Developer: Campo Santo
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
There's something almost magical about the woods. Leave home, turn off the highway, stop in the lot of some larger park or in a roadside clearing for a trail, venture onto a path, and the civilization that was so close suddenly seems so distant. It's just you and the woodlands, and there's a sense of mystery and awe around every bend, over every hill, atop each peak and outlook. Even if you've walked the same trail before, it can feel new and just as compelling. I've played a lot of open world games, traversed a lot of digital forests, and none have captured that atmosphere as well as Firewatch. The engaging intimate story almost feels like a wonderful extra, wrapped up in the game's gorgeous setting and feeling of discovery and exploration.
From your tower, you grab your pack and your radio, and venture into the park. The environment isn't the largest open world in gaming, but it's sprawling enough that you need to use a trail map and compass to orient yourself, use landmarks and marked supply caches to find your way to locations. Later on, you gain new tools and items that let you explore previously inaccessible areas, such as climbing rope to rappel down steep slopes.
My stint as a lookout lasted around five hours, each one compelling and interesting. The hard cuts between days and weeks lets the game present its moments of calm, of mystery, of downtime and conversation at a measured meticulous pace and keep the story moving along without filler.
Steam and PS4.