The forested world is your oyster in the latest game I've played from the so called "walking sim" genre. I'm rather a big fan of games like Firewatch, the two that immediately spring to mind are Gone Home and Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, both of which have had a lasting impact on the way I view stories in games. The huge downside of this genre, is that the narrative must be superb, there is nothing for the story to hide behind, other than perhaps a visually arresting world. This I feel is the downfall of Firewatch, the heart of this game, the story, has such an underwhelming finale that since beating the game I have only thought about the narrative opportunities that it missed in the closing moments of this game; rather than some of the amazing dialogue and character building that came before it. I won't be spoiling any of the lacklustre ending, but I will say that for the first 5 of the 6 or so hours this game lasts I was in love with it. The game was asking questions of the world that I enjoyed guessing at, as well as a fantastic physiological analysis of the two main characters. I felt very connected to both of the characters, but especially Henry, who we play as, because we are given dialogue options throughout the whole game via the walkie-talkie communication between the two characters. This trend of choosing the what kind of man Henry is starts with the opening 10 minutes or so of the game being purely text based. Campo Santo, the developers, utilise this rare approach to opening a game to great effect, I was almost moved to tears with the emotions and choices the game gave me so skilfully and so quickly, setting the emotional tone for the first few hours of the game. I say the first few hours, because there is a very clever emotional shift that subtly occurs during the course of the game, I won't spoil the arc of this shift, but I can definitely recognise, looking back, that in a relatively short space of time, Henry evolves.
Why then is the ending such a let down? It is conceivable that I was looking for something in the game that was never on offer in the first place, yes I admit the fault could lay at my door, was I expecting a result from the story that was never built towards? This I can not answer until I play it again with the foresight of how the game concludes. At the time I felt like the mystery the story was setting up was heading in a certain direction, and because I played it over the course of 3 or 4 days, I had plenty of time in between playing the game, for my mind to run wild with where the story may go. The ending not withstanding, I want to mention briefly the voice acting, which is fantastic, though nearly the whole game takes place with just two people communicating back and forth with each other via a walkie-talkie. For such a simple system, the emotion that grows and connection with the characters that is established is incredible, whether it be the sarcastic quips or sombre moments that are almost too difficult to listen too, the way the lines are delivered are a triumph. The score also adds to this emotional feeling of the game, though to a more subtle note than the two main characters.
Traversal of the game is simplistic, with walking, jogging and ascending or descending rope lines being the extent of your movement options. This is mirror with the ability to pick up and inspect many of the items in the game, some have weight based on the story or dialogue at that time, others are simply there to successfully make the world feel lived in.
To conclude, this is a game that I am very glad I have played, and would also recommend you all play it, just try not to allow your mind to run wild with the possibilities of where the story may take you, that excitement will only detract from your enjoyment. To break this game down into three segments, the opening is sublime, and worth playing the game for alone, the middle built up the suspense of the story while expanding the characters I grew to feel very close to. Then the end is easily the low point of Firewatch, or at least it was for me, the end did its job in that it wrapped the story to a conclusion, but both left me disappointed with the narrative conclusion, and also wanting more at the same time.
Thanks for reading,
Friends of The Games Critic:
My name is Ed, I write everything here, covering all kinds of games, but I only play them on the PS4!