Tag Archives: Reviews

Opinions on… Thomas Was Alone

“Minimalist” is a term that can be interpreted in a bunch of different ways. A lot of the time it’s all about a lack of material possessions, keeping only what you really need to live a good life. At other points it’s the absence of complicated visuals; the presence of something that is simple yet appealing to look at, with no sharp corners or brash colours to distract the eye. Or sometimes it can go to the extreme, as is the case with Thomas Was Alone; a game that’s mad enough to consist of nothing but simple lines and rectangles.

I’m honestly not kidding – that’s pretty much all that’s on show here. Apart from a few subtle lighting effects working away in the background, this is very much a textbook example of what you see is what you get. Yet the overwhelming simplicity of this world isn’t as bad as you might be coming to expect; what really matters here is how the story builds up what this world and its inhabitants represents.

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You see, this is a tale of AI programming becoming self-aware, and via some brilliant and funny narration by Danny Wallace (Whose works you should check out, by the way!), each little AI block you control is given their own distinct personality. The main character of Thomas, for one, is naturally inquisitive and logical. Others you meet along the way have their own unique traits; there’s a deeply cynical square, an arrogant yet caring tall rectangle, and another bigger square that has delusions of being a super hero… On and on it goes, with new faces appearing all the time. It’s done to such a level that as the plot moves along you actually start to care for each of them in a weird little way. It’s never to the extent that you’re going to shed a tear for their plight, but it’s enough to keep you engaged with them throughout their journey – even though they’re just little coloured shapes. It’s ingeniously done.

So your gang of crazy characters is set up, but what exactly are you doing with them? Puzzle platforming, that’s what. It’s up to you to switch between all of them, using their unique abilities to navigate through each level, and getting everyone to their respective exits. That’s it. If anything, the gameplay is as minimalist as the art style – but again, that’s by no means a bad thing. Thomas Was Alone’s main strength when it comes to its gameplay is in the way its difficulty and pacing is second to none. Each and every level presents a challenge that is both not so hilariously simple that you can cruise through it in two seconds, but also never hard enough to create a situation where your progress comes to a screeching halt. The game also introduces new ideas and character abilities at a steady rate, keeping things fresh and entertaining, but never at a pace where everything feels overwhelming.

The process of actually navigating your way through each of these challenges, however, is where the cracks begin to show. For one, the act of switching characters is cumbersome, requiring you to cycle through all of them in turn to reach the one you actually desire, the camera trying to zip towards every character in turn at an almost nauseating pace. This isn’t too bad when there’s only three shapes to control, but when there’s six or seven, the endless cycling can start to infuriate somewhat. Couple that with a soundtrack that I found so incredibly annoying I proactively sought out the sound settings just to turn it down, and you can perhaps see how the blood pressure can slowly start to rise.

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There are a few other minor factors that also don’t help. The jumping mechanic, for one, feels at points oddly heavy and stiff, creating situations where I felt I wasn’t fully in control of where my jump was going – with a missed jump often wiping out a hefty chunk of progress in an instant. The level design at points also didn‘t help my mood, and really dents into what is otherwise flawless pacing – you can complete the bulk of some levels, only to realise you need to backtrack and do something with a character near its beginning.

Perhaps I’m just rubbish, but whether you attribute these problems down to poor play or not, they still lead to situations with feel unnecessarily annoying. All these minor niggles created a situation whereupon,
once I realised I was nearing the end of the story, I was quietly hoping it would hurry up and end already, just so I didn’t have to put up with another inconvenience. Considering the game itself is only three hours long, however, and… Well, you can perhaps see why that might be a bit of a problem.

Thomas was Alone is far from perfect, then, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad. It’s still perfectly playable, and the charming narration and story do a lot to help plaster over the faults that might rear their ugly head as you move along. It’s a fine example of how much you can do with so very little, and also stands as a perfect counterpoint against the sheer flood of lazily made indie games with tiny budgets that flood the market every day. So don’t be a square – check this out.

