that push the day along. These tasks eventually tie into a deeply thrilling storyline, but that is for you to discover without me to spoil. To help you along the way, you will gets a few pieces of equipment. The most helpful are ropes and an axe, both of which make new paths available that both push the story along and make shortcuts for your travels. The map is without a doubt you’re most important tool which, combined with your compass, is key to navigating the winding trails. As you explore, Henry will often update his maps in accordance with his findings as well as other watchers personal notes. My favorite item, though non-essential, is a disposable camera. Much of the game begs for screen caps, but the camera is a neat way to capture your views while making them more memorable since your film roll is limited. During the credits, every photo you took comes alongside the crews name in what is honestly one of the most attention grabbing credits I have ever seen. Yes, Firewatch is attention grabbing and meaningful right down to its credits. Though the map is one of the prettiest sights I have seen in gaming, my biggest disappointment comes from a shocking lack of wildlife. Though you run into a select few animals in your summer adventures, they are rarely random. The few you can see are usually for achievements or to trigger dialogue, but for a game that takes place in the forest I would have expected to see much more. Even if it were just squirrels or birds, it would have made all the difference, but sadly not even those tiny animals were out and about. The ambient sounds of wildlife like ducks and bugs were fantastic, but had the forest been booming with actual critters (even if at a distance) it would have made all the difference.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 9/10
+Award Worthy Script
-Lack of Wildlife