Firewatch may be described as a walking simulator. Some may even say that as something of an insult. But the fact is, this game is more of a hiking (or orienteering) simulator that tells a story… A story that is well worth experiencing.
The best way to play Firewatch, as with many games of this type, is to go in cold. This is why I won’t get into the story in detail at all. It is safe to say though that you, as Henry have taken the job as a fire lookout to get away from your life. Your only real contact with the outside world is Delilah, a woman who watches from the distance and works as your supervisor.
The game does well in setting up the character of Henry by letting you build him for yourself. You are given certain important points about his life, though you make certain choices that smartly push you into certain assumptions about the man you are playing.
When the game actually gets moving, you have your home base, which is a lookout tower, but you’ll find that you have to venture out to investigate any signs of smoke, vandalism or at worse even fires that may be out in the wilderness. Armed with a map and a compass you are given extra equipment to aid you in your progress, but for the most part it is up to you to find your way around.
The open world is restrictive in its size, but it also big enough to make you feel slightly lost as you first start. You soon get to know the area, and how to use the map you’ve been given and work your way through the game. What you’ll realise though is that there is for the most part a linear nature to it, because in truth this is a story that you are experiencing more than a full-blown game.
While some may complain that the story, which will last around 4 hours at most isn’t long enough, but in truth that is not the point. Firewatch doesn’t overstay its welcome, what it does instead is tell a mysterious tale that is actually quite beautiful. The wilderness which is created by Olly Moss and Jane Ng feels real, but it also feels artistic in the way it is designed.
The fact you are given a camera gives away the fact you are meant to be enjoying the beauty of the world, and that is what you’ll do. Even in the dramatic moments you can’t help but snap a picture. On the PlayStation 4 this also means using the share functionality at times.
Firewatch is a game that is more about the experience and the story and not just being a game. It may not be long, but for the time it lasts you are fully invested in the story of Henry (Rich Sommer) and Delilah (Cissy Jones). While it may not meet everybody’s expectations, it met mine and I enjoyed every moment of it. Is it short? Yes, but why should it overstay its welcome when those hours it lasts are so enjoyable? I think you know the answer to that already.
Firewatch is out now on PlayStation 4 and PC.