Oh, Firewatch. I had such high hopes for you. What starts as a beautiful game with brilliant writing and a truly heartfelt introduction devolves into an extremely by the numbers whodunnit. With an ending that all but fizzles and a medley of character interactions that end up feeling much more linear than fulfilling, we end up with a tale that should be much smarter than it is. In today’s Game Grade, we’re taking a look at Firewatch, and letting you know if this adventure is worth your coin. No spoilers here folks, so feel free to enjoy.
So, to start, I should say that I love games like this. Games that immerse you and attempt to show you a world that they create, and tell a story without huge guns or crazy set pieces has charm in its own way, and I can’t say that I knock Firewatch for trying. However, what I CAN knock it for is the unfortunate way that it presents information, and the ridiculous amount of red herrings that it throws at you throughout the series. Red herrings are a very underused piece of literary writing. They’re crucial in mysteries because they help to keep the perceptive readers guessing at an incorrect idea, however, when you overuse them is when the problems start to set in.
Firewatch itself is based in the idea of a man escaping a life he wants to abandon and clear his head for a few months. It’s in this that the story is set for our mystery. What ensues is fairly interesting, but unfortunately ends up being an exercise in tedium. By the end, the whole thing ends up feeling like a cheap Hardy Boys novel that I really wanted to write a different ending for. Even when they try to explain everything away in the end, it just blatantly doesn’t make sense. There are huge, gaping plot holes and pieces that absolutely come up short. Not to mention that the game is only 3 HOURS LONG. So if you pay the full twenty dollar price tag, you might not be too happy.
Beyond all of this though, the game does have its strengths. Phenomenal voice acting on both the parts of Henry and Deliliah carry the story. It’s honestly some of the most organic and genuine voice acting I’ve ever heard. These two have chops, and they put them on full display in this story. Truly, the two of them carry the game on their backs with the absolutely wonder of the how down to Earth and real their interactions feel. Kudos to those actors for going above and beyond in their committal to their roles.
So, should you buy Firewatch? Maybe. It’s not a bad game by any means, but it’s also a very niche game. If you’re into mysteries, this one might tide you over for a few hours…but not much beyond that. There’s zero replay-ability, and almost no reason to ever pick it back up again once you’re done. If you wait for a sale (like I did) you might get a bit more value out of it. However, for 3 hours of a story that ends up being extremely flat…it’s not worth too many folks’ time. We’re grading Firewatch a C-.