Henry is running away from his past. A series of bad decisions and a broken relationship have driven him to seek refuge by taking a job as a fire lookout for Two Forks Lookout in Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. Henry is alone with only a walkie talkie to communicate with his boss, Delilah. The job is lonely and there is an overwhelming feeling of isolation. However, that is not a bad thing in the case of Firewatch.
Your job as a fire lookout starts out easily as you need to find a couple of people who are lighting off fireworks in the especially dry area. This is your first feeling of exploration in Firewatch and the feeling of exploring this heavily wooded area is absolutely fantastic. The game is saturated with bright colors and using just your compass and a paper map to explore the world, you really quickly become immersed in the world.
However, soon after these events, a much larger mystery unfolds as hikers go missing and it appears that you are being watched. As you begin to explore more of the environment and begin to piece together what is happening, you find that you are constantly looking over your shoulder, expecting to find someone watching you from afar. It’s a brilliant way to build tension throughout and it keeps you guessing and unsure of what is happening until the very end.
Thankfully, though, you are not alone as the aforementioned Delilah will communicate with you over the radio. There are a ton of things you can interact with in the environment and with almost all of those things you can initiate a conversation with Delilah. Often times it feels like most of the environment doesn’t need to be explored, but the conversations are so well written and funny that you will often initiate them just to enjoy the banter.
This also leads to some of the main “moral” choices in the game. For example, when you first encounter the individuals who are setting off fireworks, you can choose how you want to handle them based off of what Delilah tells you. Some of these decisions can have some major implications long term as to how your relationship with Delilah develops. However, if you are looking for a long term storyline payoff, you’ll find Firewatch lacking as the main story seems like it stays the same no matter what options you make.
That said, there are some moments where it feels like some of these interactions need to be built out more in terms of characterization. As you continue throughout the story, the major piece of Henry’s backstory is almost completely dropped. It makes sense, because in the game you spend over two months and one would assume that these reasons that drove Henry away would fade when put in almost total isolation. However, the game opens by revealing this heavy concepts and by the end, it’s almost an afterthought.
Firewatch does character interactions in a brilliant way, even if the choices don’t often feel like they have a lot of gameplay depth. The story is brilliant and keeps you guessing until the last moments. This, combined with the sheer beauty of the world make Firewatch well worth investing your time into.
SCORE: 8.0 out of 10
A code for Firewatch was provided to Pixel Related for review.