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Opinions on… The Mean Greens: Plastic Warfare

There’s a lot to be impressed by in The Mean Greens; Plastic Warfare. This thought began to occur to me when, after a good 15 to 20 minutes of waiting in the multiplayer lobby with no other players in sight, I began to realise how perfectly cheesy the music playing in the background was. It’s a delightful medley, one perfectly suited to taking pride of place in any respectable escalator, even down to the way it’s instantly forgettable from the moment you walk away. As time went by and many more minutes passed without a soul to be seen, it’s perhaps the only thing that kept me sane in those intensely dark moments of loneliness.

There were other things that did a great job at maintaining my sanity, however. The colourful menu screens were also helpful; the perfect tease for the vibrancy and craziness I could expect to be thrown into, once I’d mastered the arcane magic required to summon people at will to actually play the game with me. It gave me the same pleasure as knowing there’s a cake waiting in the fridge for when you arrive home from work; that anticipation of knowing that there is something to look forward to in your future. The fact that your journey home takes 15 years and the fridge is permanently locked kind of puts a dampener on proceedings, but hey… At least you know there is the tiniest possibility of getting cake. Or actual gameplay. This metaphor might be getting a little confusing.

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Riveting stuff.

The unpredictability present in The Mean Greens was another fun factor that kept me on my toes, and not knowing what would happen when I tried to search for a match proved to be gripping stuff. I could end up actually finding a match (unlikely), find myself in yet another lobby, or even be met with a loading screen that looks like it’s loading into a match, only to freeze and crash back to the main menu at a moment’s notice. It all proved to be incredibly uncertain and exciting, something that not many other games could offer in the same weird way. It wasn’t just trying to find a match which created such spontaneous moments, either. Imagine my surprise and delight when I tried to set the game to windowed mode, only for the screen resolution to completely mess up as a result. It created a situation where I was completely unable to click on anything, and was therefore required to force quit to desktop. I never knew what was around the next corner!

Persevere with this randomness for long enough, however, and with a little luck you might be placed into an actual match with a smattering of other desperate players – all of you finally free to play the game you’ve paid for. Unfortunately, this is where things kind of start to fall apart, because the gameplay just isn’t very fun. Take a good minute or so it to digest the poor quality soundtrack constantly on loop in the background, and then another minute to scour the map and find someone to shoot at, and you’ll soon realise that combat fails to provide any satisfaction.

For instance – shooting your gun doesn’t have any weight or sense of impact to it, making you feel as if you’re shooting marshmallows rather than bullets, and the simple task of knowing if you’re damaging someone or being damaged therefore becomes far more difficult than it has any right to be. Even getting a kill gives very little fanfare or rewards, therefore making all your efforts beforehand in taking the time to kill someone feel a little wasted. It’s disheartening, to say the least.

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Each map being a different game mode is also a nice idea in theory, but for one reason or another simply doesn’t work when put into practice. There’s one mode that sees you capturing flags on a speeding toy train. This sounds exciting, but it fails to feel action packed in the slightest, due to the way every death puts you so far away from the action it can take upwards of a minute to actually get back to where you were. Another mode presents almost precisely the opposite problem; you’re meant to float on rubber ducks to capture flags, but considering you can pretty much see and snipe anywhere from the spawn area (Up to and including the other team’s spawn), there’s really no incentive to ever move from your starting position. On it goes, map after map, the sparse amount of players only making games drag out their limited welcome even further. It’s enough to make you long for the lobby screen again.

With all sincerity, however, let me close off this review with an observation; there’s nothing wrong with ambition. Indeed, the developers of The Mean Greens should be commended for taking on the challenge of a multiplayer only shooter, especially when you consider how saturated the market is with them. The problem comes in the fact that I simply can’t help but feel that there should have been a moment where a healthy dose of realism was infused into proceedings. There should have been a realisation that this game, even with all best wishes, could have ended up as the barren wasteland that is has turned out to be. Measures such as the inclusion of bots in the future may not save this game or even make it somewhat appealing again, but at least they would create something that’s remotely playable playable. As it stands, however, this isn’t something that will keep you entertained.

