From cartoon platformers to fantasy epics, most games make winners and losers of their players. There’s good reason: we like winning. And a winner necessitates a loser, be it the friend sat beside you or the programmer’s adversarial code.
|Publisher:||Panic, Campo Santo|
|Platforms:||PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
Firewatch is different. You play as Henry, a fire lookout in rural Wyoming in 1989. The game uses the first-person perspective, but it’s no shooter – there are no guns, no enemies. Instead, you face the wilderness and wield a map, a compass, and most importantly, a walkie-talkie.
This links you to Delilah, a fellow lookout and your only point of contact in the entire game. She and Henry are in constant communication, talk drifting naturalistically between professional and personal. With the conventions of the medium cast aside, Henry’s relationship with Delilah and his journey through the stunning stylised wilderness take centre stage. The writing and performances shine, and the elegant dialogue system gives the player admirable scope to determine Henry’s responses and guide the development of the relationship. The dialogue is the gameplay, and it works remarkably well.
The story is in turns funny, scary and moving, and runs to around five hours – less if you hustle, but this is not a game to be rushed. Though short, the length is fitting and the experience never outstays its welcome. But it’s the core relationship that will draw players in, stay with them, and keep them coming back. While high-priced among indie games, it’s worth it for this subtle triumph.
It won’t be for everyone. But if you’d like a game that won’t fight back, try Firewatch. You can’t lose.