Firewatch Preview

Only YOU can prevent wildfires.

This is the woods. If there's one thing Firewatch wants to say, it's that video games typically have environments with animals who all want to attack you and there's almost always some point of interest in the immediate distance. That's a core part of the fantasy that video games bring to the table. But that's not really how most places are and perhaps players don't appreciate the tranquility of an actual forest. You're lucky if you find any animal in the wild in the first place and that doesn't run away at the first sight of you. And the forest, especially somewhere in the middle of Wyoming where there's hardly anything but rocks and pines, is uncomplicated.

Of course, there needs to be something that holds Firewatch together as more than just a simulation; in this case, it's a mystery. You play the role of Henry, a stocky man who needs some solace after a few rough years and takes the job of a watcher, about a year after the infamous Yellowstone fires of 1988. Needing piece and quiet, you stumble into the watchtower on the first day after few days of hiking, and you radio into the only other person you have contact with in the entire game: your main supervisor, Delilah.

In the demo at PlayStation Experience 2015, developer Nels Anderson eluded that there may be a reason for the wildfires, a reason which Henry will likely stumble upon later in the game. Delilah seems to be a pleasant enough person, and her responses to your replies—if you choose to report into her—are typically humorous and relatable. But as Henry discovers mysterious caves in his area as well as his tower being ransacked seemingly by a mysterious figure at the end of the demo, she may know more than she lets on.

Traveling around the woods, you'll need your trusty map and compass to navigate where to go next—like a lake where some teenagers are shooting fireworks—and find rope and other materials in locked caches. The Shoshone National Forest isn't terribly expansive, at least in the demo I experienced (though it was the first day in the game), so you probably won't get too lost. Firewatch operates much like a Telltale game with a much larger world in this regard. There are some Native American installations around like a Medicine Wheel, and there are probably a few more relics like these around, but not so many that you forget that there's a reason why this is called a National Forest and not a National Park.

At any rate, Firewatch will bring out your inner Ron Swanson, a desire to explore a landscape unsoiled by human hands and to get away from human beings in general. It will release for PC, Mac, Linux, and PlayStation 4 on February 9, 2016 at around the $20 mark.