It’s disappointing that, even as Generation X moves steadily into middle age, the games designed to appeal to the First Video Game Generation are still saddled with the campy, melodramatic conventions of comic books, B movies, and television.
Other than Kentucky Route Zero, Portal and possibly Dear Esther, there isn’t much to recommend in the interactive experience category if one is a well-read, well-watched adult with little ingrained patience for complex control schemes and video gamey tropes.
I was really getting into Firewatch. There was some interesting meat there. Two strangers, separated by space, getting to know each other over the radio, possibly the subject of an unethical study, lonely, rough backstories full of mistakes and regret, good characterization, decent voice acting…
And then suddenly there was all this pseudo-thriller drammuh – property destruction, violence, missing teenage girls, a dead kid, a survivalist loner, and a bunch of strained emotive voice acting that sounded like two people trying desperately to overcome constipation.
Why is it that video game audiences demand Big, Dumb Thrill Rides? Firewatch could have been a really interesting, branching, gorgeous love story. Instead, it had to hang on to a rickety scaffold of Dramatic Conflict to sell itself to the perpetually bored, adrenaline junkie crowd and the games reviewers who pander to them.
I found the “thrilling” aspects of Firewatch to be a distracting annoyance from the gorgeous scenery and budding friendship of Henry and Delilah. The title’s insistence on inventing stuff for the player to DO, spoiled character building and a setting that should have been allowed to just BE.
In the end, I was just pushing through the actiony, fetchy, double backy bits of the experience in the vain hope that there might be some kind of emotional payoff for the two main characters. There was, kinda. I appreciate that Firewatch did not conclude with a dramatic uniting of the characters, even going so far as to not show what Delilah looked like. I liked that both characters shared many intense moments, but then separated to return to the lives from which they fled. That’s a very adult ending, but their relationship could have been developed a bit more to give the ending more punch.
I’m really don’t mean to dog on Firewatch. I asks a fair price for a very polished few hours of time. It pushes the art of the possible further into adult territory for interactive experiences. It’s the fact that it comes so close to greatness that makes it a bitter disappointment for those searching for something that isn’t shootybang idiocy.