Game Review – Firewatch

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: The Firewatch OST)

I normally wouldn’t post a review about a videogame (if I made one about Breath of the Wild it’d be 10,000 gushing words) but in this case, I actually feel like I’m a bit more qualified than usual to talk about the merits of a game. I guess it’s because Firewatch is a heavily character-driven suspense story as an interactive videogame, and since I fancy myself a writer on occasion, I feel like I can talk a bit about it.

So let’s jump in!

The premise of Firewatch is simple. You’re Henry, a firewatch officer in the Colorado wilderness, with only one avenue of human contact – a radio through which you speak to your superior, Delilah. Most of the game is just exploring the wilderness and learning about the deepening mystery with Delilah. It’s like a 5 hour game, so you can pick it up for $20 and play it real quick when you’re bored one day.

When I play a videogame, I really only look for three things – immersion, good gameplay, and good writing. The immersion means the visuals, the soundtrack, and the overall feel of the game have to draw me in, make me forget the world around me. In every way, Firewatch accomplished this. It also had good (albeit simple) gameplay of walk-around-and-interact-with-everything.

But the writing is really what blew me away. With only two characters in the entire game, the creators had a lot of time to lavish on their personalities, relationship, and dialogue. They’re both sassmasters and really likable from the beginning, and your admiration for them only grows as the game goes on.

There won’t be any spoilers in here, but suffice to say the ending was very divisive amongst the community. When I played it, I thought there was a time limit for each “mission”, and so I tried to rush through without reading some of the materials presented. I would really heavily suggest you don’t do that if you play it, because as a direct result of that, I was confused by the ending. And you’re talking to a dude who watches Christopher Nolan movies for fun.

It’s getting hard for me to write without spoiling the ending, so I’ll just say for now that I found myself confused, and then after looking some stuff up online, more disappointed than anything. A lot of people were saying that the game was incredible until the last 30 minutes, and I was kind of on the same page with them.

But the more I read about it and the more I’m thinking about it, I got a better understanding of what the writers were trying to do, and I think they accomplished it. It kind of reminded me of the end of Lost – like, I really wanted to like it, but there were just a few too many details that were either thrown in ad hoc, or missing altogether, for me to really enjoy it.

Despite this, I think I would really like to play through it a second time, with an understanding of what the ending is, and see if that changes gameplay. I’m willing to bet I’d like it a lot more the second time around.

Anyway, the ending notwithstanding, this game was pretty incredible, and definitely worth the $20 it cost. If you’re a writer, you could glean a lot about character development and interactions just from the dialogue in this game. So I’d definitely recommend you check it out.

Especially if you’re a fan of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, because that’s essentially what this is.

Reed’s Score – 8.5/10

Yours, about to go play BotW,

-R.R. Buck

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