Over the holiday break, and with two daughters under 4 years of age, I was browsing Xbox Game Pass for some non-violent games that I could chill on the couch and play while my girls are in the room. I came across a game called Firewatch by Campo Santo which I have heard of but never really looked at. How interesting could a game be where you’re in a tower looking for fires? Pretty bloody interesting now that I have finished the game. Firewatch originally released in February 2016 but has only recently landed on Xbox Game Pass as of December 17, 2021. First reviewed by Adzy who originally got me writing for Game on AUS, the game was so good and easy to play with some twists and turns I didn’t see coming, that I couldn’t put it down. If you haven’t played it before, it’s definitely worth getting on Xbox Game Pass.
Firewatch starts with a simple prologue, a series of text-based screens introducing you to Henry who meets a girl named Julia. You learn about how they fall in love, get a pet dog and you make some other life choices together. You can feel the humour and love coming through their relationship together. However things take a downward turn when Julia is diagnosed with early onset dementia, and Henry struggles to deal with that. It gets to the point where his visits to her become less frequent, to the point her family takes her back to Australia.
Henry decides a change of scenery is best and takes a job as a fire lookout in Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming, to escape from it all. Firewatch is played in first-person view as you start working your lookout tower. There are inanimate objects to inspect like books and mugs, then a walkie-talkie radio crackles to life with a female voice asking you to check in. It’s here we meet our supervisor, Delilah, who resides in another lookout tower you can see way off in the distance.
Whilst you’re talking, you see some fireworks set off halfway between the towers. You set off in a first-person walking simulator using a compass and your map to navigate your way towards the fireworks. The scenery is beautiful and I loved walking around the forest areas. You can jump down and over ledges and fallen trees, and there are supply caches spread throughout the forest. The codes for the locks are all 1234 and most will contain a map update plus additional notes and items that will add to the story. You are able to keep some of the items that you find and these end up pinned in your tower at the end of each day.
While there are some branching pathways to walk down and explore, the game is linear in nature. There’s no shooting or the need to defend yourself, though there are times later that you wish you could as the story takes a dark turn and you have a feeling you’re not alone. Your relationship with Delilah becomes more emotionally attached as Delilah becomes your eyes and ears while you’re deep in the forest, around a lake, investigating ravines and caves, and more. Something strange is going on, and some of the notes and books you find hint at what could be happening as you come across a large fenced off area that not even Delilah knows about.
You later come across a camera with limited shots left and you’re able to take some photos of anything you come across that you think is pristine. There’s no real need to take photos, but I liked that when the credits rolled, it scrolls through all of the photos you took, plus some that were already on the camera when you found it. These last shots were a perfect conclusion to the events of the story leaving you reflecting on your time in the game, and the situation that occurred. It will definitely affect people in different ways, and well worth playing through.
I spent over 5 hours in Firewatch and loved every minute as I got more intrigued by the story as events unfolded. The ultimate outcome of the story is quite grim, so fair warning to anyone playing with kids watching towards the end. It’s a great game for those times where you want to play something but don’t want to worry too much about multiplayer or difficult gameplay mechanics. The story left me thinking long after playing and I highly recommend checking the game out on Xbox Game Pass.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis