I normally try to avoid spoilers, but in the end what I write here is to be considered more like the starting-off point of a discussion about the game rather than a recommendation/condemnation for the uninformed players so when my thoughts on a game hinges on the resolution, I will write about that. In short, if you are thinking about playing Firewatch you should do that before reading further – I would recommend that you do if forests, very light discovery gameplay and stories about damaged characters getting to know each other is your thing. It’s got more action than Gone Home, but it’s a similar vein of game.

Firewatch doesn’t do much in terms of gameplay – there’s light flirting with mobility mechanics being introduced to allow more exploration, but there aren’t really any places to explore and little reason to try – I did find a few things off the beaten path but other than very obvious nods they felt disconnected from the larger story. And the story is what Firewatch is about, really – it opens up with some background on why the main character found himself in the job, having escaped from a personal tragedy. The game immediately displays a proficiency with interactive storytelling as the player is free to make choices but are ultimately unable to make the situation better, it feels realistic and sets the tone of the game without spending too much time.

The setup is promising and when you tentatively start talking to your boss over the radio about the choices you made, it feels like a relationship is establishing and the game starts being about that. Then, the game throws some increasingly frightening X-files mysteries at you and the game slowly shifts to being scared and alone in the woods – still well done, though it is difficult to feel spooked by a game that so clearly will never introduce other characters or even animals. My beef is with the resolution – when all is said and done, subplots resolve themselves and the central scary piece of it turns out to be more or less a crazy guy doing his best to go around and scare you.

It was a bit anticlimactic. I admit I may have been placing undue weight on different parts of the plot –┬áthe game wants to use the horror element to advance the more personal stories without having to draw attention to the horror itself, and it did not succeed in my case. Maybe if I had made different choices or investigated more objects off the beaten path I would have gotten more out of it. Knowing that it is not going anywhere interesting kind of dissuades me from playing again though, which would be sad if the game is as dynamic as it sometimes seem to be.

I cannot deny having had fun while playing Firewatch though, before I knew how it ended.

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Posted on Feb 16/16 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »