Wednesday, August 31, 2016

FIREWATCH

WAPITI-BUPITI!!!!


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!



A PAUSE IN THE HALLWAY OF TIME


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.


SOMETHING'S NOT RIGHT HERE


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.


WHERE THE BIRDS AND THE BEES WON'T KNOW ME


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.





"YOU GOTTA GO SEE HER, HENRY."


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!