The Game Tutor Grades Firewatch

To say the game’s masterful story telling got me to care and shed a tear about a character I had only been introduced to minutes previous shows how well the game has been crafted.

I am going to start by saying that the experience of playing Firewatch is one of the best things I have played in recent memory and already I can see this game appearing very highly if not at the top of my Game of The Year List of 2016.
I am going to give a few spoilers for the early part of the game so if you do not wish to see these please do not venture any further.

The start of the game sees you advance a story through our main protagonist Henry’s life from meeting his future wife in a bar and through the rest of their relationship. Needless to say everything did not go quite according to plan and the game starts proper as you find yourself in the middle of nowhere having taken a job as a Fire look-out in Wyoming Woods to get away from everything.

This opening sequence is amazingly moving and really gets you invested in Henry as a character moving forward.

The game then takes place over the course of a summer with different days being treated as different chapters in the story. The location you are in is beautifully realised and an absolute joy to move around. But the main standout in Firewatch are the 2 voiceover leads. Henry is a heart-warming character who is relatable and you instantly feel for. Delilah who is Henry’s boss and must guide him through the summer is equally as well realised and pretty soon you care so much about these 2 characters in fact pretty much more than I have felt about 2 video game characters in recent memory. I will go out on a limb and say that the script in Firewatch is the best I have ever encountered and this game has as much in common with a fantastic written short story as a video game and could easily be converted to that.

For a man who is supposed to sit in his lookout and watch out for fires he doesn’t generally seem to do a lot of that. The game starts with you going to investigate some drunken teens setting off Fireworks and this sets the rest of the game’s narrative into motion. As well as the sublime voice acting the score in the game is also exceptional. The tension mixed with humour is beautifully brought to life by the excellent soundtrack.

While Firewatch falls into the walking simulator genre this is way more involved than most and you hardly notice the lack of certain types of conventional gameplay as you navigate the world and advance the story. As you travel around the area you often can pick up items that later appear in your Firewatch station. The game also has a little bit of Metroidvania in it by cordoning off certain areas until you pick up a certain tool to advance.

Another very cool moment is the disposable Camera that you pick up early in the game. As you play the game you can take up to 15 pictures and what is very cool is that once the game is finished for $15 you can actually get these photos developed and sent to you. I wish I had known this before I finished the game and I might have been more thoughtful on wasting them but I may very well play through the game again just to make and order a cool set of $15 prints.

The game is not absolute perfect. Navigating was often a little tricky using the map and compass and while I didn’t want a minimap or a big arrow pointing my way you at the very least could have let me still run while holding the map.

You probably have already heard by now that most people’s issue with the game is the ending… and while I will be the first to admit the ending was not my favourite part of the game It could have been worse. I guess it just wasn’t the ending or the big reveal I had expected or hoped for but this did not damped one of the purest and most enjoyable narrative gaming experience I have ever experienced.

Firewatch is the best story driven game I have ever played. I cared more about the characters in the 4-5 hours of gameplay in Firewatch than I have done in many TV shows I have seen for countless hours. The game approaches adult themes in a sensible adult way and weaves in an unforgettable story that I will definitely play again (and that’s something I almost never do)

We do not often do this here on The Game Tutor but Firewatch is the first game I am going to give an A+ grading to and it is 100% well deserved, simply outstanding.