Opinions on… Abzu

Upon first impressions, everything about Abzu is curious. From its peculiar sounding name to the endless screenshots and videos showing vast ocean vistas and teeming hordes of marine wildlife,there’s very little that actually gives away what to expect when you plunge into the depths. As it turns out, there’s a lot going on beneath the waves; and most of it does a fine job at making somewhat of a splash.

Probably the first thing that truly strikes you about Abzu is how peaceful everything is. While it has some slight moments of peril, this is very much a game that’s about slow and steady exploration, and taking the time to absorb all the sights and sounds around you. It desperately wants you to take everything in; the schools of fish lazily swimming around the reef, the giant predators floating ominously around, and all the creatures and coral in between. If you’re not already bought to a stop by the sheer level of detail on offer, the many statues dotted around for your player character to sit and ‘meditate’ on only provide further incentive, with the camera whooshing around the different species at your command. In a sense, it’s the world’s most intricate fish tank, willing you to while away the hours with your face pressed against the glass. In many ways, it succeeds in doing just that.

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This overall sense of serenity is not alone in this world, however, as it couples pleasingly together with a bunch of satisfying little moments and interactions that you can look forward to. Whether it is zooming through a jet stream, breaching the surface of the water on the back of a dolphin, or something else besides, there’s a lot to make you gaze with wonder and bring a smile to your face. Toss in a few bigger set pieces, none of which I’ll spoil but some of which made me exclaim softly to myself, and you’ve got a great mix of gameplay brewing up.

A sweeping orchestral soundtrack, matching the nature and events of the game perfectly, then add another layer to the whole experience. Everything gels so well together, becoming much more of a sum of its parts; only a few control issues, mainly involving trying to get your diver to actually point in the right direction, ever seems to really put a dent in the display that’s on show here. With all things considered, Abzu should have shaped up to be an instant classic.

Note I say “should”, however, because there’s a problem here that’s both massive and rather odd; for all the means by which Abzu is expertly designed and crafted, the end result it one that still fails to make any real lasting impression. You see, even with this detailed world, there’s not enough explanation or care given here to make anything actually feel important; events just seem to happen, and you’re given very little reason to care how or why. There’s also very little you can take away from the experience on show… You can speculate a little on the world on display, sure, but beyond that there’s nothing to really keep your mind occupied after turning the game off. It’s a damn shame.

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This issue is only made ten times worse when you consider the length of the game; I completed it in an hour and a half, and I considered myself to be going at a fairly leisurely pace at that. Heck, I’ve spent longer writing this review than I did actually playing through the game. Even slowing progress to a crawl and hunting out every collectable on offer would only likely drag the play time out by another hour or so.

Similar ‘artistic’ games that I’ve played have had short play times of their own, I concede – but with those I felt that I was left with a lot of things to ponder long after the game’s actual conclusion. The Stanley Parable, for instance, incited thoughts about the idea of free will and the nature of the player themselves. Another example in the shape of Firewatch only lasted an hour or so longer than what’s on offer here, but spent enough time to make me really care about its characters and what happened to them. Some of the developers for Abzu also had a hand in games like Journey and Flower, which I personally haven’t played (Much to my own shame), but had a deep impact on those that played them – as even the most casual of internet searches will attest to. Abzu, in comparison, has none of this – For all it takes place in the deep ocean, this is a game that’s remarkably shallow.

Taking into account the fairly lofty price point therefore makes it disappointingly difficult to outright recommend this game. It’s technically sound and does a lot of things right, but when the emotions it stirs up are so vapid and fleeting in comparison to similar titles, it all ends up meaning so much less. I still think it’s worth playing, but waiting for a sale is the best option here by a considerable margin; with that, you won’t end up feeling too disappointed. Anything else, and you’ll just be left with waves of disappointment.

