FIREWATCH – game review (XBox One)

I don’t get a chance to play videogames a whole lot these days. I mean, when it comes to videogames I am the epitome of CASUAL GAMER. I love bigger games, adoring RED DEAD 2, and DYING LIGHT, and loads of others, but I would usually rather play something for a short time or watch a movie. Once in a while though I get the itch. There’s a lot of stuff I have waiting to be played but I had seen a trailer for FIREWATCH, gosh, a couple years ago at least, and was so intrigued by it I never forgot the game and finally bought it with a gift card – HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! I am glad it stuck with me. 

FIREWATCH finds you playing the first person character of Henry, a damaged, flawed, reeling man who is trying to figure his life out. Seeking some sort of escape from the problems in his life he takes a summer job working for the National Parks service aiding in managing the Yellowstone National Park’s summer visitors and making sure the place doesn’t just burn down, something that is very possible. Henry will be supervised by a woman named Delilah, who is taking up residence for the summer in a nearby watchtower, like the one he will be living in. He will deal with rude visitors, litterbugs, possible firebugs, and potentially bears. 

As he gets into the job he starts to realize it’s a lot more dangerous than he expected. 

Over the course of the summer though some annoying campers turn into a bigger problem for him that could portend something even more dangerous going on in the area. As Henry learns about the park, and its history, and discovers areas longtime veteran of the park Deliliah doesn’t even know about, he starts to wonder if something darker and more nefarious is going on around him and what role he is set to play in it all. 

This is the antithesis of an action game. This isn’t quite an INaction game but it’s a game about discovery, adventure, and mystery. This is a casually paced game that is in no hurry to get you going yet has a sense of deep set urgency as the mystery of the story reveals itself. This a gorgeously animated game and the gentle music and beautiful art really set the tone for the entire game. Despite the presence of fire in the game they are not overreacting in the sense of driving you with a nerve jangling score. I got the feeling that they wanted to let the story push and pull you because, if you buy into the mystery, you buy into the game. 

The game HINGES on its story and the voice acting, which is superb. You truly do become attached to these people and drawn into their world. The writing is fantastic. There is a difficulty to the story and its choices – which don’t seem to necessarily matter to the overarching story as much as they matter to how you want to play it all out. The reasons for Henry being out where he is and how he deals with that is the heart of the game and it beats loudly throughout. 

There is a pervasive sadness here that, while not overpowering, does show the depth and breadth grief can have and how markedly it can change a person. 

This is not a long game unless you really go off wandering around. While I saw a few signs of life and wildlife, there’s not a lot going on so it’s a lot of you wandering around and climbing. I can see where this will grate on some but if you are interested in this sort of game you will love it. I know I did. 

I will say that the game ends with some aspects unresolved. In digging around afterwards I did find one answer but it feels like the makers are content to let some things just go unanswered or explained, like life itself.
Not always what we like to hear/read/watch/play, but it worked for me. I left the game with a lot of questions but with a feeling that I had gone through ‘it’ with Henry and that we were different now. 

This should be a less expensive game, especially at this point in its life, and with the length it offers, but with that, it gives you a gorgeous looking and sounding game, and a mystery that deserves to be solved. 

If you are looking to put down the machine guns, get out from behind the battle arrays, and need to just deal with people dealing with their own ‘stuff’, then this is a good place to start. 

4 out of

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