Firewatch is less a game, and more of an interactive film experience. It is one of the first games I’ve finished in a very long time. I’m not much of a gamer, I don’t have a console, and my favourite game of all time is Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. When I heard that Panic was making a story driven game—revolving around radio communication with a character we never meet—I realised I needed to give it a try.
Since the game is so story focused and the story is so mysterious, I’ll endeavour to stay spoiler free. The game starts with you reading a series of screens of text and making important decisions, like naming your dog. Something that must be noted is this game revolves around making decisions, usually between two or three choices, and those decisions impact the remainder of the game.
Some decisions are clearly the illusion of choice. The game sort-of directs you back towards the route it wanted you to take. Others, though, impact the direction of the story.
The attention to detail here cannot be overstated. Campo Santo has gone to great lengths to reward players for taking note of each scrap of paper, everything our distant counterpart Delilah says, and of random items like book titles. The best pieces of media add in easter eggs that foreshadow plots and small images for the best of viewers. Firewatch takes this idea and allows you, the player, to discover these items. To, first hand, realise these slight nods of the head forward and back in the game, and to other pieces of literature outside of this small patch of forrest in Wyoming.
The playtime was all up around three and a half hours. Something refreshing in today’s game market, with playtimes of often upward of 50 hours. I finished playing earlier in the evening than when I went to see Tarantino’s Hateful Eight (in 70mm special release). Your actions are defined by the story, and your actions define the story. The music leads into cut scenes; cut scenes that progress the story—not the action.
The best way to look at it is, you don’t complete missions to progress the game; you do what feels right in service of the story. A story that leaves you asking questions the whole way though, proposing potential outcomes and all around keeps you engrossed.
I’ve never reviewed a game before. I review films. Stories.
Firewatch is a story, wrapped in the guise of a game.