There are games whose stories stay with you for a long time, leaving an indelible impression on you. Campo Santo’s Firewatch is one of these games.
Firewatch’s recent release on the Nintendo Switch gives everyone who played it before the chance to experience it again in a portable form. For anyone else yet to experience it, this is the perfect jumping on point.
The opening minutes of Firewatch’s narrative are devastating, sitting up there with the likes of Up in terms of sheer resonance. Set in 1989, it is the story of Henry, who is drawn into a job in a remote national park after suffering personal tragedy.
Working in a fire watch tower, he spends his days talking to only one other person, his supervisor Delilah, whose own life circumstances have drawn her to this job. What seems like a relatively peaceful if rugged situation is interrupted by a chance encounter with some teenage girls setting off fireworks threatens to shatter this sanctuary however. As the game’s deeper mystery unfolds, the player is confronted with a steadily engrossing feeling of paranoia.
Perhaps Firewatch’s best feature is the game’s setting. Set in Wyoming’s national park, it is an idyllic environment that conveys its isolation well. Firewatch’s graphics manage to depict this in ways that are simple yet impressive. The setting prompted Insights to consider the biblical setting of the ‘wilderness’; an isolated place where character is tested and formed.
More than one player has been prompted by Firewatch’s setting to go and explore a firewatch tower in real life. In one case, the game led to a teenager’s campaign to save a disused tower. With the majority of towers abandoned thanks to the advent of smartphones and satellite technology, this is a conservation effort that may have otherwise not happened.
Henry’s relationship with Delilah is the main driving force behind Firewatch’s story. Despite the physical distance between the two characters, they form a connection that comes across as genuine and at times, unhealthy.
Firewatch’s characters also have interesting relationships with alcohol, relying on it to get them through the harsh realities of their isolated lives.
As with almost any game, Firewatch is unlikely to please everyone. Much like Virginia, the game is one often derided as a “walking simulator”. Even with some extra things to do in the game’s background, and a free-walking mode that shows off its spectacular backgrounds, the game is relatively short, clocking in at a completion time of around four hours.
Firewatch is rated M and is now available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor