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Have You Played... Firewatch?

Taking off for the woods

The Two Forks Lookout station watch tower in Firewatch, viewed from the forest floor below.
Image credit: Panic/Campo Santo

When listing off my favourite games, I'm shamefully likely to neglect to mention Firewatch. This is probably because Firewatch isn't a game that had some huge formative impact on me, or reframed my entire relationship with gaming, or became an enduring obsession of my hyperfixation-prone brain. Firewatch is, quite simply, a very lovely game, and one that I happily revisit on a fairly regular basis.

I think the main draw of Firewatch, for me, is the forest. I am one of those people who's often happiest on a day-long hike into the middle of nowhere; and when life doesn't provide me with the opportunity to do something as often as I'd like, I'll turn to thematically appropriate video games to tide me over.

Don't get me wrong: Firewatch's central story of Henry and Delilah is a good one, and the marvellous Cissy Jones deservedly picked up a BAFTA for her performance as the latter. But the free-roam mode is, to my mind, just as important for ensuring Firewatch's enduring appeal.

More games should just let you explore their environments once you've finished mucking about in the story, and there's something especially delightful about how Firewatch's long stretches of timeless wilderness are suddenly punctuated with little abandoned tableaus of life in the late 1980s. Who could ever forget the moment of pushing through a dense thicket, only to find themselves in a secret chill-out spot set up by a previous lookout, and this perfect song in a nearby cassette player:

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That's a scene you can only see in free-roam, to the best of my knowledge, and yet to me it's the most iconic moment in all of Firewatch. Just taking a quiet moment in a scenic spot, watching the day/night cycle, with no objectives to pull me away. Not quite a real-life walk in the woods, but dare I say it: almost as good as the real thing.

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