Worth $15 and 5 hours of my life?   Uh, huh. Yeah. Definitely

Can my kid play this?    The whole game feels very “adult,” not in a porny sort of way but it a very heavy sort of way. There’s also a fair amount of a colorful language and a bit of sexual innuendo. I’d say no to the under-17 kiddo on this one. They won’t get it.

How many potato chips (out of 5)?   4.5

I know, I know. I’m late to the Firewatch party. This open-world adventure game from Camp Santo has been out since last February (2016) and made numerous Game of the Year lists. My tardiness, however, meant I picked it up on Steam for 40 percent off ($11.99) instead of the usual $20.

If you read my last post, The game isn’t meant for you, you know I like games heavy on story and low on giving an adrenaline rush for the sake of an adrenaline rush. So Firewatch? It was practically perfect.

You start the game with a series of dialogue choices that unveil a compelling story right from the beginning. Whereas most games would throw in a cutscene or a voiceover for this part, with Firewatch, you are immediately immersed as the main actor – Henry – in defining what’s happening in the world around you. I won’t spoil the main premise behind the game, but your actions lead you to a summer as a fire lookout in the Shoshone National Forest in the 1980’s.

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It’s here that the game really stands out. The layout of the world encourages you to explore without wasting your time. There are hidden joys to be found if you play around, or you can move straight through the engaging story with your unseen cohort, Delilah. Delilah is your boss, ensconced in a lookout tower you can see but can’t get to unless the game leads you there. Side note:  Here’s what happens if you try to hike to Delilah’s tower early. 

Delilah is the perfect guy’s gal – witty, sarcastic, sexy. Who cares if she possibly looks like the Red Woman minus her necklace? Her voice is the only connection Henry has as he attempts to unravel a mystery that appears to have dire personal consequences both him and Delilah.

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The mystery is the only reason I’m giving this 4.5 potato chips instead of a solid 5. There are a few central mysteries and seem to all be connected – or perhaps they’re totally normal and are just a manifestation of Henry’s paranoia after being alone for so long. I love the psychological unease, but the way the mysteries wrapped up left me scratching my head.

As I mentioned earlier, open-world exploration is encouraged but in a somewhat confined manner. Some areas are gated by ravines or fences until later stages of the storyline. The trails, while they may be hard to follow, are your main conduits for exploration. I found the map and compass system intuitive and easy to use. Actually, I learned a lot about myself as I ran in a blind panic in the last few minutes of the game. I finally calmed down and forced myself to make deliberate, fact-based actions. Hopefully I’ll never have to hearken back to this virtual experience to survive in a backwoods emergency, but you never know…

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As far as replayability, it’s pretty low. There are a few achievements to chase, but for the most part, once you’re finished with the game, there’s not a lot of reason to go back. I still need to get attacked by a raccoon – that may be the only time that sentence has ever been written – but I completed everything else in about 6 hours of game play.

I mentioned it’s not a kid friendly game. My 10-year-old ninja wouldn’t sleep for a week if he tried to play this game. The atmospheric creepiness of some sections would come back to haunt him (and thus, me) at 2 a.m. But beyond that, the game is very focused on complex human relationships that are outside the grasp of all but perhaps the most mature teenagers.

In a nut shell, I’m in love with this game. The scenery is beautiful, the voice acting is superb, the story line is heart-wrenching and the pacing is seamless. You forget you’re playing a game and feel like you’re living a life. More like this, please. Lots more.

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