I have to write something about this.
So, I've been having a fishing line out for a game called Firewatch ever since I saw Ron Gilbert twittering his interest in the game way back. Looked nice, I like story and character driven media. Then I heard about the polarizing views on its length and an unsatisfying ending and so I decided to wait until it got cheap. Well, today it got really cheap, and I thought I could at least install and play it over the weekend. In the end I couldn't put it down until it was over, and I have to write something down to let off some good steam.
I'd say it's one of the best of its kind, and a very good example of some of the strengths of games compared to books, music, and films. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but here I go again: books are great for driving a story while our own minds paint landscapes between and inside characters, music I cannot really describe in a good way (goes deeper somehow?), and films join the two and present to us a much more tangible version that we wouldn't imagine ourselves but that is very easy to digest. Games can go the extra mile of putting us on the spot in the moment, and let the player control much of the flow of time and where to be, and in some cases choices. As I've grown older I've started to appreciate choices that have no technical long term effects in a game, before I thought they were stupid and pointless. The connection between the player and the two main characters in Firewatch is more than I've ever felt before. The time in the forest did some strange stuff to me too, but the intro was rather forced and alien to me, I'm guessing a fixed intro would have worked better. Some of the tools were a bit cumbersome and broke the flow of things, but it wasn't too bad. I'll remember the paths, places, mornings, and conversations for a very long time.
The ending. The beautiful ending. I can see why people don't like it, it's so real. No fireworks (well, the setting and environment were very powerful), just a reminder. But if it didn't break your heart just a little bit, you don't have one. If you want a fairy tale ending, don't play this. If you want a luke warm ending, maybe play this. If you're ready for feels, play this. Still not as heavy as Spoorloos, my goodness that ending almost killed me.
If I knew it would be this good, I would have bought it for more money. And now I'll need to watch some otters to cheer up and then go to bed :)