Wednesday, August 31, 2016



Somehow I feel like there haven’t been to many lastingly positive reviews among the latest posts I put up… BUT this one will should balance it all out again! It’s already been a while since I played this game and its release for that matter, but seriously; Firewatch was one of the best games I have ever played and I highly recommend it to everyone who hasn’t played it yet.

There are a few points that could have made it an even better game in my opinion but compared to all the other games that surround us Firewatch is a true contestant for the title of game of the year 2016!


Firewatch was made possible by Campo Santo and Panic and is available on Steam and PS4. Not aiming at hyper-realism but in general having more of a cartoonish look to it, the game’s graphic and art style is nothing short of brilliant.

Because the game's visual art is perfectly coherent in style and consistent in its quality, together with harmonic colors as well as a remarkable work on the ambient lighting, Firewatch makes the environment feel pleasant and warm. There are no procedurally generated environments, there is no tree without a purpose; at Sunrise or sunset, with fog or smoke, the handcrafted and thought-out sceneries in this game are the perfect relief after a stressful working day. It shows why level design is also important in games that play outside and why more people developers should emphasize working out their levels instead of mass-placing terrain assets.

At its core Firewatch is a narrative driven first person game. So, if that is not your genre well… but otherwise in my opinion it is safe to say that is one of the best of these kind gaming experiences there is. Not only does the game make you feel as if you were playing the story in a deeply interactive way because you can always choose what to say next, it also has a great, sentimental and intoxicating plot with few but highly elaborated characters.

I don’t want to talk in more detail about it since I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t played it yet, but I will talk about one point that makes this game so special compared to similar ones. There is a twist! – Or rather the story is constantly twisting your mind! This game is does not only put you in a massively immersive setting where you still could easily get bored from redundancy for example. No! From the moment you start reading the first lines of the plot, which already hooked me before the game even started, there is not one moment where you feel sort of “And now what?” or “Boring!”.

This game always drives you forward. Smoothly and not with force there is always a purpose to all you are doing and every single trip you take to the forest, as the Firewatch-sheriff you are, adds more to a mystery that is constructed by your very own imagination until it all makes sense to you at the end. Ok, admittedly the end – the very end – of the game has been criticized somewhat justly because it simply does miss that certain climax. On the other hand I think you could say that the game didn’t need it because of its constantly evolving nature. However one of the points I think the game is definitely missing is multiple endings. - That could have solved the issue with the end and furthermore encouraged people to play the game more times choosing different approaches and experiencing a whole different story with other dialogue options. Especially given the overall playtime of about 2 to 4 hours at best, it is a shame that Firewatch has no immediate replay value whatsoever. It wouldn’t even have been necessary to put in more stuff for the players to explore, if they just had worked out different endings and certain key decisions in the game to favor one or the other… damn, this game would have be perfect!

But honestly, coming back to the playtime of “just” some hours; I really do have to say that in the case of this game the rather short playtime felt great to me. You know how most games try to push gametime with ridiculous measures like sending you back and forth, giving you redundant tasks and so on. There is nothing of that sort in Firewatch and that I want to applaud until my hands get blue. I would rather spend 3 hours of quality time than 15 hours of annoying repetition and pseudo-gaming! We did not know too much when we played the game. Yes, we knew some trailers, and honestly we had a completely different idea of the game (more on that later) and then on the same evening the credits rolled. – It was a great feeling to finish a game in one session, given the time constraints life brings with it as you grow older.

Like I said, the only bitter pill is that now since I have played it once there is really no reason to play it again soon. I know what the story is and how it works, there is nothing more to explore and unfortunately not even one alternative ending.


Lastly I just have to mention that just from the E3 trailer alone this game was seriously advertised wrong. Many people say that in the great big web and in my opinion they are right. You see a vast forest, there’s a serious and rather dark tone to it “The isolation gets to people”, “Two young woman have been reported missing”, “Then,… who is [in your tower]?”, you see a guy picking up an axe… Do I have to say more?

