I’ve played very few games that have given off a particular feeling of beauty. But the first time I played Firewatch I could see how much it felt like a painting. Make no mistake, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then Firewatch is worth at least ten times that.
The core of Firewatch is it’s story. This isn’t a game like Dear Esther where you’ll be walking in a straight line listening to an unreliable narrator tell an ambiguous story. Firewatch brilliantly sets up it’s narrative component with the key twist that you are very much alone. Taking place in the Colorado Rockies, you play as a man named Henry who has taken this isolating job for a very particular reason, one I won’t spoil here. It’s Henry’s job to watch for fires and hopefully get some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, as more mysterious events begin to occur and it becomes clear someone or something else is with you in the forest, the story starts to revolve more around just what happens to the human mind in isolation.
The big twist with Firewatch is in the gameplay. Your only connection to humanity is your boss Delilah who can only be reached through a walkie-talkie. This actually works out better than expected; when you only have one person in the world you can talk to, you choose what you say very carefully. This isn’t a game where in one way or another no matter what you choose the characters will say the same things.All the dialogue feels fresh and different, and I’m continually tempted to go back and replay the game just to hear what else I missed. Whenever there’s a beautiful view or a horrifying moment in front of me, the first thing I wanted to do was tell it to someone else, and Firewatch doesn’t just accept but embraces that concept as you’re almost always given the option to tell her about every little event, whether you’ve been attacked by a raccoon or you’re looking at one of the many gorgeous vistas.
All that being said, probably the game’s only major flaw lies in its ending. After so many twists, jaw-dropping scenery and refreshing dialogue it was disappointing to reach such a half-hearted ending that didn’t feel as if it made any logical sense. Everything I’d been working towards and every choice I made felt like it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and that took a huge amount of my love of the game away. In the end, while the conclusion won’t satisfy many, Firewatch is an unforgettable experience and a great case study into what isolation can do to any of us; it takes a lot for a game to truly stand out for me but this one did the trick. It’s an 8.5/10