Toward the end of 2015, I was already amped up and ready for the long list of promising 2016 games. There’s no doubt that 2015 was one of the greatest in recent years for gaming, but I began to fall out of touch with many of the massive open-world games. This year has me so excited because it looks to be a good year for short, single player-focused games, which is something I have begun to value more and more. Last year’s E3 had such an incredible line-up of game announcements, with more than a few becoming must-plays for me personally. One of those games was Campo Santo’s Firewatch.
I first noticed this game during the E3 2015 Sony press conference. The trailer simply blew me away. Everything about it, from the art style to the narrative intrigued me. This is a game I want to spend an entire day playing from start to finish. The experience just seems that good. First-person exploration games are so interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing how they will evolve. They are a wonderful balance of narrative story, gameplay, and exploration, often with a beautiful art direction. They certainly help to reinforce the argument for videogames as an art form. I loved the unique game experiences brought on by Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture and Gone Home. I anticipate Firewatch to be even better. It will have the satisfying exploration aspect of the previously mentioned games with one added important factor: immediate crisis.
Some key information has been revealed about the game, but developers Campo Santo are largely letting the game speak for itself upon its release. Firewatch puts you in the shoes of Henry, a man who takes a summer job as a fire lookout in the wilderness of Wyoming. The E3 trailer shows Henry walking around the wilderness on a normal day exchanging conversation with his supervisor Delilah via a walkie talkie. She informs him that two young women have gone missing, and they were last seen by none other than Henry. A greater mystery begins when he finds the phone lines cut and is informed that someone is in his watchtower. On top of all this, the walkie talkie is now Henry’s only method of communication.
Due to the fact that I want the game to be a completely new experience for me, I have largely stayed clear of any early gameplay reveals or spoiler-filled content. I want to go in completely blind, so I haven’t seen much more than screenshots and the initial E3 trailer. The impression that I gather from watching this trailer is that there is a greater sense of urgency in Firewatch than in other first-person exploration games (FPEG). In my previous experiences in this relatively new subgenre, it has always been a slow and ‘relaxing’ experience focused on uncovering a mystery by investigating the environment. Firewatch will have plenty of environmental exploration, but also looks to be an exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat mystery.
Not only will the player be feeling a sense of isolation as you play as a single man in a vast wilderness, but Delilah is the only connection you have to the outside world. She will serve as your lifeline, so the conversations that you have with her will be extremely important. These conversations will play an immense role in the storytelling aspect of the game. The game will feature dialogue trees (a la Telltale Games) in which you can respond to Delilah from a variety of options or choose not to respond at all. How you respond will affect the only meaningful relationship that Henry has.
While I am intrigued and excited by the gameplay and storytelling in this upcoming game, I am also equally enthralled by the art style. This game is absolutely gorgeous! One thing that drove me through Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture was its beautiful landscapes and detailed building interiors. I hope to get the same satisfaction from Firewatch, especially since the wilderness environment resonates more with me personally. The colors in the environment brilliantly depict a world rich with detail, personality and life. Interestingly enough the art style for Firewatch initially came from a painting. To me, this is utterly fascinating. What a wonderful way to begin a project. Developing an entire narrative game using only the feelings and ideas that a painting provokes is so interesting. With the inspiration of a single piece of artwork, the team at Campo Santo could take the game in any direction that they choose. The end result seems experimental, beautiful, and intriguing all at the same time.
I simply cannot wait to play this game. Luckily I only have to wait one more month! Firewatch will be released on February 9th for the Playstation 4 and PC.
Be on the lookout for the next entry in this series of my most anticipated games of 2016!