“Firewatch” a must play

The year is 1989. You assume the role of a man named Henry, who has joined the National Park Service in Wyoming. Your job is to sit atop a massive watchtower and keep a lookout for smoke. It has been an especially dry summer and tensions are high in anticipation of a wildfire. The only person you have to talk to is a woman named Delilah, who occupies another watchtower that you can see in the distance. She is available at times via a hand-held radio that you keep on you wherever you go.

On your first day you descend from your mighty tower to investigate some fireworks that are going off near the lake. You find two drunk teenage girls skinny dipping in the water. You ask them to stop, they call you a creep, problem solved. On your hike back to the tower, you run into a mysterious stranger, who fails to identify himself. You don’t get a very good look at him before he slips into the shadows of the surrounding canyon. The next day you find that your communications line has been severed and the two girls are missing.

This is where you realize that “Firewatch” is not about watching for fire at all. You have to solve a mystery.

“Firewatch” was released in 2016 and can now be found on all major gaming platforms available. Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and PC gamers alike will be able to buy this game from anywhere between $1 and $20.

The game was developed by small developer Campo Santo and, as far as I can tell, this is the only game that they have produced. “Firewatch” is a single-player game that can be played offline as you follow along a linear storyline that walks you through the plot. The game takes place on a large map that is set in a national park in the Rockies. You are free to explore with no time limits while playing the game. Other than the free-roaming aspect of the game, the only other variations to the storyline that gamers will experience are the little items and documents that are tucked away all over the map and their communications with the supporting character, Delilah.

The glue that holds the game together and makes it truly unique is Delilah. She has years of experience watching over the park and is happy to help you, a rookie, navigate the territory and fill you in on some historical information from her years on the job. With each passing day, you discover a new piece to the puzzle of the mystery of the missing girls. Who else is out there with you and Delilah, and what other strange happenings or entities are lurking amongst the trees?

Henry and Delilah are voiced by Rich Sommer and Cissy Jones, respectively. Sommer is easily recognized from his supporting roles in “Mad Men” and “The Office.” Jones is a prolific voice actor who has appeared in numerous video games such as “Back 4 Blood,” and TV series like “F Is for Family.”
Sommer and Jones are a huge part of what makes “Firewatch” special. Their chemistry makes it hard to put down your controller and you can feel yourself wanting to hit the button on your radio to talk to her even, if you don’t have anything to say. The tension between Henry and Delilah grows and grows as they get to know each other and share their concerns for the happenings that are plaguing the park this summer. You will spend your time wondering what the woman attached to the voice on the radio looks like just as much as Henry does.

Along with the fantastic voice acting is the sheer beauty of the world that Campo Santo has created in “Firewatch.” There is a wonderful balance of tension when certain unsettling clues are discovered, and of pure relaxation and awe of the dazzling scenery that you get to wander through as you put together the mystery that continues to get more complex as each day in the park passes. There were times that I found myself on the edge of a cliff staring at an animated sunset on the television screen. Luckily, the developers give you a disposable camera and you can look back on anything you found picture-worthy at the end of the game.

The last piece of what makes this game great is the story. Not much can be said without ruining the experience, but I was unable to put the game down once I started. I ended up finishing it in one sitting that took just under 5 hours. For all the twists and turns this game provides, it doesn’t take long to complete if you just stick to completing objectives. If you want to spend more time exploring the play area, I’m sure you could get over 10 hours of enjoyment.

The sign of a good story is when you are sad that it has to end. This is exactly how you will feel in “Firewatch’s” final scene. If you are looking for a way to relax while simultaneously working through a suspense-filled thrill ride, “Firewatch” found a way to pack both experiences into one great game.