*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Firewatch*
I open my eyes and I am living the life of a man name Henry. Through blocks of text and dialogue options I am given the history of Henry & his wife. I’ve only read maybe a page or two of text, yet I already feel that I know these people. The story builds itself within this simple text presentation. As it goes along I feel that I know where this is going but then it hits. Your wife has dementia.
This early on plot point caught me extremely off guard. I didn’t think that within 10 minutes something so devastating could happen. Full disclosure, I’ve never had a game make me “feel” something before. I always hear about people that had a game bring tears to their eyes or just really captured them emotionally. This never happened to me, until now.
As Henry you take the coward’s way out. You take a job as a fire lookout far far away from real life. This is your way of not dealing with the atomic bomb that was just dropped on your life. As you get reacquainted with your surroundings you’re met by a female voice on the end of a walkie talkie. Her name is Delilah. She’s going to be the person you connect with on this journey.
Throughout your adventure you grow a friendship/relationship with Delilah. How that plays out depends on your responses to her. As you continue throughout the story you grow close to Delilah. Part of it is connecting with someone who is still themselves, part of it not being alone. You’ll have a hard time not feeling a connection to these characters. Everything from the writing to the voice acting is absolutely superb. You believe the struggles that Henry & Delilah go through. You feel for them. You almost want to cheer on something happening between them.
Campo Santo has created a space in time that feels so alive. While your play-through will only last between 4 to 5 hours you will feel as if you’ve lived 79 days in this park. To go with the brilliant voice acting & writing we also have a beautiful art direction and a beautiful soundtrack to boot.
Now I know I’m coming to this game late. People have played it and forgotten about it. Since it’s release I’ve heard negative things following the game. I avoided it. I was wrong. The biggest complaint I’ve heard was the ending. Now I will admit that that the suspenseful twist that leads to the end was very anti climatic. After having a few days to let it soak in I realized that what happened makes sense in the way the world exists.
While the mystery that is introduced in the game keeps you pushing, it was the relationship between Henry & Delilah that I really wanted to see play out. As the days come to a close and the mystery starts to wrap up you get this glimmer of hope that you will both finally meet each other. I knew that it wasn’t going to happen but I still kept hoping I was wrong. After uncovering the game’s mystery I have a talk with Delilah to tell her I’m on my way. Wait for me, please! She tells me she’ll wait, and I believe her.
I start sprinting to her tower thinking that she will be there waiting for me. I spring up the stairs trying not to trip. As I reach her door theres no one in there. She left and I’ve never felt more disappointed & upset before in a game. After a very deep conversation between the two you leave as well with the credits rolling shortly after.
When I say upset I dont mean at the developers for not giving me closure to the story. I was upset with Delilah. The fact that she left after I asked her to stay. This was when I knew I finally “felt” something. Sure, with past video games I’ve felt excitement and fear. Those come natural when you’re a hero in the story or trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. Firewatch made me forget I was playing a game. I was heart broken that she couldn’t stay.