Firewatch Released yesterday, February 9, 2016, and since I was sick at home with an awful fever I had the chance to actually play it the day it was released. I thought it was only going to be released for PS4 which I don’t have, but it also had a Steam release, YAY! (Go PC Master Race!) I have been so excited to play this game, but I sorta lost track of when it was set to release so this made my week.
The game for PC on Steam is regular priced $19.99 but is/was on sale for $17.99 so wooot, wooot save that couple of bucks! I think the over all price of the game should be kept in mind when evaluating the game because it’s not a $60 game, those are two very different levels of expectations and game levels.
If I were to describe this game to another person who didn’t know what it was I would say that the game is a visual novel, in that the story is superior to the act of playing a game. That the story telling properties are amazing, the graphics a great, and the plot of the game will keep you on your toes. I would tell them not to expect the game to be action packed, or anything like that. But if I knew the person liked games such as any of the Tell Tell games then they would probably like this one as well.
So the following are my thoughts on the game, and take this as a SPOILER WARNING! Because I’m going to t talk about EVERYTHING. ❤
Firewatch starts by a series of click through mini text based events that explains the protagonist’s life with his wife Julia (over the course of 1975 to 1988). I understand that they needed to give the character background and reason to why he was embarking out on an adventure but clicking and reading didn’t make me want to play the game. It didn’t make me curious. I was also disappointed in reaction choices, I know games are a ways a way from hitting the nail on the head with that, but why give choices if it all leads to the same place. I think it would have been far more interesting if those reaction choices you made in the beginning effected the game later on.
You learn that your wife, Julia, has Alzheimers and is either put in a care facility or goes to live with her parents in Australia. I did see/read comments on the game’s page on Steam that the first 10 minutes is super emotional. I however, didn’t feel that. For me, because it was text based, it lacked human connection. Nor did it do well as expressing how devastating Alzheimers is. Which I have seen it’s effects on a family up close (not mine, but a very close friend of the family), this just didn’t hit my core like real life does, and in some ways it shouldn’t because it is a game. But in others, I think it should be over dramticized because a lot of people don’t know what that experience is like.
So once you get past the intro you get to go find your watch tower. You, Henry, have taken a job for the summer as a fire look out in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. In real life I’ve been to Wyoming once, and it did not look like the game, haha, the game is a very beautiful representation of what a national forest could look like. (Though I do wonder if the Shoshone National Forest will receive more visitors because of this game.) It was a lot of fun to explore through the forest the game creators made. But while I was playing I kept getting stuck on logs, rocks, and underbrush that if I had been able to jump I could have easily gotten unstuck and continued on my way, but no, that would have been to easy, instead I got flustered and annoyed because it happened so often to me.
Specifically for game movement, having to “stop and start” every time I had to take a step up or have a “long jump” down was really annoying, and the head movements made me have motion sickness after a while. (I prefer third person perspective for this reason because it happens a lot to me in games.) After awhile I got use to the movement options and things went along smoothly.
So after I think the first 3-7 days, the plot starts to thicken, and Henry starts discovering weird things. For me, on my hike in on the first day I saw a shadowy figure-I don’t know if thats the case for everyone-but because of that I thought there was going to be more jump scares, and it was going to take a really dark-horror- turn, which it didn’t. Not that I’m disappointed in that, but the entire time I played I was ready to be scared.
I really liked the supply catches, and I liked the little side story between Ron and David. With the notes that they had in the catches you could take them and keep them. I didn’t figure that out for a good while into the game, so when I went back to collect everything (because hello I’m a horder in games), a lot of the notes were glitched in between the opening and closing of the catches lid. Which was flustering to deal with but in the end it worked out. I think that was the only glitch I really had, so that really good in comparison to other games (such as fall out 4, which still has a ton of glitches for me). The only other thing I can think of is the granola bar kept respawning, and all I could think who is putting it back, but I feel like it was a glitch.
Things like the camera, and flashlight that they give you I didn’t really use. I did use the camera to record suspicious events, such as the teen girls camp site that was torn apart, the nerdy kid’s fort, his dad’s bunker, the site out behind the chain linked fence. Because I thought I was going to die, or be arrested and that was going to be proof that I was innocent or to be able to tell the story if something happened to me. Can you tell I had trust issues with the game? Which is really great a game could make me feel that way.
I also liked that you were basically out on your own, with only Delilah for contact (she is your supervisor). Though, some of the things she said I didn’t like, such as hitting on Henry, he’s married and trying to figure out his life, he didn’t need Delilah to complicate things. When that did happen, I was left sitting at my screen being like how do I react to that? And in the end I often chose not to respond by selecting the “…” option. But in the end I think their friendship was a pretty cool thing to have in the game.
It took me just over three hours to finish the game but it felt like it took a lot longer than that. Which is great. I say that because if I felt like it had only been three hours real time, then the game didn’t do it’s job in suspending disbelief. Instead just the opposite happened, and I did get sucked into that world, and I wouldn’t mind having another game taking place in that world.