Opinions on… Psychonauts

Ugh. Let us be clear here; I want it noted on the record that I desperately tried to like Psychonauts. I’d seen the praise critics and gamers heap upon it, seen the funding campaign for the sequel that many passionately gave their money to, and came back again and again to the game trying to pick apart what makes it entertaining. Despite all this, however, I only ever came to the singular conclusion which may cause people to label me as mad as the characters in the game itself; it’s just really not very fun.

What makes this an especially bitter pill to swallow is the fact that, hidden deep down underneath its faults, there is the heart of something truly excellent slowly beating away, desperately trying to break free. For one, the Psychonauts universe is excellently realised; one where a great deal of love and effort has been put into it. Even with all the oddball ideas on show here, each of them is nicely fleshed out, everything linking in nicely with everything else with a remarkable consistency. Not only does this create a believable world, but this also allows the story to shine though; an oddball tale of a summer camp for children to be bred into psychic warriors under attack by mysterious forces.

It’s oddly compelling and excellently done, but the game’s real strength comes with the sense of humour that is so excellently fed into both the story and the world beyond. Both carefully crafted jokes and throwaway one-liners by passing characters honestly made me laugh on multiple occasions, and even the most stoic of people will struggle to not crack a smile at what’s on offer here.

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It’s lucky these laughs are present, however; because it’s with them that I found any sense of joy I had with the game ended – there’s just too much here that isn’t that fun for the positive side of things to truly shine through. A lot of this boils down to the gameplay that’s on offer. Whatever it is you’re doing, being it platforming or something else entirely, there always seems to be a part of it that’s incredibly irritating or disappointing… Some sections outstay their welcome for far longer they were actually interesting, others are confusing or fiddly to complete, and then there’s some frustrating occasions where you’re thrown into situations where the idea is amazing – yet fall flat on their face when put into practice

To take an example of this last point in action -– one level sees you the size of Godzilla, tasked with stomping around a city and smashing everything in your path. Yet the actual smashing isn’t that satisfying, and your progress throughout is slow and cumbersome. Oh, and do you need to climb a building for something? Have fun crawling up at a snail’s pace, only for a single enemy shot to send you crashing down to earth the second you reach the top. There’s many a moment like that, and each is as disheartening as the last.

Additionally, and somewhat ironically for a game that’s based around the mind, it feels like the gameplay of Psychonauts is incredibly schizophrenic. It’s trying out as many ideas as it can possibly cram in, but -as with the case above – many of them really don’t feel that well implemented. For instance, there’s a level where you’re suddenly thrown in a weird race section with absolutely no prior warning; where if you make a single mistake you’re likely to get trapped behind an obstacle and have to start the whole thing all over again. Another level takes the form of a puzzle, tasking you with collecting the right items in order to proceed; which starts off well enough and has some of the funniest moments I found. But even that soon descends into endless wandering and confusion, as you’re provided with no hints, and the solution to getting some of the items or simply making progress feels unnecessarily convoluted. And so on it goes, Psychonauts trying to be a jack of all trades, but not coming even remotely close to being a master of any of them.

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Another thing that doesn’t help the situation are the visuals themselves. Not with the graphics, because even I’m not stupid enough to start critiquing how good they are in a game that’s ten years old, but just in the way that everything’s just so bland looking. So many of the areas you’ll explore are a turgid mess of browns and blacks – or, if you’re lucky, some other combination of uninspiring colours. It’s something that starts in the very first level, a dreary and dull looking warzone where it’s often difficult to tell where the heck you’re meant to be going, and then just continues on from there. To add insult to injury, and at the risk of sounding incredibly contrarian, the single colourful level I played actually ended up being too much of an assault on the senses, again leading to a situation where it was hard to know where to do. It’s a shame really, because even with the possibility to create worlds limited only by the imagination, we’re left with something that’s remarkably dull and uninspired.

