Firewatch Review: A Sizzling Tale of Love, Loss, and Loneliness

Campo Santo's first title, Firewatch, is ready to be set ablaze, but is their story about love, loss, and loneliness in the Wyoming Wilderness worth checking out? Our review.

15

I love to get lost within a beautiful, well-crafted world. The feeling of being surrounded by a world you don’t know creates a sense of exploration and mystery. When you top that feeling with a well-crafted ensemble of characters, as in the case of Firewatch, you’ve created something close to a perfect world. But we know things can’t always be perfect, and while Firewatch is a brilliantly executed idea with a fantastic group of characters, I couldn’t help but feel the entire experience was less than it could have been, as if something was missing, and it left me cold.

Finding Paradise

But this relationship between Henry and Delilah is a driving force to be reckoned with. The days pass with Henry completing mundane tasks like gathering supplies, checking out downed phone lines, and cleaning up beers can. All the while though, Delilah is hard at work, chipping away the brick wall that Henry has built around his life. Slowly, but surely, she begins to learn details and reasons for why Henry has chosen to banish himself to the Wyoming wilderness. And as a result, a friendship begins to form.

This might sound boring for a lot of people, but there’s something comforting about just being able to take in the world around you. Sadly, the friendship that fosters between our two companions doesn’t have long to flourish, and before Henry can make a move, a piece from his past as a firewatcher comes barreling back into the picture like a gunshot and disrupts their idlyic small-town life.

Trouble in Paradise

The plot of the entire game takes a sharp turn into the danger zone, and Henry and Delilah find themselves smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest conspiracies of the century. They cling to each other, striving to find answers as Henry explores the depths of the Wyoming wilderness looking clues. Someone is watching them. Someone is planning something.

Each new clue, and every new encounter brings more to the fire, fueling the idea of a conspiracy. But just when things start to feel more sinister than ever, and when things really begin to spiral out of control, the story ends. The solution to Henry’s greatest mystery feels dropped into your lap like a bag of bricks. The brilliant writing and excellent voice-casting runs headfirst into a solid and immovable wall of rock. Everything that you’ve spent the past few hours working towards just sizzles out as the conclusion of the story brings the entire experience to an unfulfilling close.

The Bigger Picture

I enjoyed my short time in the world of Firewatch. The world is beautiful and the voice acting is excellent. But Henry and Delilah’s story is far too short, and the resolution of the game’s story relies far too much on a backstory that isn’t given the breathing room it needs. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that just teeters back down to a merry-go-round, leaving me with a detached feeling that everything I had spent the past few hours working towards has been all for nought. 

Even if the abrupt, unfulfilling ending doesn’t completely tie the experience together, I’ll still remember plenty of the funny and heart wrenching moments between Henry and Delilah that I had the pleasure of eavesdropping on. The game’s world, and its brilliantly crafted ensemble of characters is more than enough to leave me with a warm feeling deep in my heart, even if it isn’t a fully-developed flame, for Firewatch.


This review is based on a download code provided by the publisher. Firewatch will be available digitally on February 9, for 19.99. The game is rated M.

Guides Editor
Review for
firewatch
8
Pros
  • Stunning visuals
  • The world feels alive
  • Outstanding voice acting
  • Characters are relatable
Cons
  • Abrupt and unfulfilling story ending
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 8, 2016 2:00 PM

    Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Firewatch Review: A Sizzling Tale of Love, Loss, and Loneliness

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      February 8, 2016 2:29 PM

      Why do I want to play a game about my life? Sounds boring.

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        February 8, 2016 2:40 PM

        I'm excited about this. I saw the quicklook at Giant Bomb and I knew then that I wanted to play this.

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          February 8, 2016 2:49 PM

          Yeah, the guys who are making it, together with the quicklook on Giant Bomb, pretty much sold me. I pre-ordered last night.

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      February 8, 2016 2:50 PM

      I wish this was coming to the Xbox.

