Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Firewatch Review I hope there's a mod to use guns

The majesty of nature! The beautiful work of minimalist artist Olly Moss finally captured in game form. It's like the polar opposite of the sprite driven madness of a Paul Robertson chaos game, but playable. Mercenary Kings and Curses and Chaos are not playable. I am one with nature, exploring it and absorbing all the vast wilderness in a hue of colors of fall to spring. From canyons to forests, to lakes and caves, the land I see before me is a diverse environment to lose myself in. They should have an in-game sketch mode where you try and doodle your best impressions of the flora and fauna.

Now to blow it all straight to Hell! Eat death nature! Oh, what a lovely pine tree, enjoy a grenade! How about lead in your face beautiful and spacious valley that took millions of years to form. I'm forming something right here. Enjoy my AK-47 and "Rocket Launcher of  "El Fuego" as I mow down all there is in existence. Now die!!! Let it all burn! Firewatch, let the sky grow dark with plumes of hate as the forest dies!

So that's a mod that I think will one day exist to make the creators weep like the guy who created BioShock Infinite did when he found all that porn online for his character Elizabeth. Though it would be hard to find porn for this... Anyway, you won't be killing soldiers or blowing up the scenery in Firewatch. It's a very simple exploration game that sets most of it's mood by the conversation.

Where it would have also be fun to have a mod where you're not talking on a walkie-talkie and  instead you've imagined the voice of a women in your head, instead you are talking with someone, Delilah. You are Henry, a man searching to escape, not murder, but your wife's mental trauma. Sheesh, off to a happy start for this game. You really are, happy that is, at least at the start. And though not narrated for some reason you learn about Henry's love of Julia whose been having some severe memory problems to start off the game. Then you hear Delilah, your only voice for the summer in the woods. The game begins.

You, Delilah and yourself are exploring the Wyoming wilderness in 1989. Really your paid to report seeing any fires; why the game is called Firewatch. Delilah is your world in that she is your guiding voice, technically your boss, friend and confidant. She's also very funny and silly and wants you to enjoy yourself as you grow closer together only hearing each others voices.

You can choose different dialogue options which changes how Delilah will talk to you. I accidentally made her so angry once she just flat-out stopped talking to me and it hurt. I didn't meant to, but you know, "women." Oh, sexist joke, but not to give the wrong impression, my Delilah started with a Devil-May-Cry attitude and seemed like she could take me asking some questions.

...You get absorbed to the level you could comment that Delilah is a friend of yours and "you have issues."

It's not hard to say that you think Henry and Delilah get it on at some point in the game. Two people alone in the woods with nothing else to do.

Impressive dialogue through-out made the game one of the most intriguing to start the year. Much better than let's say the moments you did talk to Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite in-between the killing and meta ideas about traveling through dimensions.

This simple talking and exploration of the wilderness that changes by area makes a fulfilling game of free wander. This exploration is the same that has been described by countless others in poems and songs about the real US wilderness. Speeches about how stepping into nature just breathing it all in changes someone. Is it strange a game shows us something that we should actually do, just explore nature.

Mystery is abound, the game has an overall story that's ruined by revealing too much. The creators of the game in a recent Wired interview divulged wanting little to be revealed of the story in review or it's ruined. To wet your appetite let's just say some annoying teen girls go missing and you're the last person to see them. Some unidentified weirdo starts to mess with you and someones messing with the phone lines.

For someone in the woods trying to escape it all, things are getting intense and with little else going on you do at times question the sanity of your host or at least what's actually going-on. So does Delilah and this sets in  aparanoia which can be a good or bad thing. In a place where your all alone it might not be such a bad idea to watch your back, on the other hand a clear and calm level head may also be needed. That leads to some serious thinking about what might happen to you next.

This long trail you have to follow does lead you around, making you explore more of the map. It's a sneaky great way to make you explore more to try and figure out everything that's going on.

Gameplay is rather simple, there's no timed-events or extreme platforming it's more or less just exploring the wilderness. Look at your map, a prompt to climb or rappel, that's it.

You build a map with your own notes on it of where you've explored and get a little update about it from stashes found around the map. Getting into a new stash, just a simple locked box, will always give you a little satisfaction. A few notes from others and a little more info for your map just give you a sense of slight accomplishment.

As the game goes on or at least the last level a change to the environment becomes noticeable that it's almost lifted from a novel, like the build-up of the mood of the story has expressed itself for a conclusion.

It's hard to say, but the end of the story, the true end is a way to put it, left me a bit depressed and wanting a bit more. "How could it end that way, " was sort of my thought when so much more of it was a build up. It's a build-up without enough of end for me and I think that's what the writers wanted, but I hate films like that. In a way it's like a Ghibli-Miyazkai movie, a beautiful look with a somewhat-where-are-we-going ending.

My PS4 version of game did have some problems. Sometimes when I grabbed objects. like a turtle, my hand would overlap it making my hand sort of melded turtle hand man. Worse times, I managed to walk into areas blocked by invisible borders. I took a jaunt and saw how much of the backgrounds were real by stepping on some branches I assume were left for me. The worst event was when the game couldn't load the next level and the game froze on the load screening. After restarting, the game forgot to ask me some dialogue and I wondered for a while before having to come back to start a dialogue cue.

With the forest burning around me, a voice in my head and the paranoia of someone or some people out to get me I soon lost track of time and my summer came to an end. The wilderness took me in and cared for me as I would transverse it looking for answers. Would all the answers I seek be there at the end? Would I ever see my darling Julia and would she remember me?

Can't wait for the gun mod for no reason.

Firewatch is out now for Windows, Mac, Linux, and PS4.

*In the game you'll get a disposable camera to take shots of all the splendor. It turns out with the Steam version you can have those shots turned into real photos that will be sent to you from a fictional in-game photo service.  I'm sad I've been playing the PS4 version...which does not have that option. Cost? $15. Worldwide free shipping.
Reviewer was given copy by publisher for review purposes