This game is beautiful.
I could leave the review at that and it would almost be enough – the star player is the environment (of course, as you barely see another human for the duration of the game) with its crisp colours, sunset-illuminated vistas, and its unforgiving paths. That said, there’s beauty in the script too, with an introduction that crushes your feelings to a pulp before you do anything but click a few times and a constant warm dialogue between the protaganist and the co-worker in the neighbouring tower.
I felt the pacing was perfect – any time it was getting a little dull or samey, you’d get a wisecrack over the radio. Walking around and exploring never felt overwhelming but never felt too constricted either. This was helped by the map (THE MAP!). I really love this game’s map – it feels like part of the game in ways that other game maps just can’t seem to grasp. Whereas most games have either a tiny always-present minimap or a map you can only access via a pause menu, Firewatch gives you a physical map that your character scribbles all over. This gives it a personality that other game maps lack, avoiding the grim sameness that a computer generated map with a key just can’t avoid. I also liked that it didn’t hold your hand – to work out which way to go always required a few moments’ thought and occasionally checking the compass.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this game. Despite its reasonably short playtime (I got 4.3 hours out of it, according to Steam’s stats), it’s an immersive experience that really packs an emotional punch.
And it’s beautiful.