Firewatch: A hiker’s choice, part 2

Right off the bat I got to admit that I started my second playthrough already. Which tells you two things:

  1. The game is pretty short (about 4 to 5 hours).
  2. The game is so good you want to go again!

But did I change my mind about it since first impressions? I can’t say that I did.

Like I told you before, the beginning is very story-heavy and it’s where you define what kind of person Henry is going to be. Before any actual gameplay you read a few pages of prologue. I didn’t cry reading them. No. Because I’m a manly man. Shut up.

Firewatch is best described as a ”walking simulator”. Or in this case, a hiking one. In other words, the game has very little gameplay. One button to take out your walkie-talkie, another to grab items. Climbing and hopping over obstacles? Also behind a single button. So the controls are fairly minimalistic.

I mean sure, you decide where Henry hikes to and how he responds to his boss in conversations. You can also simply stop reporting stuff to Delilah and though it doesn’t really change the outcome of the core story, it does change the dynamic between the two characters.

The dialogue between Henry and Delilah is phenomenal. And since you can’t see their faces (save for the few occasions you see a photo or a drawing of Henry), the professionalism of the voice actors is really put to the test. And boy, do they deliver. The dialogue is believable and you love listening the two go back and forth. Delilah is sarcastic and snarky and loves puns. Henry is able to give her her money’s worth, if you so choose. But he can also be cold and distant or just flat-out silent – it’s all up to you, the player.

I don’t want to give too much away story-wise, because it’s best when experienced personally. On my second playthrough I’ve located a bunch of brand new vistas and called in new areas and items. This was after I realized I was in no hurry. I’ve also consciously chosen different options in the dialogue trees with Delilah, because I want to find out where each branch goes.

But to tell the premise in so many words, the game is about a man called Henry, who after a series of unfortunate events ends up as a park ranger. The park holds its share of secrets and they gradually unfold in front of you.

So, here’s your run-of-the-mill part of the review:

The good:

  • Beautiful graphics.
  • The dialogue is real and relatable and intriguing. The banter between Henry and Delilah makes you laugh and choke up at times.
  • The story is fascinating, for the most part.
  • There’s a sense of calm and serenity in the hike around the nameless Wyoming national park.
  • A feel-good game, for once. No time limits (except in the dialogue options), no stress.

The bad:

  • I said for the most part, because the last act left too many unanswered questions. It felt a bit rushed.
  • A few game-breaking bugs I encountered. I walked past a rock and I couldn’t get back. One time I had to start from the beginning because nothing would trigger the next thing that needed to happen for the story to advance.
  • The framerate tends to plummet on the PS4 version. And I know it’s a question of optimization, since it’s fine on the PC.

 

Anyhoo, I highly recommend this game to everyone. Especially to those who have grown tired of the brown mass of Triple A games. This game is for everyone and you don’t need any past experience. The only thing I’d like you to keep in mind is that there is a lot of cursing in this game, so… maybe don’t let your toddlers have a go?

And even though it is a hiking simulator, actual hiking is a lot more beneficial. You can’t get in shape if you keep lying on the couch.

 

~ Heikki

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