Firewatch, the quietly gorgeous brain child of San Francisco-based developer Campo Santo, kinda snuck onto the scene without making too many waves but it's one sure to not fly under the radar for too long.
Set to release for PC and PS4 on February 9 next week, Firewatch is a narrative driven first person adventure game set in the late 1980s. There's play through footage of the first day available here via Sony, but what's it all about really?
The player character is Henry, a slightly mysterious dude with a tragic past who's just started a new job as a fire lookout at Shoshone National Forest in the wilderness of Wyoming. The wilderness is important here, as he's taken this job specifically to get away from the world.
Your guide and only other source of human contact is Delilah, your sarcastic and slightly odd sounding supervisor who you only converse with through a walkie-talkie radio. The way you interact with (or choose not to interact with) Delilah influences your relationship with her as you move through the game, so maybe try not to alienate your one line of human contact by being a dick straight off the bat.
Because Deiliah is important, as the game narrative unfolds the interactions with your unseen companion will become more important than first realised.
It's A Story Based Game
From what we've seen so far Firewatch looks like your standard narrative based adventure game, with a simple interface belaying a more complex story.
The gameplay mechanics are almost entirely exploration based, there's no combat or gunplay in these rural woods and like Ether One the quiet isolation makes you feel like you're the only person in this beautiful but mysterious world.
But something strange is going on in Shoshone National Forest, and it's not Wendigos or other monsters you need to look out for.
As you branch out to explore the area around Henry's Lookout Tower you begin to realise that the wilderness is far from quiet, and it's not just those skinny dipping teenagers setting off fireworks that you've got to worry about.
Delilah speaks of missing people, chalking them up to bear attacks (not disturbing at all, yeah) and teases you when you first get freaked out.
But then your tower - the sanctuary of the fire lookout - is ransacked whilst you're out on patrol on your first day, and there's a mysterious, shadowy figure watching you from the woods...
Physically the game is gorgeous to look at, all shades of red and green in a not-quite cell shaded background. But when darkness falls the cartoonish landscape does take on an element of the creepy, especially when you end up in that cave on the first day.
Whilst the lone man verses the wilderness is a trope usually confined to literature and cinema (think The Revenant, but less bloody) the story of Henry, the man against the world, unfolds beautifully, but the narrative is not without it's teeth.
For the woods are lovely, dark, and deep...