I finished a first playthrough of Firewatch before the release day was over. You may either read my review on Steam or below:
Firewatch was my most anticipated game this year and I finished it in one sitting in about 4-5 hours. It is a very good game, and very much of the type that I wanted it to be. We are talking about a “small” and down-to-earth story elevated by great dialogue and voice acting. You take the role of Henry who after several problems leaves wife and home behind for the Wyoming wilderness. Once there he is contacted over radio by another fire-watcher, Delilah who will supervise him over the summer.
Here I want to squeeze in that another major strength of Firewatch is it’s strong world building. Having grown up in the 90’s this is perhaps more of a personal preference, but just as in the superb adventure Gone Home, or open world-RPG Shenmue, the developer manage to evoke a “cosy” 1980-1990-feeling, for lack of better words. It’s there in terms of the technology that is available for the explorers, what items they scatter around them etc. Very nice, and not that easy to pull off I guess since quite few games revolves around this time to my knowledge.
I ran the game on Ultra preset settings and then had occasional problems with frame rate drops. There are several beautiful vistas to see but I felt that the environments looked like I had hoped, as in the beautiful artwork, only when viewed from a larger distance. The soundtrack kicks in on selected occasions and manage to further enhance the mood.
The most tense parts are midway towards the near-end and many have already expressed they felt let down by the ending. I did not really think in that way, even though I might have over-hyped Firewatch up until a few weeks ago, before I started The Witness. I always expected and really wanted; a short and well-written game with good environmental design, relaxed game-play and realistic story. That’s what I got more or less. Personally, when ranking games, I lately tend to favour game-play over story, which is why Firewatch will not be my no.1 of 2016, but it will probably be high up on the list. Before Firewatch I did not know there was such a thing as fire-watch-towers and now I would really like to go to the U.S. and rent one for a night or two (yes, you can do that!). No matter how you see it, the artwork is lovely and I look forward to receive my prints in a while (btw, you can order print-outs of photos taken in-game if you want “personalized” artwork).
Like any game, it is not for everyone but it is quite unique and charming. So prepare a thermos with coffee or a chilled beer, maybe a light snack, and go for a nice relaxing experience as a fire-watcher in Wyoming.