A new and rising trend recently within PC gaming is the walking simulator genre, or games that are mostly story based an doesn’t involve much else but moving your character through the game world. Examples of these would be the acclaimed Gone Home or That Dragon, Cancer- both heavily grounded with a strong story. There has been some debate on whether or not these even qualify to be called games, but I believe they are as a video game is basically any type of entertainment that you can control and can make things happen within the game world. I believe when these particular games involve an intriguing story which fully immerse the player into the world they can become some of the very best examples of not only video games, but video games as art.
Earlier this week a new entrant into this category of games was released to some mild fan fare and favorable critic ratings; Firewatch. A man, Henry, who has recently gone through some tough times with his wife who has developed early onset dementia takes a summer job at a Wyoming Park as a wild fire lookout. The game begins having you choose your way through a bit of dialogue that lets you connect with Henry on a personal level, then you are getting out of your pick up truck in a parking lot and you walk into the forest, your home for the next seventy odd days. This is where Firewatch really shines, it’s beautiful and sometimes breathtaking scenery of the park. While not ground breaking, the graphics work- it is a absolute joy to wonder around and discover the forest. I found myself taking screenshot after screenshot, and one of my huge gripes with the game is that there is not in game screenshot system. A game like this should have a bound key that takes a screenshot without the reticle and saves them to a folder in the game directory, but that is not the case. At one point in the game you find a disposable camera which you can use to take pictures and it is awesome, but again the game does not output those pictures to the game directory; however, you put in your email at the end of the game and it will mail you a link to the game website that has all the photos you took.
Without getting too spoiler heavy I will say that the overall story of the game is quite intriguing, right up until it isn’t. I was sorely disappointed and underwhelmed when the plot finally came together and the ending mad me pretty upset. One of my other issues is the lack of any real choice in the story or ways to impact it in any way, though the dialogue is well written and the voice acting is quite good. The game is short, the main story being completed in about 4 hours, not withstanding any time you spend just walking around and exploring while not furthering the story.
In conclusion I would say that Firewatch is a decent edition to the walking simulator genre, well worth playing for the graphics and calming quality of hiking through a beautiful forest snapping some screen shots and using the cool in game camera, even though the story falls short and leaves me wanting so much more.