Review: Firewatch (Computer)

Firewatch: Official GBAtemp Review

Computer 2,971 views 6 likes 5 comments
Reviewed by Tom Bond, posted Feb 13, 2016, last updated Feb 13, 2016
Feb 13, 2016
  • Release Date (NA): February 9, 2016
  • Publisher: Panic
  • Developer: Campo Santo
  • Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Interactive Story
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • Also For: PlayStation 4
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Firewatch is...something. A first person adventure/mystery/talking-to-a-faceless-girl simulator story by developers Campo Studio, you start out the game as a man named Henry who starts out a new job, surveying fires. As you survey for fires, you go on some fun and weird adventures with your new radio buddy Delilah.
Tom Bond

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Firewatch: AKA Delilah is Bae Simulator

Firewatch is an interactive story about a middle aged man named Henry. Henry is a simple man. When he sees a hot chick in the bar, he doesn’t pull out some devilish pickup line, he doesn’t have a wingman. He goes up to that hottie, and just outright says “You’re pretty”...At least, that’s how I started out my playthrough of Firewatch.

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The game starts out with just a few conversations and text choices detailing the early life of one of the main characters, Henry. You start out by meeting the love of your life, Julia, and come across your first choice: Asking her what her “you know, major” is, or telling her she’s pretty. Being the romantic man that I am, I went for the pretty choice, and things just branch off from here. The “game” then continues on the story of your life with Julia; moving in together, getting a dog, getting married, talking about kids, getting a new job...and then the feels come in. Julia discovers she has early onset dementia. She has troubles at work, troubles at home. Eventually things grow distant, Julia’s parents take her away to Australia and Henry takes a job in the paper…to watch fires. Firewatch uses cartoonish, cel-shaded graphics that manages to give the game that simplistic yet gorgeous view throughout the forest and mountainous areas that you're supposed to watch for fires.

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And this is where the games begin. You arrive at your destination, a lone watchtower with a bed, some supplies, and a radio. You meet Delilah, AKA Bae, when she creepily tells you that she can see you! Ah! A stalker!...or just a radio...person. Delilah is your only correspondence throughout the game. You tell her when you see fires, she calls them in, bam, that’s the job. Except that’s not all there is to it. On Day One, after your first night at the watchtower, Delilah tells you she spots some fireworks in the distance! Oh no! That could start a fire! Delilah tells you to find them and fuck them up, so that’s your job! As you go along, you and Delilah talk about your lives. Julia, Javier, random stuff that has little relevance. This is the meat of Firewatch, your conversations with Delilah. So of course, using your amazing directional skills, you trek out to a lake where some teenage girls are skinny dipping...and you proceed to toss their stereo in the lake. Like an ass. They get all mad, run away, no problems right? On your way back, you find a strange guy flashing his flashlight at you, no big deal, arrive at your tower to find shit’s broke probably because of the naked girls who radio you destroyed, and go to sleep! Good first day!

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Then there’s Day Two, where you find out that some phone lines have been downed! Oh no! So...we go out on a little trek to find the downed line and see what’s going on. When you get to the wire, you find shit’s cut, and those pesky teenage girls left their underwear there to taunt you! How dare they! You ask Delilah what to do, and she suggests we scare the shit out of them! Good thinking! After some detectiving and beer can trail discovering, you find a mysterious fence that blocks off a rather large area...what could be in there? But, instead of hopping the fence and finding out, you just continue on your way until you find the girls camp...only to find that the girls were already attacked! Oh no! Maybe it was bears! You find a note where the girls state their revenge, get back to your tower, and go to sleep! Woo! Good second day! Onto Day Three! Here is where I hit my first technical issue, and only crash of the game. As soon as the loading symbol finished, my game crashed on me and I had to load up an old save. Thankfully the game autosaves at regular intervals, so I was only a couple minutes behind and didn’t lose much progress. Day Three starts out with you fixing your broken window from the naked teenage girls back on the first day. You simply find a few boards, get everything nailed down, and continue on with the game.

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This is the point where the game starts skipping time, going between days and weeks of actually playing as Henry. As the game goes on, you and Delilah continue your conversations about everything and anything. As I was playing, I found I became more engrossed on Delilah than anything else that went on during the game. Cissy Jones, Delilah’s voice actor, does an amazing job at playing the faceless friend, and you could definitely feel...something as you play the game. Anyways, back to the matters at hand. As you continue on through the game, you discover some suspicious activity and noises that continually presses on the idea that you’re being watched...but by who? By what? Is it a bear with a camera on its head?? Is it more naked teenage girls, who happened to go missing after you find their camp?? Is there a strange organization recording everything you do and say because this is all some crazy experiment and you’re a guinea pig for some strange doom ray of death???? Instead of spoiling it for you, I’m simply going to tell you to play the game and try it for yourself. :^) I will say that the ending, for what it is, is very anti-climatic and...well, sort of boring. But I also found myself thinking that it was very...appropriate.

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While playing the game, I did run into a few technical issues. According to other sources, it seems the PS4 version of the game suffered from a lot of frame drops and occasional crashes, however I had my hands on the PC version and only came across three major, but not really major, issues with the game; the first and only crash in the beginning of the game, some rocks in a cave with missing textures towards the end, and a strange invisible boundary issue where I got stuck and was floating above a railing on a bridge forcing me to reload my last save. Only two of these three issues really set me back, and at most it was only 3-4 minutes. Of the >4 hours it took me to beat the game, that's pretty good. I had a solid framerate throughout the game, even towards the end when a lot of particles and dust was on screen, and the visuals in the rest of the game were practically flawless.

Verdict
Pros
+ Delilah and Henry were very well written characters, and had a great flow throughout the game, even during some of the more suspicious parts towards the end.
+ To go along with the well written characters, the voice actors Cissy Jones and Rich Sommer fleshed out the characters and gave them more life.
+ The initial story was also very well done, in addition to the well written characters.
+ The environment and the atmosphere was also well done, for what was essentially a "walk in the park" (HA).
Cons
- The game seemed short. It took me only ~4 hours to complete the game, and while I felt I didn't explore nearly as much as I wanted to it didn't feel like the world was as big as it tried to be.
9 Presentation
The game presents itself well. The atmosphere and the environment of the game was well thoughout and worked perfectly for the story. Henry and Delilah were excellent characters as a whole, and the flow between them really made the game worth playing. Despite
10 Gameplay
Firewatch does lack a little in the gameplay department, your entire playthrough is going to be spent just walking/jogging in the woods and mountains, however it does everything the game needs it to do. There's nothing missing, and there's nothing that could really make the game more enticing.
5 Lasting Appeal
Here's where the game sort of falls flat. Firewatch is short. It doesn't really have any lasting qualities that would make it worth a second playthrough beyond maybe fulling exploring the world, but that could easily be done during regular gameplay. All 5 achievements are earned through the "story missions" so to speak, so even achievement hunting won't net you a second playthrough.
8
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
I really liked Firewatch. I really liked Delilah. I really liked the story told, even if the game doesn't end in an interesting or exciting way. Firewatch is simply the type of game you'd turn to if you're in the mood for story telling. It's a one-off game, and something that can be enjoyed without really putting much effort into playing it.
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