Firewatch is one of the most enthralling slices of entertainment I’ve ever experienced. For 5-6 hours you’ll walk in the hiking boots of Henry, a likeable, slightly chubby man-with-a-beard in his late-30s. After a devastating, tragic development in his family life, Henry takes a job as a fire ranger in Wyoming, with the intention of sitting in a tower all summer, ostensibly watching for wildfires, but really pondering his next move in life. But thanks to the first-person viewpoint and multiple-choice dialogue options, it all feels like it’s happening to you. And my goodness, how it sucked me in.
The whole point of Henry taking the job was to be alone with his thoughts, but there’s very little of that. Instead, you’re in constant radio contact with his boss – a lady in her early 40s named Delilah, and the two of you develop a rapport over the days and months of the summer. I’m not going to spoil the rest of the plot for you because it’s something you need to experience for yourself. But I can at least tell you why it’s so good.
The conversational dialogue between Henry and Delilah is brilliantly
acted, certainly some of the best voicing I’ve ever heard in a game.
There are some funny, goofy jokes which fit Henry’s personality
brilliantly, and the selection of responses have enough variety to make
you feel like you’re affecting the direction of the game, even if the
outcome is carefully curated in order to maintain control of what you’ll
feel at any one time.
And you really will feel things. I don’t
mean that in a boring ‘artsy indie game’ kind of way. I mean proper
nervousness, fear, intrigue and the best treatment of paranoia in any
game ever. Is it justified? Well that would be telling. Suffice to say
the sense of isolation in this middle-of-nowhere valley dials up all of
these emotions past normal gaming levels and into genuine unease.
There’s a turtle that you can adopt and name — I chose Turt Reynolds from the list of options because of course anyone would. I actually found two of them, which did live in the same box in the watchtower, but whether there are any more (or if you’re supposed to find more than one) remains to be seen.