Despite the best efforts of my video card and Windows 10 to stop me, I recently completed Campo Santo’s Firewatch, an adventure game. It’s become the favourite thing I’ve played in the past year, I think, partially for its design, but also for the way it’s unafraid to put story first, mechanics second.
The game takes place in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest, a wilderness of almost 10,000 square kilometres. It’s 1989, the year after the calamitous Yellowstone fires, and you play the part of Henry, a bearded, chubby dude (voiced by Rich Sommer, Mad Men‘s Harry Crane) who takes a summer job as a fire watcher to place some distance between himself and his life’s problems.
(I don’t want to explain the problems too much – there’s a surprising amount of determining your own variant of the story in its opening minutes, and they’re certainly emotional.) (more…)