Critical Play: Walking Simulators

Firewatch on Steam

I played Firewatch, created by Campo Santo, on my Macbook Pro. The game is targeted towards older teens and above. The story is a slow burn, featuring a middle-aged man whose wife has developed dementia, which may not be interesting to younger people. 

A single player plays against the game. To beat it, all you have to do is complete the story. While there are small puzzles, you cannot die and the game heavily guides you to make the right decisions because they are necessary for the plot. The objective is to explore the national forest, picking up clues and mysterious objects along the way that suggest a conspiracy. 

The main form of fun intended is narrative. Henry explores the environment and investigates mysterious occurrences while interacting through a radio with his supervisor Delilah. The story builds to a climax ending like a movie. The game succeeds at carrying the player through a narrative that builds in tension. It also has beautiful graphics, scenery, and voice acting.  

An important mechanic is that you pick which dialogue choices to say to Delilah. Your words can hurt her, and she won’t forget that. However, I felt nothing I said had that big of an impact – the conclusion and main beats of the story stay the same I believe. I wish there was more gravity to the choices. I also felt the ending was a bit disappointing. By the end, I realized I hadn’t learned as much about Henry and Delilah as I expected. I was hoping for Henry to reach more revelations about his wife and for the story to probe deeper into their relationship. I was also frustrated at points throughout the game where I had to walk extremely long distances. I found myself getting a bit bored because I had to hold down keys for a long time with not much other stimulation. I would add more interactions with Delilah and make them have more of an impact on the overall narrative.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.