Why ‘Firewatch’ Could Be the Next Indie Hit

Travis Newton

If you enjoy Telltale’s adventure games like The Walking Dead or Tales From the Borderlands, you might’ve heard that former Telltale designers Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin formed a new studio, Campo Santo. Their first game, Firewatch, comes out tomorrow, Feb. 9, and so far the indie gaming community has been really receptive to what they’re doing with it. The trailers are stunning, the screenshots are beautiful, and fans like me love the little bit of gameplay we’ve seen so far.

So What Is Firewatch?

Campo Santo has described the game as a “first-person, narrative-based exploration game with Metroidvania structure in a humungous outdoor world.” You get all that? Metroidvania style games work like the old Metroid or Castlevania games do (hence the portmanteau), which means the game isn’t entirely linear. The player explores a large world that gradually gets larger as the player acquires abilities and/or keys to unlock new areas. The player will have to retrace their steps, returning to places they’ve already visited, using new skills or information to progress in the game. The recent indie hit Gone Home used a similar structure to beautiful effect, but on a much smaller scale than Firewatch.

What’s It About?

The game takes place in the summer of 1989, in a huge Wyoming forest. You play as Henry, a guy who drinks a bit too much and whose marriage is on the rocks. He takes a job with the Forestry Service as a fire lookout, seeking peace and solitude. He’s a long way from his Colorado home. His only companion in the wilderness is his supervisor, Delilah, but she can only be reached on the radio.

When Henry’s watchtower is vandalized, a strange series of events begins to unfold and Henry must trek through caves and over streams to solve the mystery.

Who Is Firewatch for?

This is a mystery game most suited for adults. Henry and Delilah don’t hold back on their swearing, and the game deals with some heavy stuff. Henry’s marriage is about to end, but sharp-eyed players will notice that Henry still wears his wedding ring, despite being alone in the woods. There’s a definite melancholy in the game, and it appears to get a bit creepy in spots. If you were into Gone Home, this is probably right up your alley.

Players should also be aware that Firewatch has been rated ‘M’ by the ESRB for sexual themes, nudity, drug and alcohol references, and strong language. I love that indie games are starting to explore dramatic conflict in ways we don’t really see in the AAA market, focusing on intimate emotional conflicts that often catch players off-guard.

Who Made It Look so Beautiful?


Olly Moss, the English conceptual artist who designed the beautiful covers for the Harry Potter e-books and my favorite Star Wars posters ever, is the visual master behind Firewatch.

His bold, colorful style bursts from every location and item in the game. Campo Santo built the game in Unity, providing a solid foundation for Firewatch‘s lush outdoor environments and moody lighting. This will be an immersive and largely uninterrupted world for Henry to explore.

When Can I Get It?

Firewatch hits PC, Mac, and PS4 this coming Tuesday, Feb. 9. If you’re as excited as we are about Firewatch, go pre-order it on the official website.

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Travis Newton
Travis Newton is a Fan Contributor at Fandom. He began writing about movies and TV for CHUD.com in 2012, and co-hosts The Drew Reviews Podcast with Fandom Entertainment Editor Drew Dietsch. He’s partial to horror movies, action games, and Irish Breakfast tea.
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