Video game ‘Firewatch’ is more than a safety procedure


Screenshot by Devin King “Firewatch’s” amazing lighting

Screenshot by Devin King "Firewatch's" lighting at work
Screenshot by Devin King
“Firewatch’s” amazing lighting

Devin King | News Editor
Feb. 10, 2016, 2 p.m.

Smokey Bear is a reminder of the importance of preventing forest fires, but game developer Campo Santo’s “Firewatch” is a reminder of the importance of facing your responsibilities. Despite what its title may imply, “Firewatch” is a game that focuses on its troubled characters, rather than actually watching for fires.

“Firewatch” is a first-person adventure game, where the player takes control of Henry (voiced by Rich Sommer), a middle aged volunteer fire lookout, as you explore the Shoshone National Forest.

Taking place in the summer of 1989, Henry has recently reached a low point in his life after helping his wife with an early form of Alzheimer’s. Henry takes the volunteer position after needing to escape for the summer. He is taught the basics of fire watching by his supervisor, Delilah (voiced by Cissy Jones), via walkie-talkie who is in a watchtower faraway. As Henry explores the vicinity, strange events start to occur, such as his watchtower getting broken into while he is away.

Screenshot by Devin King Showcases "Firewatch's" abstract art style
Screenshot by Devin King
Showcases “Firewatch’s” abstract art style

The mystery surrounding the game’s story is what got me quickly engaged, but it was Henry and Delilah that made the experience so enjoyable. Henry really does not go through much character development during the five hours given to finish the game, rather than the game shows the many layers of his character. Henry, originally fun-loving and simple, is a very lonely and confused person in his current state. Delilah, who is appropriately described as “a record you don’t want to flip over” because of her charming conversations with Henry, is sarcastic and spunky, which is a large contrast to Henry’s character.

Even though Delilah is essentially a voice on a walkie-talkie, it is hard not to fall in love with her character. Henry does not interact with any other human beings during his stay in the forest, but Delilah’s cheerful commentary on everything seen makes it feel like the players is exploring the forest with a best friend. I would even goes as far as to compare Delilah’s character to the character Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha in the 2013 film “Her.” The excellent voice acting is a big reason for why this works so well.

Image from The map and compass Henry uses to navigate
Image from
The map and compass Henry uses to navigate

The gameplay, while it is essentially exploring the forest, is still enjoyable thanks to its interactive abilities. As you explore Shoshone National Forest, you are only given a map and a compass to navigate. Even though it is easy to get lost, it makes the game more immersive, and Delilah’s conversations with Henry keep you company as you find your way around.

As the days go by, and Henry explores more of the land, leading to the discovery of different tools that will help reach new areas, such as rope that lets Henry scale down cliffs. It is not much, but it helps mix up the routine of walking from location to location, and invokes an authentic sense of a forest explorer’s experience.

The mystery surrounding “Firewatch” does make for some intense moments during the relatively peaceful experience.  While the Pixar-like graphics give it a pleasant look, there are times in which I was legitimately afraid to turn around corners, prompting me to run back to the watchtower when under the impression that I was being watched. The eerie music during these sequences only makes them more thrilling.

The visuals are jaw-dropping to say the least. The use of bloom lighting and colorful environments makes you stop just to look around and take in the scenery.

The music, composed by Chris Remo, is equally as beautiful as the visuals. When Henry is not talking to Delilah, the music invokes feelings of isolation and a captivation by nature. The instruments impersonate what it sounds like to be in a forest alone, like a base mimicking the sound of a breeze brushing against the top of a tree.

The end of the journey may leave people sad, possibly because of the large emotional impact the game has, or the realization that the adventure with Delilah comes to an end. If there is anything to be sure of, the time spent in Shoshone is unforgettable.

“Firewatch” is available to download on Playstation 4 and Steam.