Firewatch is a first-person graphic adventure video game developed and published by Campo Santo Productions on 2016-02-09 for Linux, Macintosh, PlayStation 4, and Windows, then later for the Switch and Xbox One. The game uses first-person perspective and allows the player to move around and activate objects. Communication decisions are made from a small preset list of options.
The story is set in 1989 in Wyoming and follows protagonist, Henry. After finding out his wife is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's, Henry is unable to cope with her. Her family takes her away to live with them in Australia while Henry escapes his life to become a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest. Although he is physically alone with his work, he is frequently in radio communication with his sarcastic and prying supervisor Delilah. Over the course of several weeks, they develop a bond, but a series of mysterious events occur which seem to point to a conspiracy involving the massive Yellowstone fires of 1988 and several missing campers.
The game was written in Unity and the writer prototyped the story in Twine.
Firewatch showed up with positive reviews several times in video game channels I watch, so I added it to my Steam wish list. When it went on sale, I bought it and started playing it shortly thereafter. I was quickly pulled into the game's story and finished it after two sittings on 2021-03-30.
I own this game, have beaten it, and played half of the commentary.
Best Version: Windows
— This section contains spoilers! —
- I really enjoyed this game. It has a good plot, great character development, attractive graphics, and fitting music.
- The story gets pretty emotional at times. Over the course of the game I felt passion, giddiness, anxiety, suspicion, and grief, and it even caused me to reflect internally in my own life.
- The voice acting is very professional and really adds to the quality of the writing to flesh out the characters.
- The graphics do a great job of adding to the game's immersion. Although they are a little cartoony at times, there are some beautiful views when you reach summits.
- The game has good atmospheric music, and using I'd Rather Go Blind by Etta James was really fitting ending song.
- I like how each section of the game abruptly ends, and the loading screen gives you a moment to digest what just happened. However, this sometimes happened before I could fully explore the surroundings which annoyed me.
- Brian Goodman's various fantasy RPG objects are really interesting, and the Wizards & Wyvrens design is spot-on.
- The assortment of novels strewn about the park are a nice touch.
- I like how there is a moment near the end where Henry takes off his wedding ring, and the player has the option of putting it back on. Likewise, I appreciate that you're given the option of taking the photo of Julia or leaving it in the tower to burn. It would be nice if these decisions somehow affected the story though.
- Getting a brief look at Delilah's lookout was a nice ending. She's far neater than Henry, and I like that you see the picture she drew of you, her tequila bottle, and I love that she stole the Pork Pond sign. I just wish there was a bit more of her personality to be found there.
- Although many players complained about the ending, I thought it fit the theme of the game perfectly.
- The ending sequence with the photos you took, as well as those that were already in the camera was a great way to end the game.
- I like how there are multiple in-game connections to Gone Home, a similar game which I also loved, including one of the novels, and the Christmas duck.
- The game has built-in commentary which is always fantastic for a game nut like me.
- On several occasions I was unable to talk to Delilah about a specific topic. This was either because I couldn't stop what I was doing fast enough to respond, or because I triggered further dialogue that negated previous dialogue. In both cases, I didn't like this aspect of the game.
- The cave section was already creepy in its own right, but I think the designers missed making it even creepier. Instead, it's so bright that you don't even need the flashlight.
- It felt like I should have been solving a mystery from all the pieces of evidence I found throughout the park, and how they get setup in your tower. I spent a little time studying the clues and trying to make connections among the various characters, but, in the end, the mystery is solved for you.
- If Delilah was able to hike all the way down to Cottonwood Creek, and change the lock on the box to ensure Henry got the radio safely, why didn't she just go to his tower and give it to him directly? And how did she get a brand new radio being out in the middle of nowhere anyway?
- There is no way Brian's fort would have lasted outside for a few months, let alone three years in the wilderness. Also, his backpack wasn't exactly hidden, surely someone else would have found it before you.
- There are a couple of bugs in the 3D environment, like trees buried too deep in the ground so they sway through the dirt, shrubs placed inside of rocks, or trees hovering a foot above the ground. Also, on more than one occasion, the distant background popped into existence and should have been occluded better.
- From Delilah's vantage, it seems very unlikely that she wouldn't have been able to see all the chain link fencing from being erected around Wapiti Meadow.
- It would have been nice if the things you did throughout the game actually affected the ending in some way. For example, putting your wedding ring back on, taking certain things with you or leaving them behind, etc.
- While I love the fact that the game has commentary, I would have preferred the player had more control over it. You often miss the chance to hear certain commentary because the days end outside of your control, and you miss a lot of the game's dialogue which continues even while you're listening to commentary.
- I was mildly disappointed that the Etta James song was not included on the soundtrack.