Since there were no BioWare releases last year, I’m going to have to go for the next best thing. Early 2016, Campo Santos released a small and kinda off beat game called Firewatch. Originally, I wasn’t going to play it. I had very little interest in it, primarily because I had no idea what it was. However, as a UX designer I was prompted to take it in, play it and at least look at the way the game handled dialogue.
To cut a long story short – I was completely blown away. For me, games that really catch my attention are either mechanically interesting or narratively interesting. I can disregard one if the other is good enough. To be honest I probably lean more towards the narrative. If I like the story, I can torture myself with half assed gameplay any day (which my obsession and fondness for The Order 1886 should demonstrate fairly well). Firewatch barely has any gameplay in the sense of “shooting at things”. It’s just a guy walking around, talking to his co-worker in another tower.
What makes Firewatch stand out for me is that relationship.
I should say, one of the things that make Firewatch stand out to me is the relationship between Henry (the protagonist) and Delilah (Henry’s co-worker). The other thing is that you meet Henry after life has dealt him a few hard blows. He’s basically running away from his responsibilities. He’s a flawed human being, just like Delilah.
Firewatch is a game about these two individuals and what happens to them out in the Wyoming wilderness one summer. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is, because it shows off the medium in a way it is rarely shown. As a way to create an emotional experience with the emotional experience as the end goal.
It’s a tough game to play, because it deals with the bigger issues in life. How to handle the loss of those you love. How to handle new relationships after that loss. How to be a human being and still manage to be decent, both to yourself and to others and that sometimes, just sometimes, you need to let go of everything in order to find your way back to yourself.
Firewatch has limited replayability value, but it will probably become one of those games that I play now and then, just to recapture the feeling I get, trudging through the paths, talking to Delilah. Being a human being.