Firewatch is a beautiful videogame that blends art, serenity and self-discovery
Videogames are generally thought of as frenetic, challenging and most of all active experiences, which is the reason why they are often polarising — you’re either very much into them or completely uninterested.
However, that’s not always the case, especially in the case of indie games. Some of them are just made for the player to unwind, relax and take their own time to do a little walking in an open-space area and enjoy the story as the events unfold. Firewatch — whose development team just hoarded a slew of awards at 2017’s Game Developers Choice Awards — is exactly that kind of game.
“It would almost feel out of place to talk about “gameplay” in Firewatch,” says Andy Chalk, an industry professional and collaborator at PC Gamer. In fact, you are required to do very little beyond simply walking in the fictional Colorado National Park the story is set in. However, “its incredibly curated artistic direction makes Firewatch a joy to look at, and a virtual world that is beautiful in its own right”.
By joining the protagonist Henry in its path to making peace with himself, we find that the solitude of the park wonderfully conciliates your time wandering around with a journey of self-discovery that is incredibly relatable because of its being distinctively human. But walking and talking to Delilah, the only other character of the game, is roughly just half of the experience.
The other half is entirely dominated by the scenery. The Campo Santo team purposefully designed all of the environment in a cartoon-ish way, but by playing with saturated colours and little touches here and there (like animals walking by from time to time), the entirely hand-drawn, multifaceted park seems to have a life of its own — and it’s just gorgeous.
“I spent much of the game just staring at the screen, as the unobtrusive view in front of me felt like an alive postcard,” says Chalk. And there’s no urgency whatsoever: you can stand there and watch as much as you want.
And while very brief, the adventure is approachable, rich and fulfilling — now I’ll just wait for Firewatch 2.