Friday, 26 February 2016

Watching fires in the sunset


Platform tested: PlayStation 4

Small review here. I played through Firewatch recently with my wife. It's a new indie title developed by Campo Santo and published by Panic. It's both companies first venture into videogames. The game has a rather original setting and artistic visual style that has brought it a lot of attention since it was announced. Finally it's here and playable on both PS4 and PC!

Firewatch is set in Wyoming in 1989, and you take the role of Henry whom takes a summer job as a firewatch out in the bush. Remote and alone he has to watch out for fires or people braking the laws against open flames in the woods. Let's just say that strange things begin to happen out there. More than just checking for fires.

The game focuses around radioing and communicating with another watchtower, speaking to a female firewatch called Delilah. This interaction back and forth, talking about things you observe or just life in general, is a lot of what the game is about. Building a relationship with Delilah through walkie talkie conversations. The dialogue between them is really engaging and extremely well voice acted. One could say it's one of those "indie walking games again, and partially you'd be right. Though there is a little more substance here than simply traversing a landscape. There are set tasks you must complete and figure out how to solve them.

The game is played through a first person view and features some fairly simplistic controls, however the game isn't about tons of items, fancy moves and collecting. With this minimalistic style you must observe and explore the very pretty remote landscape, visualized with a celshading type of artstyle. The sunsets, nighttime and landscapes look beautiful and capture the feeling of remoteness out in the mountains perfectly. The colour of orange is heavily used, and gives the player an impression of a dramatic sunset and summer heat. It looks very unique and begs to have it's atmosphere soaked up.

There are some issues with Firewatch which I wish to address. The PS4 port is a somewhat sloppy one, while it looks pretty, it has some very obvious technical issues. There are hickups in the framerate quite frequently. In fact the whole screen freezes completely up a few seconds ever so often, and while this isn't a high paced game that requires perfect framerate, the freezing is jarring and spoil the impression overall. If you're easily bothered by such issues there's always the PC version to play as an option. It's also a fairly short lifespan on the game, it took us about four to five hours to complete, but it's a game that doesn't really require it to be longer either.

We ended up really liking our playthrough of Firewatch though, it's a fantastic game to just watch and follow too. It ends very differently from what we though during playthrough, for good or worse. My only tip would be just to remember to jump in on dialogue options as many of them are optional with a timer throughout the game. Other than that simply sit back and enjoy the atmosphere, story and feeling of being in a tower a whole summer!



    + Plus points

    • Unique setting and beautiful landscapes.
    • Original gameplay style.
    • Extremely engaging storyline and great dialogue.

    - Minus points

    • Screen freezes consistently throughout.
    • Fairly short game with little replay value.
    • The ending; love it or hate it.

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