Throw in a few other small issues, like struggling with the controls and a few tiny porting issues, and Psychonauts became to me what I can only describe as an exercise in frustration – one where I’m honestly struggling to see how it’s loved and admired by so many. Play it yourself and you may find something that I’m missing, but in my personal opinion, the whole thing is just enough to drive you crazy.

Opinions on… Doom

At the announcement of a new Doom, there were a fair few people out there who perhaps let out a slow yet weary sigh, their heads perhaps making a soft thud as they hit the nearest hard surface. It was easy to see how the end result could have manifested itself as a mere cash in, one that could rake in the money without putting any heart or soul into the actual finished product. With hope in their hearts, fans turned to the unexpected success of Wolfenstein: The New Order a couple years prior, and prayed for the best. And their prayers were answered. Because this is really damn good.

The reason for this, you see, is simple; strip away the impressive looking graphics and electronic rock soundtrack that forms the outer layer of the game, and the heart of classic Doom and what made it so good can still be seen to be vividly beating away. The trappings of the modern FPS are non-existent here; regenerating health is replaced with health and armour pickups, the normal slow drip feed of better weapons replaced with obtaining a rocket launcher in about the third level. Heck, even the whole concept of reloading simply doesn’t exist in this world. It’s also incredibly fast – standing still merely offers an open invitation for the hordes of hell to poke a few extra holes in your face. Movement is life, so you’ll be gleefully zipping around the screen, laying waste to anything that moves. It’s refreshingly good fun.

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It’s also brutally violent, in an oh-so-satisfying way. There’s a ‘glory kill’ system in place here, where getting up close and personal to finish your enemies is rewarded with extra health and ammo. Each of the many glory kills on offer are brutal to watch, often involving the forceful removal of limbs to aid in the application of even more pain, but they’re all so quick to execute they never get boring or impede the flow of things in any real way. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also the option to chainsaw your foes clean in two, or later on just blow them up into a thousand pieces using the series most infamous weapon… Yes, you know the one. Oh, and there’s also a pickup that lets you rip opponents clean in half. Vertically.

The game’s over-the-top nature is reflected in the character of the Doom Marine, who literally does not give a damn about anything. Things in his way get smashed without care and reason, and even other characters drily note he only seems to care about killing everything in his way. This attitude even extends to the plot – there’s actually a story of some depth and detail hidden away here, but when the Doom Marine casually throws away the first monitor that dares to try and explain any of it to you, you immediately know the score. It’s gleeful self-parody, and it works so well.

Put everything together, and it’s a glorious exercise in pure chaos simply existing for the sake of pure fun, every component slotting together in a way that just goads you into blowing more stuff up. The main campaign is a satisfying length, and coupling this with the task of uncovering the game’s many secrets and challenges (the completion of each giving you the ability to upgrade your weapons to more brutal levels) means there’s a perfect excuse to keep feasting on the carnage.

When it comes to problems, there’s a bunch of minor irritations that did catch my attention, even if most only dulled my enjoyment by a minute amount. For one, while I understand that working your way through a labyrinthine structure seeking the exit has always been part of what makes Doom what it is, it doesn’t stop getting lost here being a somewhat frustrating affair. Each time it occurs it brings the pace to a sudden and jarring halt, and even though there’s a map screen, it’s so confusing to try and navigate I found myself desperately trying not to use it.

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Weapon strength seems a bit odd as well; I found an upgraded shotgun more beneficial in most situations that an upgraded super shotgun, despite the latter having the word “super” in its name. To add to this, once you get a rocket launcher with homing missiles, it’s only a lack of ammo that stops it being the solution to practically every problem. Snapmaps – user created levels – also seem like a good idea in theory, but all the ones highlighted as the best the community still lack the soul of what makes the campaign so great. The feature, while ambitious, becomes a brief side attraction at the very best.

On a final side note, if you’re here for multiplayer action, don’t bother – the servers are so sparsely populated it’s honestly difficult to actually get into a match. That’s not really a fault of the developer’s own doing, however, and shouldn’t be taken as any real indication of how fun the multiplayer might actually be to play; it’s just the natural passage of time seeing the community moving on to the next big thing.

