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Game Reviewed: Firewatch
Developer: Campo Santo
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
ESRB Rating: M
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Firewatch is, generally speaking, a very laid-back experience. It follows Henry, a man whose wife is suffering from early-onset dementia. When her family takes her to live with them, Henry escapes from his difficult life by taking a summer job out in the Wyoming wilderness, watching for fires, completely cut off from the rest of civilization. His only contact is Delilah, the woman in the next watchtower over.
As you can probably tell, the game’s setting and themes are notably different from what most video games have to offer, and the gameplay is a match. The player explores the wilderness as various things come up, and there’s no combat or survival elements. Instead, the engagement comes in the player’s interaction with Deliah; as the story continues and it becomes clear that something’s not right, the player chooses how to act toward her and interact with her as they explore the area and uncover the game’s narrative.
You may be able to tell from that description that children may or may not have the disposition to enjoy such a slow-paced game, but if your kid has a taste for the more subtle, story-centric side of gaming, you’ll want to take the following content into consideration.
What Parents Need to Know
There’s no on-screen violence portrayed. The player suffers a short fall at one point and blacks out, and is knocked out at another point (the actual hit is not seen since the game is played in first-person). Later in the game, a body is found that has clearly been there for some time.
The F-word, S-word, and other relatively minor expletives (ass, damn, etc.) are used throughout.
The player sees a nude drawing of the player character, which differs depending on a choice the player makes near the beginning of the game. It’s a simple drawing, but includes the character’s penis.
Nothing of note.
Alcohol is referenced on multiple occasions, and Delilah is drunk on the radio at one point.
The main character could be described as pretty selfish, even with the player’s input. It is also possible to make some morally questionable decisions (i.e. lying about your involvement with life-threatening situations). Generally speaking, both Henry and Delilah make questionable decisions, and the game wants the player to consider them, not necessarily agree with them.
Firewatch is one of the better games of its genre to release in quite a while. With a unique visual style, a compelling story, and some truly excellent voice acting, it manages to create a unique experience that’s refreshingly laid-back at some points, unbearably tense at others, and gives the player a whole lot to think about after the credits roll.
The lack of traditional “gameplay” will certainly turn some people off; if you’re looking for a game where you get to fight people and save the universe, this will disappoint you. But if you’re looking for a deeply personal story about two flawed people running from life’s problems in the deep wilderness, Firewatch has the potential to leave a genuine impact on you.
That said, it might be a bit much for children. That choice is ultimately yours, of course, but between the strong language and the mature themes it may be a bit much. Though honestly if a kid can handle the content, and could get something out of the difficult topics this story deals with, I’d happily let them play it.