Firewatch is the inaugural game from Campo Santo, a San Francisco-based games company founded by Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, who were the creative team behind The Walking Dead, originally developed by Telltale Games.
Combining story strengths from their time working on The Walking Dead games and Olly Moss's breathtaking designs, Firewatch breaks through the realm of normality in digital gaming, and makes one of the most valiant attempts at proving video games are indeed an art form.
The game plays out from a first person perspective over the course of five days in the summer of 1989. Our hero/fire-watcher is Henry, voiced by Mad Men's Richard Sommer, who retreats to the woods to escape the harsh downfall of his once happy life. Now, his only link to the outside world is Delilah, his supervisor voiced by Cissy Jones, who speaks with him via walkie-talkie.
Throughout his time in Shoshone National Forest, Henry starts to complete tasks for Delilah around the park, while at the same time beginning to uncover strange and mysterious events occurring around him.
The world of the Shoshone National Forest is absolutely breathtaking. Major props are in order to designer Olly Moss, most well known for his incredible work with Mondo. Moss creates a lush and colorful environment that often feels familiar and individual with each passing area.
Collectible items such a letters and missing persons reports add more mythology to the park, reminding me of last summer's modest video game hit, Until Dawn. These items can be found in caches labeled on your map, which is a nice and easy way to entice you to explore more of the environment.
The control scheme was incredibly user friendly and often-times unique. Its dialogue choice system is an interesting way of choosing. While not exactly innovative, the controls come off as very smooth and well mapped out. This isn't exactly the type of game built for a competitive challenge. It comes off more as a living breathing world simulator where your main objective is to become immersed in the world it establishes.
Firewatch completely makes one forget the overwhelming vastness of the open world of Assassin's Creed. It feels like you're walking through a painter's near-psychedelic fantasy of the woods. While never teetering on overkill, the game manages to portray the forest as a strange yet seductive world, much akin to David Lynch's Twin Peaks. And much like Twin Peaks, the mysterious elements leaves you aching to explore as much of the territory as possible.
Abandoned caves, mysterious men standing on hills, and rowdy teenagers are only the beginning of your journey. Many people have said that its disappointing story conclusion is its biggest pratfall, but don't let that dissuade you. Firewatch is one of the few games truly deserving of the next generation systems. It retains its suspense without ever going for cheap or unnecessary scares. For only $18 (for Steam & PS Plus), it's a must-own AND a bargain.