None of these problems hardly matter, however. Doom is the perfect blast to the past, one that perfectly pokes at that primal urge just to let loose and smash stuff. It’s an FPS game that breaks all the rules that most FPS games of today follow, and it does so in such an over-the-top way that it’s simply all the better for it. Rip and tear!

Opinions on… Game Dev Tycoon

When you first start Game Dev Tycoon, eager to create masterpieces of software design that blow anything in the actual real world out of the water, you’ll rapidly realise that there’s a big problem ticking away under the surface of the game’s mechanics. That problem is quite simply this; it’s impossible to actually truly gauge whether your decisions are leading towards any sort of positive outcome. Any addition of an untested design element in the creation of each of your games immediately throws everything into obscurity… There’s nothing discernible shown to you from one attempt to the next that lets you know if you are making the right decision in any regard – which, considering information is key to success, is pretty rubbish.

I suppose that’s how it works to an extent in the real world, but of course, that doesn’t really make it into a good mechanic to use here. It IS possible to learn what works and what doesn’t after the fact, but this feels a little pointless and hollow when you’ll potentially be haemorrhaging money by the time you learn your mistake. It’s also annoying when you take the time to read more on how the game works, and learn that there actually is a bunch of complicated and clever algorithms working away under the surface to determine your level of success. It’d be fun if these were presented to you, for you to then try and pick apart and make work to your advantage, but they’re all hidden away never to be seen.

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In a sense, this makes everything feel too simple for its own good. A situation rapidly occurs where there’s nothing in the game with any real depth for you to sink your teeth into; Even when you hit the endgame and start bigger projects such as developing your own consoles and research, I found the strategy for this doesn’t really evolve beyond ‘pump money into it’. In fact, that’s an approach that pretty much works across the board – last game didn’t make massive profits? Pump cash into a killer title next time. Need better staff? Pump more cash into your recruitment process and training.

This might all sound overtly cynical, but I don’t really mean it to be that way; in many ways you could see this basic nature as a blessing, rather than a curse. It’s a break away from the endless complexion and confusion that can stem from playing other simulation games – a no frills, easy way to whittle away time. As long as you go into it accepting that, or at least take my approach and enjoy it for what it is, it’s not really an issue – more just something you need to be aware of.

I also haven’t got around to highlighting Game Dev Tycoon’s main strength yet – it’s a master of non-stop, instant gratification. Start development, and bubbles showing your progress fly all over the screen at a relentless rate; all adding to a grand total highlighting your game’s quality that just keeps shooting up and up as you with each new title. Publish your game, and you’re immediately met with review scores, which (with luck) will shower you with praise that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Immediately after THAT, large chunks of cash from sales roll into your account, and by the time that starts to wane you’ve already started the whole cycle again. Nothing takes long to complete in the slightest, and you’re always moving. Think of it as the simulation genre’s version of fast food – you know there’s more complex and fulfilling meals out there, but sometimes you just want an instant hit of pure satisfaction.

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The developer’s love for games in general shines through as well. There’s a nice little (and hilariously copyright avoiding) trip through video game history that – while slightly biased towards certain formats at points – will raise a smile, and there’s a number of similarly themed easter eggs to be spotted both around your development office and elsewhere. I also feel the developer’s comments about piracy, and their approach to preventing it (which, hilariously, sees games made in pirated versions being pirated themselves) are worth noting; again showing a fondness for games in general that should be encouraged in a time where a lot of things feel like soulless attempts to suck as much money out of us as possible.

The key thing to remember with Game Dev Tycoon, then, is to know exactly what you’re getting. This isn’t a game of precise micromanagement and intricate challenges, and if you’re looking for that you’ll be best off going elsewhere. This is a piece of well executed and light-hearted fun, and there isn’t anything wrong with that at all.

