Intro and Gameplay
As of late, we've been absolutely bombarded with an abnormal amount of quality titles. Some, I feel, were extremely overrated *cough*The Witness*cough* but some have totally taken us by surprise, in the best of ways. For me, Firewatch was a title, the debut title for studio Campo Santo, that I kept hearing good things about but honestly, I never investigated much about due to said bombardment of games flowing in. Let's just say, there are a very small number of titles that get me emotional these days. Whether it be fear, humor, joy, dread or anything, some games are just plain gorgeous to look at, some are just fun to play. Firewatch is one of those rare titles that made me feel the whole gamut of emotions..
What I feared may be just another "walking sim", not that there is anything wrong with that, I just didn't expect much. After an intro that pulls you right in, nothing about this game is cookie cutter. It's an adventure game, a mystery, a walking sim and even a.. dating sim in some regards. No subject is off topic and with refreshing boldness, it defies all genres. I am not going to give any of the story away but let's just say making dialog choices via your walkie talkie, is the most tense, fun and exciting time I've ever had in a video game of surprising simplicity but with a depth that most games or stories could ever dream.
Graphics and Sound
Let's just get the elephant in the room out of the way: The Witness and Firewatch released around the same time and their art and graphic style are nearly identical. That's where the similarity ends. For me, everything in Firewatch not only looks absolutely stunning. It FEELS like a real place. From starry, warm nights that the crackling voice over the walkie talkie blends in so well, to the deep, dank places you visit in this detailed world. I loved every moment of it in a graphical and artistic sense. Video games = art people and this is a showcase in every sense of the word.
Contributing to the dreamy graphics, the audio portions of the game are equally if not more impressive. The two main characters are acted out better than most AAA titles and add a layer of emotion that is incredibly rare in today's gaming world. Along with the voice acting, the music, sound effects, environmental chirps, chips, raging fires and babbling brooks are spot on. Once again, I felt like I lived this story. One thing I have to mention again, as I have said before, is I am extremely tired of the overuse of profanity in games and this is a perfect example. I understand it is a Mature game but again, some of the profanity is so overdone, it takes away from the experience instead of adding to it. Overall, I still was immersed. I felt like I was in this forest in the late 80s and when graphic and sound design make you feel that way, I consider, in my best G.W. Bush voice, that it is "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"
Fun and Value
Now we come to the end of a review and a game that I absolutely loved playing, writing about and most of all, experiencing. This is an experience after all folks, not just a game to play. Now, some may balk at the ending of the game which tries to do way too much in too little of time but around $20, it the game features a story and experience I am still trying to process, in the best of ways. I'm still trying to make sense of it all. What does it all mean? What happens if I choose my dialogue differently next time and make different choices? Let's set expectations: This is a pretty short game but short and sweet applies here. Overall, the game made me FEEL and that alone is worth the price of admission. These are the types of games that deserve your hard earned dollar and the developers, should be rewarded. Bravo Campo Santo, I can't wait to see what you do next!