‘Firewatch’ impresses

By Chris Mudd, Staff Writer

It’s rare that a game can so completely engulf a player in its world as is done in “Firewatch.”

It’s a beautifully picturesque game, with a riveting, albeit rather low-key, story. It’s an invigorating character study of two characters, the world they inhabit and the flaws that make them who they are.

Set in a volunteer fire lookout deep in a mountainous forest, the first-person exploration game surrounds the player with the sights and sounds of isolation, broken only by sporadic conversations with the supervisor, Delilah. The player inhabits Henry, a middle-aged man whose growing marital problems compel him to take the lonely Firewatch position to sort things out for himself.

What follows is an emotionally compelling story where lofty decisions, which irreversibly change the lives of both Henry and Delilah, are placed in the hands of the player. The prospect of hurting either one of them was increasingly difficult as throughout the story the excellent writing and voice acting turned the characters almost human.

The art direction is one of its biggest strengths of the game, combining a cel-shaded appearance with a photo-realistic lens to the environments in particular. Strolling through the woods never felt repetitive or boring, but provided the backdrop for both Henry’s soul-searching and, at moments, the player’s as well.

The soundtrack is also masterful. Its tunes are rarely melancholy. They are not action and drum heavy, but instead take a support role to the story at hand. It’s so easy to become carried away with music at times, but “Firewatch” is an example of how a well-directed game can utilize all creative talents to produce something wonderful.

“Firewatch” is certainly not a game for the action-oriented crowd. It’s an exploration game, pure and simple. But it remains one of the best games I’ve played in years for its eloquent story, characters and world design. It is well worth the purchase.