Opinions on… Firewatch

Nearing the end of my time with Firewatch, something strange crept over me; the dawning realisation that instead of exploring it’s rendition of the great outdoors, I could actually… Well, go and explore the great outdoors. I was playing a form of escapism whereupon I could easily experience the real deal, if only I could bother to get up and make an effort to actually reach it. It was a weird little moment, to say the least.

There’s a good reason for sticking with Firewatch instead of heading out my own front door, however, with that being that it’s hard to draw yourself away from the striking world that’s on offer here. The art style is the first thing you notice, with its minimalist design style and simple colour palettes creating something that looks pretty unique. Yet then you also notice how good the map design is, taking in all the wonders of the American national parks that form the game’s setting – from shady forests and great lagoons, to narrow mountain valleys and wide open vistas. It’s a world that you want to keep exploring just to see what new sights might be around the next corner, and one where it’s hard not to keep yourself from tapping your screenshot key every few minutes.

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The way you explore and traverse the area is also interesting. There’s no arrow pointing your way, no big on-screen hints pointing out the right direction for you. Instead, you’ve literally got to whip out a map and compass, and carefully plot your route towards your next objective. Then, as you go, you have to keep checking and adjusting your direction, paying close attention to the distinct possibility you might wander off course and get hopelessly lost. It feels as if you are actually hiking, that every endeavour and successful journey is a result of your hard work. It’s an incredibly satisfying experience.

Firewatch’s world isn’t perfect, however. For one, it isn’t the biggest out there. From about the halfway point onward you’ll be stomping through a lot of old ground, the charm on exploring the unknown being lost, and your relatively slow travel speed making things feel a little bit of a chore. Additionally (and just like real life) getting lost isn’t exactly fun, and having to consult your map constantly to make tiny course adjustments in such situations can get tedious at points. Still, for the most part the game’s approach to navigation works, and praise has to be given for it being brave enough to actually try something new in the first place.

The world itself is only half of what’s on offer, however, with the other half coming in the form of the story itself. It’s one that grabs you from the very start – before things even begin proper you’re greeted with a text-based tale that tells the story of the main character’s life in miniature. It’s poignant, it’s well written, and it’s honestly one of the parts of the game that stick in the mind the most. Beyond that, things pans out in what is essentially a two-person plot – your character, and a woman whose only presence throughout comes in the form of a voice coming from the other end of a radio. As time passes, you slowly uncover mysterious going on, and struggle to get to the bottom of the mystery – with only that lone voice to help you on.

It’s an interesting premise, and it works, mainly because both characters are so well written and voiced they feel distinctly… Well, human. They bond slowly over time, learning more about each other, cracking jokes and telling stories about their lives. Then, when thrown into an intense situation, they panic – not always making the best decisions, freaking out over what might happen to them, and so on. It’s so expertly crafted, it’s hard not to become invested in what’s going on; you’ll want to keep on going just to find out what the eventual outcome will be.

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Shame, then, that the actual closure to the story falls so damn flat. This is incredibly frustrating on two counts; firstly, many of the plot points get written away with remarkable quickness and ease, negating a lot of the impact that they may have had previously. I’m obviously not going to spoil anything, but there’s a particular thread to the story that honestly feels like it’s a big part of everything that’s going on – and then it suddenly gets brushed away via a few throwaway lines. Secondly, the game does a remarkably good job of building up a lot of suspense and tension, only to whittle it away on a simple resolution that never even gets close to justifying all the gravitas that had gone on beforehand. The end result is that you’ll probably walk away from Firewatch feeling a little let down; a distinctly disappointing note to finish upon, especially after the rest of the game was crafting things so expertly.

On a final note, it’s also worth noting that Firewatch is a very short experience as well – it took me just over three hours to complete, and I don’t particularly think I was rushing through it. Yet don’t let this necessarily put you off, because there’s certainly enough done right here to at least mostly negate the game’s faults and short playtime; indeed, exploring the game’s world is almost worth the entrance fee alone. In the end, Firewatch is a unique little title that sticks in the memory – and one that makes hiding indoors on your computer infinitely more justifiable.