From Washington-based indie team Campo Santo, Firewatch is a compelling indie game where you look after Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming.
It begins as a kind of charming romp along kind of like A Short Hike (2019), but gradually morphs into a twisted tale of MYSTERY and CONSPIRATIONAL HORROR! Get your hose heady.
Watch Out For Fire in Firewatch
Launched in 2016, you can get this thing on Steam, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. And it’s worth your time!
We’d heard of the game and wanted to play it for a while.
But we only knew a bit about it and presumed it was one of those chillout type games where you relax and enjoy the pretty graphics whilst putting out fires.
Sure, Firewatch begins in casual enough fashion.
You take control of Henry. It’s 1989 and he’s decided to take a break from his life by heading out to Wyoming for a job protecting the national park there.
Anyone who’s read Jack Kerouac’s work will identify with that.
In the summer of 1956, Kerouac spent 63 days at a firewatch post on Desolation Peak of the North Cascade Mountains, North Carolina.
He used these experiences for the likes of The Dharama Bums (1958) and a haiku set called Desolation Pops. It includes numbers like:
All the insects ceased,
Of the Moon.
Anyway, there’s little poetry in this game! Although books are scattered about the place throughout—not that you get to read any.
After hiking out to his fire lookout tower, Henry is contacted by walkie talkie.
This turns out to be his supervisor Delilah, who’s had the job for a decade. From your position, you can see her tower off in the distance.
And here’s how the opening section of the game plays out.
Yeah! Initially, you begin completing humdrum tasks (such as getting two partying girls to stop leaving empty beer cans everywhere).
And you get used to the map system and exploring your local environment.
All the while Henry and Delilah hit it off as kindred spirits, with your friendship morphing into seeming hints of romance.
However, what plays out are a series of increasingly odd experiences.
And these lead Delilah and Henry to think they’re in some sort of bizarre and potentially lethal government conspiracy.
We’ll leave the plot at that as Firewatch, as a game, is all about the narrative arc.
And what Campo Santo did very effectively is draw you in with the story. As you talk to Delilah and choose different arcs (you can choose several types of responses to Delilah), you become rather invested in proceedings, sir.
And then the sense of dread starts ramping up. It’s very impressive how it’s done, you get the shudders like in Resident Evil 7 as the plot advances.
Firewatch is a game about paranoia and how a sense of isolation can ramp up your fears to an exorbitant level. Even to the point of foolishness.
The result is an impressive indie game that, although only around three hours, will certainly leave a lasting impression on you.
It’s also a prime example of how video games can develop a narrative in a way literature and cinema can’t—you’re there in the middle of the action.
And as many players will admit, the whole thing does freak you out a bit.
That makes it no surprise Firewatch won Best Narrative at the 2017 Game Developers Choice Awards, Debut Game at the 2017 British Academy Games Awards, and Best Indie Game at the 2016 Golden Joystick Awards.
Bravo to it, man, and the team behind the thing. It’s well worth BURNING your house down to play. Actually, no, don’t do that. Just play the game.
Firewatch’s Paranoid Narrative Explained (with spoilers)
If you don’t give a toss about spoilers, then watch the above video by NIKMOE.
That’s an excellent breakdown of the narrative arc, the paranoia allowing your imagination to run riot in the woods.
And also the ultimate rejection by Delilah towards Henry, just as he attempts to make something of the whole experience and see her.
That’s one of the curious things about Firewatch.
Delilah and you chat away constantly getting on like a house on fire (pun intended), but as the psychological horror plays out you do question her.
Who is this woman you’ve never met!? IS SHE THE ONE BEHIND IT ALL!? ARGHHH! SHE’S AN AXE MURDERER!
Well, no. She isn’t. It’s all about Henry, his beard, a probable drinking problem, and the wife he’s left behind.