Firewatch is back in the news this week with a release to Xbox One. Originally released on February 9th of this year to PS4 and PC, Firewatch is coming to Xbox One on September 21st and will include an audio tour and free roam mode, neither of which were available on the February release.
A little History
In April of this year I picked up Firewatch on the advice of fellow Mulehorn contributor TwoWolvzz and I am glad I did. While it is short on length, it was nice change of pace after months of MMO games. Plus, it came with an unexpected bonus. The story spawned a moment of personal reflection about how I would react if put into the shoes of the protagonist. Strong provocation of emotion is not something I expect from most games. Firewatch surprised me.
What is Firewatch
Firewatch is the story of Henry, an average guy living in Colorado. The game begins with a narrative of the last 14 years of Henry’s life. Throughout the narrative you are asked to make some critical decisions for Henry. These decisions lead to events that eventually push Henry to seek solitude in a watch tower located in the middle of the Wyoming wilderness during the summer of 1989. But from the moment Henry steps through the threshold of his tower door he finds his self-imposed seclusion is anything but secluded. At that moment you are introduced to the deuteragonist of the story – Henry’s boss Delilah. This sets the pace for the remainder of the game as Delilah and Henry work to solve a mystery.
Honestly, the early decisions have no real impact on the outcome of the game but that’s not their real purpose anyway. They exist as tools to put you into Henry’s shoes and create empathy for him. This sympathetic connection with the protagonist is paramount to the success of the game. I experienced a strong emotional response within the first 3 minutes. By the time the last question was asked, I was making the climb to the top of that isolated tower with Henry.
The remainder of the game is told through smart dialogue professionally delivered by talented voice actors. Add that to a backdrop of picturesque animation and you get a game that is entertaining and thought provoking.
Note: Game Devs at Campo Santo gave Henry some moments of down time which they use to showcase the stunning art of Olly Moss. They give you an in-game camera with approximately 15 exposures. Use it to capture these moments for a surprise at the end.
Big On Beauty, Short On Gameplay
I have two complaints about Firewatch. The first complaint is the length. Taking my time, I still completed the game in less than 5 hours. I played it a second time to explore different dialogue paths. Like the first time through, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, so there is some replay value in the game. But the second time through took about three hours. The second complaint is that it made me sick, literally (apparently I am not the only one to have this problem) – I actually got motion sickness playing Firewatch. This can be easily avoided by sitting further away from the screen. Also, it helps if you avoid focusing on one area of the screen for a long period of time. Otherwise, I enjoyed playing through the game both times. The game support monitor spanning and looks pretty good at 5760×1080 resolution. I got some beautiful screen captures that I now use as desktop wallpaper.
In The End
The Xbox One release of Firewatch includes an Audio Tour giving a glimpse of the creative process. The audio tour includes commentary from the director Jake Rodkin (co-writer of The Walking Dead video game) and stories from actors Rich Sommer (Mad Men) and Cissy Jones (The Walking Dead). Xbox One owners are getting a free-roam mode that lets you explore the entire Shoshone Wilderness showcased in the game.
Firewatch will be available to Xbox One owners tomorrow, September 21st, 2016.
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