Firewatch – Campo Santo – PS4/PC– 02.09.2016 -- $19.99

 

“Firewatch” leaves its mysterious air behind the second you jump into game. Quickly giving you what we like to call “ the Up treatment.” As you are quickly introduced to Henry’s story things are, suddenly, not ok. After making some decisions about how these crucial life events are handled you find yourself headed to your post in the Shoshone mountains for a summer away to find your inner self.

From the second you pick up your walkie-talkie to reply to your boss “Delilah” it is clear that the bond between the protagonist and his guide is the key to this title, and from start to finish the amount of connection drawn between you and Hank and you and Delilah is incredible.

“Firewatch” is proof that a game can use narrative to drive fear, emotion, and sorrow, without being heavy-handed.

“Firewatch” is proof that a game can use narrative to drive fear, emotion, and sorrow, without blasting you with grotesque images. Instead the designers decided to utilize beautiful scenery, atmospheric tones and music to cause the stresses needed to drive the story forward.  This is the type of game that when heading towards an objective one can’t help but wander off to see what is on the other side of the ravine, or perhaps take the left trail instead, just to be sure you haven’t missed a chance to see every inch of the forest. 

 

 Photo: The navigation system

 

The navigation system for "Firewatch" does something very interesting as well. Instead of giving you an arrow directing you where to go, or your usual H.U.D you are given a map and a compass, these tools, which you have to figure out how to use, are your guides. If you are told to go north it is easiest to align your compass, double-check your map, and head out to your destination. You can also perform trial and error by walking a distance and checking the map to see which way you have headed. You can also, use the sun to orient yourself, this little touch of detail adds to the immersive experience the developers are putting forward.

 

Photo- A Moment Caught on Camera

 

 It may be beating a dead horse, but it has to be said that the opportunity to find gorgeous moments of nature are probably one of the greatest wins for this game. Like hiking out alone in nature, the opportunity to stumble upon a scene of beauty is likely. Since the time of day is so stylistically controlled by the art direction the moments of stunning beauty are quite common. During the game you will find a camera, with this you can take 24 photos of the game, which are available for upload on PC. I don't want to spoil anything for the game potentially, so you may, with warning look at my album here. AGAIN this may contain elements key to the story, or it may just be pretty scenery, but you've been warned. 

The way the team uses music in the game is a credit to their design talent. While the score is nothing to rave about from a technical standpoint, it is used in an incredible way. As you’re exploring the world listening to the grass, trees, leaves wind and whatever sounds nature is offering up at the moment, you tend to forget that there is no music playing. Until, suddenly, it is dropped in your lap reminding you that mystery is happening, or warning you that something is coming.  This, coupled with Delilah’s narration are the games greatest victory in selling you on the idea, that something supernatural is coming your way.

One thing that “Firewatch” could be called out for lacking is heavy replayability, as finishing the story definitely gives you a finite answer. There didn’t seem to be a need to head back into the world to find multiple endings or to restructure your relationship with Delilah, but, this is something you could head back into a year or so later, just to revisit the breath-taking world. This is not a AAA title, but sets the standard for “indie” games for years to come. The 8 or so hours of game time you get for $19.99 makes this a must play. Don’t waste time, fire up your PS4 or PC and get cracking.

 

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