Maybe we are really all too over-saturated with all the open world and survival and crafting and zombie games, but seriously that’s what I expected from this game. Well, at least in my case, I was positively surprised after a while in the game and I remember myself stating something like “Cool, the game is more like Ethan Carter. That’s AMAZING!”

Still, why didn’t they show selecting a dialogue option or write somewhere something like “Walking Simulator” or “Story-driven”? I think nowadays you have to promote the true type of the game you are making a bit better and this might be one of the few cases where I can related to some of the younger Minecraft kids, wearing their brains with questions like “What is this?” or “Why are they talking so much?”. – Oh, and on that note: You see people? This is how you do it in this kind of games! Let the people talk! There can be some notes to read but tell the story with real, and like in this case, good voices.


I really don’t know why this part always comes up so separate from the rest of the game… maybe it’s just hard to talk about everything at the same time? Anyways, the soundtrack of Firewatch is simply put a musical masterpiece. Not only in regards to the game and the atmosphere it conveys but also musically and on its own. It has already landed in my playlists for programming, relaxation, outdoor- and forest related adventures, and many more. I can listen to this soundtrack all day long and still find it great.


Again; I highly recommend this game to everybody searching for a great story experience circled around loneliness, and the attempt to escape the more demanding circumstances of life. Imagine spending some months in summer on watch in an isolated tower in the middle of the wild; no phone calls, no internet, just the sun rising and setting down, only the wind in the trees, books to read and the radio to chat with the other towers. Every once in a while you would have to hike out and check everything is in order while witnessing the true wonders of natures. Wouldn’t that be something… something real?

Play more! Watch more!

Thursday, August 25, 2016



Again “better late than never” here are my thoughts on Bethesda’s highly anticipated sequel to the Fallout franchise, many still claim to be a worthy candidate for the title of game of the year 2016.

For me this was the first Fallout game I have ever purchased and played. Yes, I always heard that the previous parts were great from a ton of friends, but I never got into them because I thought those games were just too much for me to handle. Nevertheless I guess there comes the point where curiosity wins and you just have to experience it for yourself. Unfortunately the game came nothing short to my mostly negative expectations and to this day I have neither finished it nor do I think I ever will.


First of all Fallout 4 is not a super pretty game… talking about the console versions, of course. That being said I again have to emphasize that graphics don’t really matter to me, but at the end of the day this game clearly false under the label “wannabe next-gen but really isn’t”. It’s no secret that Fallout 4 uses an older engine instead of a new one that would have most likely worked way better with the next-gen consoles. Years past the release of our next-gens and already on the brink of becoming outdated with Sony’s new Playstation 4 Neo and the Xbox Scorpio, I am sorry to say that something like this shouldn’t pass anymore. - At least not as nominee for the game of the year 2016.

Secondly Fallout 4 is – at least was, at the time I’ve played it – full of bugs and problems. It simply felt like a mostly unfinished product to say it with different words. While the quest and the story part was naturally mostly working, to me especially the “new” features of this part felt as if they were just implemented yesterday and shipped without thorough testing and quality assurance. As the old “base-builder” and horder that I am naturally the Minute-Man build your bases/refugee camps mechanics of the game got most of my attention. Unfortunately they didn’t live up to even half of my expectations; Why aren’t the already present buildings that survived the nuclear bombs becoming more and more pretty as you develop your settlements? – It is really annoying to see people live inside of houses with gigantic holes in the roof. I mean, yes, we are dealing with the post-apocalypse here but still…things are progressing, the survivors are rebuilding and repairing, or not? Why won’t they at least repair their cheesecakes of houses so that it doesn’t rain inside? Honestly I haven’t seen one single building part that looks somewhat nice. Why does everything need to look so messed up and improvised in this game? – I think atmosphere and coherence is really important but at least to a certain degree the game could have some aesthetics for those of us who like to build something nice. Just imagine you were in that situation and you could rebuild a small house for yourself; Would your skills regarding wood-work really be so bad that you couldn’t even nail to wooden boards together without leaving cracks of several centimeters? Everything built in this game looks as if it was done by a four year old! – I don’t know about you but that seriously destroys the immersion to me.

