Firewatch: The Haters Prove How Great This Game Actually Is

I’ve got to confess that I’ve been fighting the urge to really take advantage of the Steam Summer Sale these past couple of days. When I see so many great games with 66% discounts, I have to summon all of my will power to refrain from emptying my PayPal account.

I bought the expansions for Endless Legend (freakin’ awesome game.) I’m about to pull the trigger on Witcher III. But the first game that caught my eye during the sale was an odd “walking simulator” title called Firewatch. The reviews were overall quite good, and the fact that the game was more of an adventure/mystery than anything else had me curious. I love FPS, RPG, and strategy games, but I grew up playing titles like King’s Quest and Goblins, so there will always be a place in my heart for compelling storylines and laid-back walking/clicking.

The game had me hooked from the minute it launched. I played through the entire story in one very long sitting (thankfully, I had no work to do last night) and I spent most of that time on the edge of my seat. The creators of this game really understand how to craft a story and execute that story through an interactive medium. I was not disappointed.
Of course, once the credits rolled at the end, I had one major question: are there alternate endings? I searched out an answer on Google, and the results revealed an entirely different set of Firewatch reviews than those on Steam. Apparently, a buttload of people hate this game — or so they would have you believe. There are hundreds of angry reviewers and commenters who are united in a common complaint: “There’s only one ending!”

These gamers were crapping all over the game because, after going back to play Firewatch through a second time, they realized that their choices would ultimately drive them through the same storyline, albeit with changes to the character interaction throughout the game. This fact led many commenters to call the game worthless garbage, completely not worth playing.

But here’s the funny part. They’re complaining because they were disappointed on the second playthrough! You mean to tell me that a game was good enough to get you to start over from the beginning with hopes of playing it again…but it sucks? That’s like sitting through a movie twice and deeming it unwatchable because you didn’t enjoy it the second time around. If it was so terrible, why did you stick around for the second showing? These bad reviews are ironic as hell, and they should be taken as absolute proof that you should play this game.

The thing to consider here is overall value. I paid something like $12 to play Firewatch. For my investment, I got 6 hours of extremely enjoyable gameplay and an interactive experience that I won’t soon forget. A couple of weeks ago, I paid the same amount to watch “X-Men: Apocalypse” and it was a complete waste of two hours. In my book, when twelve bucks buys me an entire evening of entertainment, that’s not a bad deal. That’s less than I’d pay for dinner out.

Would I have liked to play the game through again? Absolutely. I wanted to do so the second the credits popped on the screen. The problem is that I have no desire to play through (almost) the same game again. Even with major changes to the character dialogue, it’s still the same story. Will I play it through again in a couple of months? Probably. (I’ve read the same Robert Jordan books dozens of times, and their endings never change either.) But the immediate replay value isn’t really there in Firewatch.

My point is that there’s no reason why it has to have immediate replay value. Some gaming god didn’t roll down from Mount Atari to decree that all games must have multiple endings. And there’s no reason why people should get butthurt and judge the game poorly because they could only play through it once.

I’d also like to point out that many of the reviewers also complained that they didn’t understand the ending, or that the ending didn’t make sense. This tells me that they didn’t bother to examine the clues, read the notes, and put the pieces together for themselves — all things that you’re kind of supposed to do in a mystery setting. If you made the decision to blow through the “waypoints” as quickly as possible, then you’re the stooge who decided to play an adventure game in the same manner you’d play Call of Duty. Don’t blame the writers for that.

Spoiler: One commenter even said that he was hoping the cable on the tram in the final scene would snap, “resulting in a race to the finish to be rescued.” So he basically said that he wanted the final scene in Firewatch to be exactly like every single mission ending in Modern Warfare. Clearly these types don’t award points for originality, and I can’t take any review seriously when it complains that a game is NOT derivative.

Firewatch Alternate Endings: A Potential Gold Mine

I don’t know much about how these games are coded, but the developers of Firewatch might be sitting on a cash cow. If they came up with a way to release alternate story lines as DLC, I would be on board to buy every single one. I don’t care if the terrain changes, or even the major setpieces. I can’t imagine it would be very difficult to change the story progression by tweaking a few things here or there…and the fact that completely different stories could be played out through almost the same scenery would be an impressive feat in itself.

More Spoilers:

What are some possibilities? There actually were government agencies in the park and they started the fires to provide cover for an alien landing a la “Close Encounters.” And of course, the popular red herring of Delilah not even existing could be interesting. The fact that you end up in her watchtower at the very end of the game leaves a lot of potential. What if you enter the watchtower and find similar experiment notes proving that she was part of the whole conspiracy? (Oh, and no helicopter is actually on the way in that one.)

The possibilities are limitless even with minor changes. If nothing else, I hope Firewatch proves successful enough to warrant more games of its ilk. I like setting people on fire with rainbows as much as the next guy, but games like this one provide a much welcome reprieve from shooters.

All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!

J. Paul

I'm a professional writer and amateur filmmaker from Miami, Florida. Huge fan of the Dark Tower Cycle, strategy games, photography, and food trucks.

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