I sat down to play Firewatch with the intention of plaything for roughly an hour -- I played all the way through it. Every time I thought about getting off, something would happen, or I'd see something and I'd want to see what happens next. Like binge watching on Netflix -- Yes, I am still here -- I just kept clicking continue. I was enjoying it that much.
How and why Henry decides to go play fire watch in a national park is covered in Firewatch’s opening moments in an interesting and unique way. I think Firewatch is best played with the least amount of story information as possible, so we won't cover the reasons why Henry is in the park. But when Henry arrives, he is soon introduced to Delilah who will serve as his only contact throughout his time here via radio stationed across the other end of the park.
Firewatch is interesting from start to finish and it's mostly thanks to the two amazing performances from Rick Sommer who plays Henry and Cissy Jones who plays Delilah. The game and its story are completely reliant on you enjoying the back-and-forth conversations of the two and they do an amazing job. Of course, helping is to work off a really good script from Sean Vanaman.
It's the first game from new team Campo Santo which was founded by two ex-creative leads at Telltale Games, Jake Rodkin, and Sean Vanaman; Nels Anderson, who was the lead designer on Mark of the Ninja and Olly Moss, an artist most famous for his movie poster redesigns. The Telltale Games history is evident in the great writing and player speech choices, but this doesn't play like a Telltale adventure game. So if you hate Telltale, yes, you may like this.
Firewatch is an adventure walking simulator. The majority of the game involves little more than walking around and interacting with a certain object in the world and choosing speech options, but there is more to it than that. Your relationship with Delilah can be what you want it to be: You can choose to be brooding and only answer your boss when it is necessary, or may choose to open up about your past with her or can call in every little weird thing you see in the park, or you can just do what you gotta do. Beware, however: walking around the park without someone to talk to will be daunting and possibly scary.
Your first task Day 1 is to investigate some fireworks being let off in the park and you'll soon learn all the gameplay mechanics; the hardest of which is simply following and using your map and compass. The map itself is readable and makes sense, it's simply the implementation and awkwardness of the control scheme that makes using it a pain. You'll often be zoomed too far into the map and struggle to zoom out the right distance and then moving and reading a map or compass is apparently too much for poor Henry.
It's not the awkward controls that ruin's Firewatch experience, though, it's its performance issues. Regular frame drops and stuttering become a pain and this is me playing on the latest patch at the time of playing; that was 1:02. It's an annoying issue and one that really does hinder the experience, but doesn't make the game unplayable, fortunately.
What makes the frame rate issues really annoying is that it really affects the world and your ability to take in the gorgeous art of Olly Moss. The world is so beautiful but a slow-pan is soon turned into a slow-turning and stuttering pan. Still, you will constantly find yourself staring off into the distance and screenshotting is a must.
Firewatch is a character piece and it's enjoyable from start to finish. The plot itself is, O.K. It's especially apparent when you reach the somewhat disappointing ending that this game is all about a moment caught in a bottle. It's about the time you spent here and the journey with Delilah to get to the finish. The ending is disappointing, but unlike a story reliant on plot, it's a passable ending; for me personally, for the journey I received, it does the job. It is entirely possible that you enjoy the ending more than me, though.
Even though I thought the ending was 'meh' I loved the journey that Firewatch took me on. The great writing and performances make the game and characters enjoyable from start to finish. It's a pity though that the journey was hindered by constant frame rate issues.