When people think of Xbox games, certain things generally come to mind. Those games tend to look more like Halo or Gears of War than an independently-developed walking simulator like Firewatch. However, that doesn’t mean small games haven’t found a place on the console or on Xbox’s Game Pass subscription service.
Firewatch arrived on Xbox Game Pass in December, leading to a renewed interest in the emotional adventure game. Xbox executive Sarah Bond was among those impressed with Campo Santo’s narrative masterpiece, tweeting out an endorsement yesterday evening. It was seconded by the official Game Pass Twitter account a few hours later.
Bond heads Microsoft’s gaming business development team. That means she’s responsible for managing Xbox’s partnership with other developers. She also seems to be a fan of indie games, tweeting out endorsements for titles like Echo Generation and the above-mentioned Firewatch. She said of Firewatch, “This gem is an emotional journey that will make you appreciate all aspects of life.”
For those unfamiliar with the game, Firewatch is a first-person adventure game developed by Campo Santo Productions. Set in 1989, players take the role of a fire lookout named Henry, working in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest. About a month into his job, strange things begin happening to Henry and his supervisor Delilah, who players communicate with over a walkie-talkie. The player never sees Delilah in person, adding to the game’s atmosphere of mystery and self-imposed isolation. Players use dialogue choices to set the tone of Henry’s relationship with Delilah and shape the story as they attempt to uncover the cause of strange occurrences around the forest.
Former Telltale Game writers Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin founded Campo Santo in 2013. Both worked on Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Firewatch doesn’t have any zombies, but Campo Santo continues Telltale’s tradition of narrative-focused games with highly stylized art direction. In the case of Firewatch, the game’s aesthetics draw inspiration from New Deal-era National Park posters.
Firewatch was released to critical acclaim in 2016. Critics praised the writing and voice performances, which breathed a lot of emotional life into the game. It also isn’t afraid to tackle serious themes, exploring the loss of a loved one from dementia and Henry’s struggle to rediscover his place in the world. However, it isn’t afraid to subvert both Henry’s and the player’s expectations in realistic and emotional ways.
While the game is short, it’s very emotional, and it’s easy to see why many people, Sarah Bond included, found Firewatch so moving. As she mentioned in her tweet, Firewatch arrived on Xbox Game Pass in December. That means Game Pass subscribers have no excuse not to check out the masterpiece of interactive storytelling.
Firewatch is available on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
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