Platform: PS4 (version played), PC
What do you look for in a game? As time has gone on, while I still enjoy a grand adventure and hi-score chaser now and again I’ve found myself leaning more towards shorter, more narrative focused experiences. Something with a compelling story, intriguing characters and an alluring world to explore; happily Firewatch managed to tick all of these boxes during my time with it.
Set in Shoshone Park in the late 80s, you take the role of Henry who is about to start his first day as a fire lookout. And what a setting to lookout at – the world created by Campo Santo is stunning to wander through and just stare out into. Aided heavily by the crisp art style, the woodland feels alive, luscious and full of mysteries while the panoramas are pure fodder for you to take a minute and just stare out at the vistas. Your only real companionship in the game comes in the form of a walkie-talkie with which you can communicate with your boss, located in another tower another part of the park, called Delilah. The relationship and semi-branching dialogue between Henry and Delilah is a central part of the game and is made all the better by some wonderful voice acting from Rich Sommer and Cissy Jones, working alongside a well crafted script.
While there is obviously a narrative arc and path to follow, I was really impressed by the relative freedom you had to explore the world, only being curtailed by sheer drops and the limits of your own curiosity. In order to orient yourself in this world, you’re given a map and compass which is a welcome relief in a world of on-screen radar maps – I’d heavily advise turning off your location marker in the settings in order to get the most out of the exploration, though.
Firewatch is probably one of the strongest ‘walkie-talkies’ (geddit?) to be released since Gone Home back in 2013. While I’ve enjoyed others in the interim, Campo Santos manage to hit similar peaks as The Fullbright Company did, combining more-ish exploration with an excellent story in a world which feel lived in, all underlined with a hint of mystery as the story progresses.
As a side note, at this stage I would recommend to avoid the PS4 version, not only due to the difficulty the console has with processing the game but also that the PC version has an additional extra which I won’t spoil but one I would have liked to take advantage of.