A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Firewatch is a downloadable adventure that's all about exploration, patience, and wandering a forest while having a story being told to you largely by the environment. You won't see another character out in the woods, only sometimes silhouettes, and your main interactions with others is done through your radio or listening to audio cassettes. You don't kill things or hurt other people. You wander around and talk to people through walkie-talkies, trying to figure out what's going on in the wilderness after a fire. There's frequent use of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as some flirtation between characters, and though you can't use alcohol or drugs, there are some references to beer, whiskey, and marijuana.
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What's it about?
In FIREWATCH, you play as Henry, a 39-year-old man estranged from his wife when she gets diagnosed with early onset dementia and Alzheimer's, causing her family to take her back to Australia. All this happens before the game starts, and the "action" kicks off when you decide to start a job as a fire lookout at the Shoshone National Forest. You hold the job for a single summer, performing various routine tasks until a pair of unruly teenagers drinking in the woods starts pointing you toward something perhaps more sinister happening deeper in the forest -- and learn that you're being framed for it.
Is it any good?
This adventure goes from a slow crawl to a fairly captivating and strange mystery, which means you'll need to stick with it for a bit longer than you might initially like, but it's worth it. There's a learning curve to, essentially, unlearning what a lot of video games have taught you: that you can navigate any area easily thanks to an on-screen mini-map. There's no such thing here, and you have to dutifully consult a compass and map to point yourself in the right direction -- be it to find how to make your way to smoky areas out in the woods or get to a specific creek. Just because you know something is west of where you are doesn't mean you can simply point yourself in that direction and go. You'll need to look all around for drops to take or rock faces to climb. That also means you can, and will, get lost repeatedly. And although the map isn't enormous, it's big enough for you to unintentionally go in circles and loops.
But when the game unfolds as intended, with engaging dialogue between yourself and your boss, Delilah, the game develops extremely well. You buzz in to report on everything you find, and as you're new on the job, she's able to get you up to speed on what you're seeing and where to go next. When the aforementioned mystery -- conspiracy? -- that's best left unspoiled here starts to set in, you'll start wondering whether you can trust Delilah, or whether you can trust the feelings that start to develop between you and she. Do you try to make it work with your wife? Will you survive the summer? Will you end up arrested and implicated for a mysterious crime you didn't commit? These questions all run through your mind as you work through Firewatch, which makes it well worth sticking through to the very end.
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