Forests usually play one of three roles in video games: invisible walls, adventure playgrounds, or harbingers of death filled with all manners of terror. At best, they're interesting pieces of level geometry. But soon, Firewatch will bring us back to loving our tree friends, and protecting them from the fires that threaten to destroy them. It's begging for a mash-up with Bear Simulator.
On the surface, Firewatch is a game about preventing forest fires. You're a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness, checking for smoke on the horizon all through your endless, hot days. But the voice on the other end of your radio suggests the real meat of the story lies in a relationship - and not a particularly stable one. There's no detailed gameplay description anywhere, but the trailer and generous development blog offers a few hints. It's "a single-player, first-person exploration mystery." There will be object manipulation, including something that requires detailed rope physics. There will be combination locks. There will be walking, typing, and radio-ing. Yes, the lonely, emotional atmosphere here feels like Gone Home, but with more immediately dramatic stakes, and I'm excited to see how that manifests. I'm hoping for a game where the looming forest fire threat mirrors a slowly cracking relationship between its two lead characters, and if I don't get that, I'm not above starting fires of my own in a certain development studio.
But I'd probably feel sad razing Firewatch's developers to the ground, as Campo Santo is a superstudio of sorts. In this, their debut game, they've brought together talent previously of The Walking Dead, BioShock 2, Mark of the Ninja, The Cave, and Gone Home - a formidable list. Most intriguingly, its visual design comes courtesy of increasingly famed artist Olly Moss, whose Mondo artwork likely graces the walls of many Badass Digest readers.
And it shows: I mean, that colour palette, everybody. Phwoarr.
[Side note: I'm travelling across the United States through most of September, including a week in Austin for Fantastic Fest and Fantastic Arcade. A handful of high-profile games will be released during this period; I promise to review them, if nobody else at BAD gets there first, but the reviews will come a little late. In the meantime, I might see you this month - likely without either of us realising it.]