I heard nothing but good things about Firewatch, yet going into it I was not entirely sure what to expect. Is it a so-called walking simulator? Is it an interactive story? A game?
Firewatch is an interactive story about a man who is in search of purpose after his life has fallen apart due to personal tragedy. It is best to understand this game thematically. It is a game which explores how people respond to challenges and tragedy in their lives.
The protagonist is Henry who has taken up the job of a firewatch in Wyoming in 1989. He longs for a peaceful existence while trying to sort out his life. While on the job he interacts with his boss Delilah through a walkie-talkie. The two develop a strong relationship as the weeks pass, the nature of the relationship though is determined through the choices you make and how you decide to respond. I kept Delilah distant and played Henry as quite reserved, which led to a more stand-offish between the two in the beginning.
There is also a bit of a mystery here about two teenage girls who seemingly disappear in the wild. Not to spoil too much, but this mystery is a red hearing. There is a bigger mystery here which fits into the overall theme of tragedy and how we respond to it. This mystery though is resolved a bit too quickly I think and felt a bit rushed. However, as mentioned, the mystery is not the focus of the story if you approach it from a thematic view.
Gameplay wise, the mechanics are straightforward. You spend most of the time walking around the wilderness and exploring your surroundings. There are some parts where you can climb up and down walls with your rope or cut through thick brush. Some parts end up feeling a bit repetitive as you have to walk back and forth over the same areas. Fortunately, the game is not so big as to be burdensome but it could be handled better.
I enjoyed the interactions between the two leads, with the voice work the best I have heard in a video game, and exploring their relationship. You could play through the game again and see how your choices could change their relationship, although I am probably not terribly motivated to do so. Firewatch is perhaps a game you will play again one day much in the same way as you watch an old favourite show or read a good book.
There are a lot of good things about this game, especially the interactions between the main leads. However, I feel the overall story lacks the emotional connection we have come to expect from games like The Walking Dead or Life is Strange (which is the genre Firewatch most fits into). Yet the best way to approach this game is thematically, it deals with the question of how we respond to tradgedy and the choices we make.