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      February 8, 2016 3:48 PM

      the negative about the abrupt ending and lack of story resolution sounds like a _huge_ negative in a story driven walking sim.

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        February 8, 2016 4:15 PM

        What if it's about the journey not the destination?

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        February 8, 2016 6:30 PM

        How else are they going to hook you enough to buy the DLC?

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      February 8, 2016 4:45 PM

      I don't understand how it's acceptable for an article tagged as a "feature" to only contain 573 words. The pictures cumulatively take up more space on my screen than the written material.

      You just listed off the surface level details that you liked and disliked. There's no discussion of tone or design. You didn't even mention the game's single most important mechanic - the radio Henry uses to speak with Delilah.

      All anyone can learn from reading this is that you liked the game except for the stuff that you didn't. My impression is that you didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the experience, and then spent an hour or less churning out this piece.

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        February 8, 2016 4:50 PM

        alternatively shacknews realized that no one reads 3000 word longform reviews but a lot of people read 500 word quick reviews on their phone

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          February 8, 2016 4:51 PM

          Eurogamer's piece on the game is about 1500 words. IGN's is close to 1300.

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            February 8, 2016 5:09 PM

            which doesn't really say anything about the optimal word count for engagement. It sounds like you just pointed out how there're already large, entrenched competitors who write long, trusted reviews in different audience segments. What's the point in trying to produce the exact same style of content they do? If you're a Eurogamer regular why are you going to come to Shacknews to read a 1500 word review when you've already done that with the site you trust most?

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              February 8, 2016 5:28 PM

              The point of producing high-quality content is to motivate your readers to return. You're assuming the market is saturated with long-form written pieces, when the opposite is true.

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                February 8, 2016 5:47 PM

                no, you're ascribing your values to everyone. For you high quality content is a 1500+ word review. For someone else it's something they can read in 5 minutes and gives them the bare minimum they need to make a purchasing decision. Shacknews actually knows the difference in readership between their 500 word reviews vs their 1500 word reviews. It's reasonable to assume they're catering to what people actually want or are trying to differentiate.

                I don't know how you've come to the conclusion that there's a big, unmet and valuable market for expensive longform game reviews (or other journalism for that matter) when the entire journalism industry has been trending away from that for years. And again, even if that's true, I just don't see why you'd pick that as a way to differentiate your site when Eurogamer and co already have large brands around that identity. Making game reviews that cater to a FB newsfeed kind of world (I am 5 minutes to fill) sounds like a much larger market.

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                  February 8, 2016 6:29 PM

                  I don't believe long-form pieces are intrinsically superior. Different subjects demand different lengths. It's the job of the writer and the editor to arrive at the appropriate figure.

                  It should be evident to anyone that this particular review did not examine the game in sufficient detail when it fails to even discuss the central mechanic.

                  As far as I can tell, Shacknews isn't engaged in some brilliant ploy to capture the Facebook audience. If they were, we'd see an abundance of video content in the 3 to 5 minute range. Instead, it's more or less the same site that it was five years ago. There's a high frequency of regurgitated press releases, some short game reviews, and the occasional video piece. There are dozens of other sites that are indistinguishable from Shacknews in this regard. The successful ones have differentiated themselves from the pack in some manner, most often by producing thoughtful content that people respond to.

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        February 8, 2016 5:19 PM

        Very pretty. I need to go on a nice hike on of these days. Experience it all for real.

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      February 8, 2016 5:31 PM

      Isn't this coming out for Xbox one?

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        February 8, 2016 5:56 PM

        Not as if yet, but devs said it would if there is interest, whatever that means

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      February 9, 2016 11:17 AM

      Just want to know one thing, is this a scenery simulator or it is actually a game?

    • reply
      February 9, 2016 11:34 AM

      Sorry to be "that guy", but can you fix the grammatical error in the summary box? It's the first thing you read, so kind of significant for expectations throughout the rest of it...

      Campo Santo's first title, Firewatch, is ready to be set ablaze, but is there story about love, loss, and loneliness in the Wyoming Wilderness worth checking out? Our review.