Everyone’s heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” and Firewatch paints plenty of beautiful pictures. You could also say it has a way with words. Right from the start it throws you into the main character’s life with only dialogue and the first tones of a well composed soundtrack. Within the first few dialogue choices, I was already feeling immersed into Henry’s emotions and the tough decision making around the situation that leads up to his first day in the forest.
Once the long and beautiful hike up to your watchtower is completed, along with the intermittent dialogue sections that tear into your heart, you get some much needed rest. As your new co-watch Delilah wakes you, the adventures begin. This is when you’re put to the test of taking care of national forests’ worst enemy, rowdy teenagers. Forest fires are just a side dish for these old trees. From then on a twisted story unravels that keeps you immersed deep in Henry’s mindset. During this story, you explore all different areas throughout the forest. From meadows to canyons and lakes to camps, every single place you visit there is a view waiting. I can imagine it is impossible to match the feeling of actually standing on the real watchtowers of Shoshone National Forest, but Firewatch does an excellent job of bringing that into the game without overcomplicating things.
After about four hours of eyesores, the roller coaster of emotions and a beautiful soundtrack (also playing while writing this), I had reached the story’s conclusion. During those four hours I only got up a few times and each time I had to readjust to the real world. I felt so connected with the game there were times where my hair was standing on edge for minutes at a time. In all fairness they could have gone many different ways with the story, but the one they picked is about as solid as you can get. To me this wasn’t just a game. I didn’t sit down to just complete tasks and collect loot. Although I did pick up some beer cans along the way, we won’t count that. Walking away from Firewatch felt like walking away from another life I had just stepped into. All it took was four hours of my time for an experience that would be hard to forget. Thanks Campo Santo and everyone involved, you hit me where it counts.