Firewatch (PS4 Review)
There is a great divide between those who loath “walking sims” and those that adore a great narrative embedded in an interactive environment. In fact to refer to the well crafted and frequently beautiful worlds as “walking sims” is a great injustice. There is a that moment, the protagonist of Firewatch, really sums up why we play these types of games when he states “I came out here for a breath of fresh air and an adventure”. That’s why Firewatch is a great game, it takes you outside of the norm in the best way it can and leads you by the hand on a touching journey.
Firewatch opens with with Herny meeting his partner and the events that eventually lead him to Wyoming as a fire lookout for his assigned area, Two Forks. Firewatch’s introduction really hits home, playing out a series of events that you make choices that tell Henry and Julia’s love story with a emotional end. This opening acts as the underlying motive of Henry’s voyage in to the great wilderness of Wyoming in which he meets Delilah, another fire lookout from a neighbouring area. As the story progresses we see a relationship develop between the two, even though they never meet face to face, over the radio as they discuss those who came before Henry and discuss those who came before him. To go in to any more detail of the story would completely ruin the wonderful narrative presented to you throughout Firewatch. The most gripping part of the story is just how well it is acted out, there is a great warmth between Delilah and Henry that can be influenced by your dialogue choices.
More important than what was said is just how it is said. Firewatch’s dialogue is brought to life by Rich Sommer, Mad Men’s Harry Crane, and Cissy Jones, Life is Strange’s Joyce and The Walking Dead’s Katjaa. The voice acting presents is wonderful as both bring weight to their words and you truly believe in the pain in their voices when they talk about their past and bond over the radio. It gets to a point in which you linger on every word and look forward to the next charming burst of discussion, in the hopes that you see their relationship blossom.
Although a game can’t stand on it’s voice acting alone, thankfully Firewatch has so much to offer. The wonderful scenery and environment will regularly have you stopping in awe of the small part of the park you’re allowed to inhabit. Perched atop your lookout tower the whole forest sprawls in front of you as small fires bellow smoke in the distance. Climbing on to the top of a ravine and looking down the path you’ve just walked gives a great sense of fulfilment and appreciation of the journey. Firewatch is so captivating that they give you a camera and allow pictures to be taken for no reason other than to bask in the glory of the games design, in fact the end credits pull the pictures together in such a charming way that you will be devastated if you fail to use all your photographs.
Firewatch even wraps the whole experience together with the soundtrack. The atmosphere is set by the colours and change in the environment but truly brought to life by the musical choices by Chris Remo. The quaint walks in the woods can take a sombre tone in the change of a few chords and it is truly wonderful. As you sit perched on the edge of a cliff admiring the glowing orange sunlight there is a composition that really makes you wish that you could stay there forever in that moment, and there are so many moments like that scattered throughout Firewatch.
Unfortunately not everything is perfect in Firewatch. While playing on the PlayStation 4 there were several occasions in which the frame rate would drop off and really ruin the truly wonderful enviroments you were in with some rather janky scenes that are more prominent when it came to loading new areas or saving. On top of the frame issues there are also points in which the draw distance drops off and trees and bushes would pop in to view at unsettling distances and really ruin the visual delight you are trying to bask in.
As far as Firewatch goes it is a great game wrapped in a 3/4 parcel. There is so much to fall in love with as you wander around your tiny section of the park and chat with Delilah about everything you see. It’s odd to think that in game in which you never meet any real humans face to face that you never feel alone, and that’s part of the magic of Firewatch. It’s the story of two broken people coming together in the most unlikely of scenarios and getting lost with each other, both in the world and in thought. There are a few minor technical hitches, but all of that can be overlooked as you rummage around in the wilderness for extra supplies and explore the world, I only wished there was more.