I've written a bunch about Firewatch and my excitement for it in the last few months leading up to it's release yesterday. When I woke up, I flipped the PS4 and checked the shop.
It was finally out, so I picked it up right quick. It rings up at just under 18$ for PS+ people, and probably just about 20$ for everyone else. Probably similar on Steam, but I haven't checked.
At that price point I think it's fairly valued, because Firewatch is certainly not a long game, but it absolutely enthralling for the time that it takes.
Right away the first thing I noticed on booting the game up is that the visuals are right inline with everything we've seen in the gameplay demos and the trailers for the game. It wasn't some kind of graphical sucker punch where they only shined in cinematic moments.
The vistas begged to be looked at, as the sunbeams radiate across your visage, over the looming mountains of the Wyoming wilderness. The commitment to the first-person perspective is really something as well. You have a weird sense of bodily awareness, as you can look down to see your feet and your big, fat hands.
The immersion is more than just the sense of self; it's also in the detail of the environment. Shale cliffs and gentle breezes swaying leaves, the way some things in the corner of your eye move, all of it feels immersive and beautiful.
The game also jumps right in with the walkie-talkie, the most crucially important tool that Henry will need for his summer in the wild of Wyoming. This is the item you will spend most of the game focused on.
To get down to it, there isn't a whole lot of 'game' to Firewatch. Really all of the dynamic action of the game is based in the dialogue Henry has with Delilah. That might sound like a drag, but it's really not. Campo Santo knew exactly what they were doing with Firewatch, and the conversations between Henry and Delilah feel so real, so natural.
Never seeing this person, you still wind up investing a lot in their relationship. The sense of isolation definitely adds to it. The closest encounters you have with real people are few and far between, and brief when they do happen. Delilah is more than your supervisor, she is your lifeline.
I've read a few reviews of this game already here and there and there seems to be a consensus about how the environment plays into the scope of the narrative. The grand scale of the environment, the loneliness, the isolation all play into the building story. Who else is out there. Are we being watched? Is this delusion or is this real?
There are times in the story where you as the player think maybe this could all be something that is all in Henry's head. Small cues as to whether or not Henry is reliable as narrator make you wonder whether how much of this is real. It even presents a dialogue option at one point where you can debate aloud whether or not Henry is just going crazy.
The game isn't totally without hiccups, though. For one, you can't look at the map and answer a call on the walkie-talkie at the same time. Not a huge complaint, but it made me miss at least one dialogue check because I didn't realize beforehand.
I also had a few issues with the frame rate dropping out on the PS4. Not majorly, but it would hit burps and hiccups every once in a while, usually just before or during an autosave. It can take you out of the experience a little to see the frames jump when you're walking along a trail.
My biggest issue with the game is how the narrative sort of peters out. The set-up for the plot of the game is done masterfully well, building tension gradually and with small pieces of genuine fear that you are being watched.
The first two acts of the game build very well to the unveiling of the mystery. The climactic reveal of what's happening doesn't pay off on every beat set up by the buildup, but it does make sense. It just feels smaller, somehow, than it is believed to be. They could have gone a hundred directions, but they kept the drama grounded in the real.
So it's not a huge, bug ending, but it does fit well story-wise. It becomes this contained story of a weird time in Henry's life, a time of self-imposed limbo. By the end of it, the next steps for Henry are still unclear, but he has the experience of his time on the Firewatch to help him determine what's next.
Campo Santo definitely dazzles with the design and the enviroments of this game, and the interpersonal relationship is on point. It just wasn't as big a mystery as we might've been anticipating.
All in all, I totally recommend this game to anyone who's interested in stories about people or beautiful, scenic environments.