In a vivid Wyoming forest, Henry, a troubled middle-aged man at a crossroads in his life, takes a job as a fire lookout, exploring the vast breeches of wilderness. In Firewatch, players see through Henry’s eyes as he looks through caves and witnesses the stunning sunsets and radiating stars of the solitary natural surroundings. Of course, as Henry begins to witness strange happenings, the plot thickens.
With one look at the talent heading up behind Firewatch, it’s obvious this game will be one of the most interesting adventure titles to come out in 2015, that is if it gets finished this year.
Firewatch is the first project from the all-new studio Campo Santo. While in its inaugural stage, this small, focused developer is far from being nascent in its knowledge over making great games. Campo Santo’s founder Sean Vanaman was an alumni from Telltale Games, working on the hugely successful The Walking Dead franchise. Talented 2-D artist Olly Moss and Nels Anderson, who worked on Mark of the Ninja, are also in the ranks. Programmer Will Armstrong, who’s worked on Bioshock 2 and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, is just one more member of Campo Santo’s illustrious talents.
Firewatch certainly conjures up elements of The Walking Dead with its heavy emphasis on dialogue exchanges. As Henry roams through the forest, his only real human connection is with Delilah, his supervisor, whom he communicates with over the radio. The dialogue options are diverse, giving the conversations a natural back and forth, which sometimes affects the course of the story. Firewatch certainly has a Gone Home vibe to it, as well. The isolation Henry feels translates a cold lucidity as he explores the deep corners of the Wyoming forest. There is a mystery to solve, of course, as strange clues begin to point to a malevolent force cloaked by the density of trees.
While Firewatch is expected to be finished by 2015, the game is already poised to be one of the most talked-about adventure games of the year. With such a heavy emphasis on player choice, sophisticated level design and robust dialogue trees, Firewatch is one of those games that will attempt to take away the “invisible wall” that plagues many video games.
It’s probably why so many popular franchises (Elder Scrolls, GTA, Far Cry) make big open worlds for players to get lost inside. Adventure titles rarely fit this model, though. Their strength is in linearity, but in linearity is limitation. Firewatch could possibly break these limits. The complex human relationship between Henry and Delilah drives the story forward. As the player finds more clues and makes more decisions, the story calibrates and shifts gears.
Firewatch’s makers don’t intend the game to be the kind of adventure where you play it multiple times just to see what happens at the end. Firewatch is all about a player’s experience and just how individualistic (and rewarding) that can be.
If you’d like to learn more about Firewatch, check out the official website and keep an eye on the developer’s blog, where you can find all kinds of interesting info about the game, like the technology behind Firewatch’s stunning artwork, procedurally generated lighting effects and much, much more.