PLAYING WITH FIRE TO TELL A STORY

Exploring is the new way to play

By Peter Clark Travel Editor

Screenshot from “Firewatch”

When I started up “Firewatch” I had a small idea of what to expect. I expected a first-person narrative with impressive visuals and a dynamic story. I was right about everything except the dynamic story.

Before I get into all that, I would like to explain my history with this genre. I recently played a few episodes of the stellar “Life is Strange,” and also one of my favorite games of all time “Gone Home.” Prior to that I played “Dear Esther,” and a few others that met this standard of what is mockingly called a “walking simulator.” These games are very fun and I’ve had some of my best experiences with these types of games.

I thought “Firewatch” was going to be different. It was not, it filled the same mold as every other game and did nothing new. I compare this game to “Gone Home,” now, but before playing I thought it was going to be a different experience. With “Gone Home” I expected the story to end in one way. You were in a house, and your job is to piece the story together about what has happened since you’ve left home. That was easy. Firewatch was different. It presented itself with a relatively open world, and dialogue options that seemed to matter. Turns out, it was not that at all, and I was disappointed in that respect. I expected that since this game was “larger” than “Gone Home,” it was going to be different, but it wasn’t. No matter what dialogue the player chose, the story still ended up the same. It was still a roughly 4 hour long mystery that ended with being a bit of let down.

The other big issue with the story is that the mystery towards the middle of the game is greater than the ending. The mystery in the middle seems like it has a million different ways it could go, but it ends with the easiest way out and it’s disappointing. That is not to say it wasn’t well done or impactful, it just doesn’t live up to the mystery it was creating. 

The game is only four hours long. Four hours for $20. Is it worth it at that price? No. $15? Maybe. The game is well made, and the story is interesting, but if it was longer and had some replayability it would be worth the asking price. However, as it stands, $20 for a story that is the same no matter how you play it is asking for a lot. 

I love games in this style, and “Firewatch” is no exception. It’s a great game with an interesting story. It falls short on a few expectations, but it is still a game that I would suggest people to play. The interaction between the two main characters is interesting enough to warrant a purchase and playthrough. It was a game that at the end of it, I wasn’t sure if I beat the game, or if the game beat me. It’s an emotional experience that is well crafted and an excellent addition to this genre.

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