578f58bafc2a34fd633dbaed50d0c3e0-970-80These days I tend to enjoy games that are similar to a good book: a solitary, escapist experience I can get completely lost in without any interruptions from the outside world. Firewatch, then – on the strength of its gripping story, brilliant branching script, wholly convincing voice-acting performances, and stunning art direction – is easily one of my favorite and most memorable game experiences of this decade.2016-02-04_00012-100643811-origFirewatch quickly lets you know that it’s not going to pull any emotional punches over its four to five–hour runtime, opening with a series of text-based choices that call back to adventure genre forebears like Zork. I dare not spoil this potent sequence, but I will say that it masterfully bounces between being funny and heart-wrenching and plausibly establishes just why protagonist Henry ends up in the Wyoming woods as a solitary fire lookout.2016-02-08_00011-1200x675These days I tend to enjoy games that are similar to a good book: a solitary, escapist experience I can get completely lost in without any interruptions from the outside world. Firewatch, then – on the strength of its gripping story, brilliant branching script, wholly convincing voice-acting performances, and stunning art direction – is easily one of my favorite and most memorable game experiences of this decade.

2016-02-07_00027Firewatch quickly lets you know that it’s not going to pull any emotional punches over its four to five–hour runtime, opening with a series of text-based choices that call back to adventure genre forebears like Zork. I dare not spoil this potent sequence, but I will say that it masterfully bounces between being funny and heart-wrenching and plausibly establishes just why protagonist Henry ends up in the Wyoming woods as a solitary fire lookout.firewatch_150305_05A stylish, minimal soundtrack by Gone Home composer Chris Remo uses sparse layers of electric guitar and bass to give weight to important moments, but most of the time all you can hear is the sound of nature around you: trickling streams, rustling leaves, the quiet howl of the wind, squawking birds. This limited use of scoring makes the times when the music does come in more special, because you know its arrival heralds something emotional, dramatic, or revelatory. And although you’re almost always in conversation with Delilah, there are some sections of quiet where you can enjoy the game’s excellent environmental audio design.tfv02nuvaycvp9gib53eThere are some problems to overcome in the wilds, like abseiling down shale slides with climbing ropes, locating supply caches, and finding ways around impassable areas, but it’s not a taxing game at all. It’s more about story, ambience, and exploration than any kind of challenge. Everything happens in the first-person, and I love the chunky, expressive animations of Henry’s arms and stubby, hairy legs as he scrambles up rocky cliffs, picks things up and examines them, and reclines at his desk. You never see his face, but his limbs alone have more personality than some entire characters in other games.tải xuốngThe voice acting is fantastic too. Henry is played by Rich Sommer—Mad Men’s Harry Crane, TV fans—and his performance is superbly understated and naturalistic. He has a wry, self-effacing sense of humour, and I enjoyed spending time with him. Cissy Jones, who plays Delilah, is great too, and the chemistry between the two characters is one of the highlights of the game. The way their relationship grows, and how they comfort each other at low points, is wonderfully written, even though they communicate entirely by walkie-talkie. And the dialogue is touching, but never feels cloying or forced. A joke is always waiting if things get too saccharine.tải xuống (2)Right from the jump, their relationship feels real, despite the fact that they’re communicating entirely via radio, with no faces on screen to lend emotional cues. Henry – or Hank, as she sometimes defiantly calls him – comes across as a good man at heart, but a flawed one – a man not sure about whether or not to go back to the life he left behind in Boulder, Colorado. He is fully capable of matching wits with Delilah, who uses humor as a shield for the personal life she doesn’t like discussing as they get to know each other over the course of the summer.sr9rkhqrz4qkcap8m19qIt’s a pair of firework-launching teenage girls that set Firewatch’s story in motion, and you can choose to talk to Delilah at almost any time by bringing up your two-way radio. She’s got something to say about almost everything, whether you need advice on how to handle a given situation or you’re just reporting your progress on a task she’s given you, and she’s so engaging that I found myself eager to call about every little thing I came across. Things get darker –images (1)in a figurative as well as a sometimes literal sense – when the teens go missing, and you and Delilah try to piece together the puzzle of their whereabouts while making your own critical (sometimes difficult) decisions. The writing here is simply head and shoulders above nearly every other game I’ve ever played. In fact, Firewatch’s script, unlike most video games, would also make a fantastic novella that’s every bit as gripping as the game is. It’s tense, scary, and funny – sometimes all within a few minutes of each other. Not a lot of games can successfully claim that.largeHis relationship with Delilah was much more interesting to me. It’s one of the most delightful, sincere, believable relationships between two people I’ve encountered in a game. And the fact that this was achieved entirely through a walkie-talkie—without millions of dollars spent on performance capture technology—speaks volumes about how good writing, strong characterisation, and quality voice acting will always trump the most dizzyingly realistic-looking 3D models. I was sad when the game was over, mainly because I wanted to spend more time with both of them.imagesFirewatch is a beautiful, atmospheric game with a lot of heart, and even though the ending and a few other plot points didn’t fully work for me, I immediately wanted to play it again. It tells a poignant, heartfelt story, but always knows precisely when to crack a joke. And its Wyoming wilderness is a stunning, evocative place to exist in. But most of all, it’s the characters I fell in love with. I would have liked some more time to experience Henry’s day job—you don’t do much actual fire-watching all told—but it’s a game I won’t forget in a hurry. And if you’re looking for your own escape, it’s cheaper than a ticket to Wyoming.images (2)

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