March 12, 2016

Firewatch is a mature game every mature person should play. It is not difficult and demands no timing, re-tries or difficult moves. Think of it as a great story to experience, a piece of art like a great movie, only that much more immersive.

Getting there

In retrospect, I did not know all that much about the game beforehand, but what I did know was more than enough to make me want to play.

Actually, knowing Panic was involved was almost all I needed. Panic really stand for quality in Mac (and IOS) apps, and hearing they had got involved as producers of a game gave me high hopes. Hopes of something quirky and highly polished, something daring to do its own thing and push it all the way. I also found out about the setting and eventually watched the ten- or twenty minute gameplay video, but that was really it. I also heard a few very positive mentions on podcasts, and I of course knew the game would be on the Mac.

Then, the Incomparable episode landed.

I never listen to episodes about games before I have played them. I also dislike having episodes lying around.

It was clearly time to get moving.

The road unexpectedly ended up winding across the purchase of a Playstation 4, but I got there soon enough. Standing, controller in hands, ready for a new experience.

I got it, too. Firewatch was all I hoped for. A short, focused story driven by characters, emotion, dialogue, and a fantastically immersive forest and mountain environment.

Among the trees

I am one of those people who, on the whole, much prefer a short and sweet game experience to a long one. I want to see the whole game experience, and I prefer to move along solidly rather than be stuck grinding on side paths. Firewatch is a game for me in every way. It sucked me in right from the introduction and kept hold of me all the way to the end. I trusted the game from the very start, both when it came to gameplay and story. Some games throw in twists to either, seemingly not trusting what they initially present themselves as to be enough. Firewatch felt no such need and rewarded my trust on both fronts.

Looks and gears

Colour and light. They are the real stars of the visuals. From a purely technical side, a part of me was hoping even more magic would have happened since I last played a game on a recent console, but the artistic beauty of everything in the game washes every technical thing away. The sun shines with a warm light, night falls, smoke rises, beams of sunlight filter through brances and foilage … and fires blaze. It is a world to get lost in, to walk slowly through as you explore the story and feel the emotions of the relationships developing.

Feel your way

I want to write about specific things in the game, but I will not. The game is by no means ruined by knowing the story, but going in without knowledge certainly adds a lot to the first play. I have heard and read several people stating that the second play can be even better, so I look forward to that too. Firewatch is not a long game, and one benefit of shorter duration is the ability to easily go through again.

Dive in, experience, feel.

Extra material

For those as into hearing and reading more about the creation of things we like as I am, Up up down down has two nice episodes where they talk to people involved in the creation of Firewatch: episode 45 about the general creation of the game and episode 41 which is more into the technical and art creation side of things. The show notes for both episodes have links to more stuff I have not had the time to look at yet.