This weekend I played through Firewatch by Campo Santo. It is a visual stunning indie game that features some compelling dialogue, and while I enjoyed the story, I felt it was a lackluster game to play.

Firewatch is a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness, where your only emotional lifeline is the person on the other end of a handheld radio.

My enjoyment was completely due to the amazing landscapes and perfectly written dialogue and stellar voice acting.

Despite a mostly open world, Firewatch felt more like an on-rails game. The slow movement of the character inhibited my desire to explore much. I would try to avoid even small jumps over the many flat rocks because it would mean three seconds of animation and deactivate the jog pacing. But I also wanted to stay the course to hear more of the dialogue.

I felt I was participating in a film or TV mini-series and not a playing a game. You’re not doing any combat or side quests (I guess maybe looking through all the supply caches could be one). You’re also not really interacting with the environment much besides clearing a few paths1. You really have to be in it for the story.

While I didn’t have much fun playing Firewatch as a game, I think it was the correct medium for the story. It would’ve been boring as a feature film or mini-series with only one person really ever on camera. Also, the first-person perspective and ability to choose dialogue responses does attach you to the story more than a film ever could.

It is worth a play through to experience a great-looking, well-written indie story.

  1. You are given a camera early in the game, but I didn’t find that taking pictures made a difference in the story. You can also pick up objects, but only a few really obvious ones need to be added to your inventory. [return]