But besides the missing optics, when it comes to settlement building, I think you understand what I meant with “it felt like a mostly unfinished product”: The few tutorials we actually get are short and imprecise, the more important ones are simply missing and require your own online research. The whole placing of objects is complicated, misses key features in terms of usability and on the top of that does not work way too often… seriously… objects are falling through each other, wires won’t connect and not only people but even cows get stuck inside and might even block your way out, leaving you with no other choice than fast-travelling out of a room! What annoyed me the most however was definitely the fact that there was no way of salvaging your collected items into the base resources you need to build things, other than dropping all of them onto the ground and manually dismantling them before storing the resources in your chest. – I am sorry, I might be a bit picky and probably super stupid to do that, but I don’t want to have three desk lamps stored in my chest and need to count the single resources that would yield from the top of my head. I want to see at a glance how much copper, how much iron and so on I have at my disposal.
And lastly there were way too many settlements. I mean, c’mon! If you were to (re)build all the possible settlements in the game you could alone from that reach a playtime of 50 hours for sure. At some point it all just gets too much… which is also the last major point where this game – as ridiculous as it sounds according to my expectations – failed for me.

The game is simply too big yet surprisingly empty to me. There is too much to do, too much to see, too many quest and side quest and distractions… seriously, why do people have the need to get lost in all this indulgence? Can we not have a game that doesn’t have 1000 quests and meaningless repetition but instead something a bit more momentous and to the point, together with great incentive to play the whole thing again?

I am really disappointed that Fallout 4 for me was again another game where I was constantly watching the clock ticking off its hours but getting no progress or achievement along with it. After a while the repetition kicks in and – at least to me – everything there is too do becomes nothing more than a burden and a pointless, time-consuming task; “Do you really want to go inside that door?”, I often asked myself, while running around across the vast map. Sooner than expected I usually began to answer it like so: “No, actually I don’t want. It’s another small location in there. I simply have to kill all the enemies and collect all the garbage lying around. Then I will have to travel back to base and dismantle all that crap, put it in the correct boxes and drawers… until I am back on the way to the main quest about 2 hours will have past and I will have to go to bed.” Isn’t that rather sad? Unfortunately I think so.


Honestly I get a similar feeling in most of the modern games, but sometimes there is at least something that motivates me to continue. Be it for example the story or the battle system but Fallout 4 didn’t really appeal to me in that either. The story was… well… something and nothing as it is most of the time with open-world games. All the people you meet never seem to have any significant story or background to me. They are just there. And after trying them as partner for a while they usually annoy me so much that I prefer to fight alone.

– Holy poop bags, not even the dog made it as partner for me because his AI was just so unbelievably stupid, haha!
The battle system many found players of the franchise like so much… I don’t know. But what is the point of playing with guns without having to aim yourself?

I hope I didn’t step on to many feet with this review. As always it’s just my opinion on the subject. I completely understand why you like the franchise or this part of the franchise. It’s cool. You might even be into the mods too, right? Well… also in that point I cannot walk alongside you for too long because mods – or what I know to be mods on the PC – usually also annoy me to the abyss and beyond. – All this downloading, overwriting files, corrupting the game, reinstalling it over and over…
So yeah, maybe mods can add a whole new dimension to Fallout 4. Maybe they already have? I don’t know. There could be already several mods out there addressing the problems I’ve had with the game – especially regarding the settlement building. Have fun my friends but my Fallout cruise has ended; the weather was bad, the service poor and the price way to high for the Mediterranean. I will book my next vacation somewhere else.

Play more! Dismantle more!