I strongly believe that analysing is an extremely important skill to develop whether it is about life choices, art, people, games or movies. This is why I have decided to publish my part of the analysis of Firewatch done with friends at the university.
This game is not like the others; it does not involve killing or levels, it is about the story and exploring. A true masterpiece.
Firewatch is a first person adventure video game developed by Campo Santo and officially released on February 9, 2016. It was created using Unity3D game engine for PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS.
The game takes place in 1989 in North America. The player takes control of Henry, a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness who is assigned a special tower. While exploring the area, Henry discovers some indications about occurrences happening mysteriously in the surroundings that seem to be related to the destruction of his tower. In addition, he notices a shadowy figure that occasionally appears to watch him.
The only communication method possible is through walkie-talkie with Henry's sarcastic supervisor Delilah, which will be brought later in this analysis.
One of the main reasons Firewatch stands out from other games is the very beginning. The developers chose to immerse the player into the story using an original manner. Indeed as soon as the game starts, the player either chooses what happens next or is the one answering Julia, Henry's wife suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
The red sentence is what the player is supposed to interact with. Some of the conversation interactions are a choice between multiple answers.
The game designer is actually interacting directly with the player by using the pronoun "you".
This choice changes the rest of the conversation, as seen in the next figure.
The choices in the conversations of the previous screen shots were mostly about getting the player acquainted with the story. However, it goes deeper than this. Throughout the entire game, the player is supposed to speak to Delilah. With the use of conversations, secrets about Julia are revealed and the story gets clearer and clearer with time. Most of the time the player has the choice of what to answer to Delilah. The answers allow the character to mirror the personality of the player and they define the relation between Henry and Delilah.
This makes the game only more realistic and more immersive as it feels like it is the player's own life inside the game.
Looking at the bigger picture, Delilah's character could be seen as the personification of the unattainable escape in virtual reality that many players seek in video games. Her character feels so real to the point in which the player falls in love and leaves his rings on the table. However, no matter how close he gets to her, do everything to please her, Delilah will always be far and there is no way for Henry to touch her nor see her face.
Something else that makes Firewatch fun is that the player is actually able to interact with nearly any object of the game.
For instance, it is possible to interact with books, notes, ropes, alcoholic drinks and much more. Some of these objects could be used later in the game. For example, a rope to climb, a book to read or even alcohol to save for later.
The possible interaction solutions are in the bottom right part of the screen.
During the entire game, Delilah gives Henry instructions to follow.
When a clue appears, you need to report it to her in order to get new instructions.
This implies that the player has control over when to get to the next goal, leaving him the option to walk and discover the open world.
Firewatch is artistically tremendous. Undoubtedly, one thing that plays an important role is the audio. As the game starts, some relaxing piano music is played that seemed to attract every player.
That music does not keep looping, as other instruments appear such as guitar to make another relaxing music. As the player goes alone in a mountain, the audio keeps him into the game.
For instance, when the shadowy figure appears, or when a dramatic event happens such as the death of a character (at the end of the game), the music instantly changes into a dramatic song, enhancing the feeling.
Moreover, the artwork gives the feeling that everything is rich, detailed and uniquely designed as if every moment could be a computer screen saver.
The previous figure is an in-game screen shot that shows a sunset.
The analysis of the picture shows how realistically detailed the artwork is. For example, as the sunset starts, stars show up progressively and shine more and more as the sun goes down. The water reflection of the sun is interesting as well. The water part in the same direction as the sun light shines more than the other parts, as in real life. Last but not least, The colors are well chosen. This mix of red, yellow and orange creates the perfect aspect of a sunset.
This artwork is extremely important for the game itself since it psychologically influences the player as he seems to find a connection with the real world through beautiful environments.
Moreover, at the end of the game, the forest is burned as seen in this figure.
In this in-game screen shot, one could not help but notice how the trees are burned and how the environment changes and reacts to the burning area. This aesthetic part of the game adds more realism than ever.
For what type of player is Firewatch? It is mainly a game for explorers and socializers type of players because of the extreme importance of interaction. Indeed, the player is connected to the world and interacts with it nearly every moment and Delilah makes sociability an important aspect.
If assigned to a unified play style, there is no shadow of doubt that it would go with the Rational/Explorer/Simulationist as puzzles and theories are main parts of the game as well as the Idealist/Socializer/Narrativist play style since it also involves storytelling and cooperation.
We are currently working on an infiltration/stealth game with my interdisciplinary team using Unity3D. It will be available soon in the "MY PROJECTS" page.
Ahmed Ahres, 20.