SPOILER ALERT FOR THE GAME FIREWATCH.
I can’t talk about this game without talking about what happens – not really. I’ll do my best, though.
The first ten minutes of Firewatch made me cry. Not because anything happened that was overly dramatic, but because the choices that I made were important to character development, and the way that they chose to create your character was written beautifully. Story games which develop character so quickly and with such depth definitely rank high on my list of loves. I’m a big fan of narrative games which pull you in from the start, and Firewatch is no exception. It ranks with Gone Home in terms of games which have made me feel things. And Gone Home made me feel things a LOT.
In terms of low vision accessibility, Firewatch was challenging part of the time, but not all of the time. Large sections of the game were easily played, but as the mystery of the game became more apparent, things became less accessible to me as a player.
What absolutely worked for me were the dialogue options. One of the things I loved about this game, was that the only things which were time sensitive were my interactions with Delilah. Nothing about those interactions was getting interrupted by, say, being shot at. For me, it was a really relaxing gaming experience, because my awareness didn’t need to be split between what was happening on the screen, and what decisions I was making.
For me, it meant a more immersive game experience.
The map function (maps are always trouble) wasn’t bad. It was a little challenging to stay on the marked paths sometimes,. since the paths themselves were pretty low profile, but for the most part that didn’t matter much at all. The map was easy to zoom in on, easy to access, and didn’t have a lot of bells and whistles which required the ability to see things with low contrast.
Folks, I hate when I’ve been able to (for the most part) successfully play a game only to find myself unable to finish something because of the visual needs.
At the end of Firewatch there is, predictably, a fire.
In previous sequences, the darkness was relatively easily solved by using a flashlight, but there’s no solution for the ambient sparks and smoke which cluttered the visual landscape towards the end of Firewatch. It’s always interesting when a game needs to give the shifts of air and light a chance within the context of a game – and this one did it so beautifully, showing different stages of daytime, the kinds of light that I associate with a long, hot summers day.
The hardest part of the game for me, however, was not the sequence escaping the fire. No, the most difficult sequence for me was using a skill I can barely use in real life, in the context of a video game.
Let’s say you lose your cell phone in your house. Many people will have a friend call their phone, and then stalk around their apartment, seeking the thing making a noise. In Firewatch, you acquire an item which makes beeping noises, and at a key point in the story, you have to seek out an item using the beeping device, sort of an inverse of the “find the cell phone problem.” In real life, this is almost an impossible game for me, as with low hearing and low vision, finding the thing making a sound isn’t an easy game for me.
In a video game, it’s damn near impossible.
I spent around an hour just trying to find the damn thing, almost gave up twice, and finally found it after watching at least two walkthroughs. Turns out, I’d already found the spot it was in earlier in the game! The game isn’t long enough to truly need something to take that long.
On a scale from 1 to 10 I’d say Firewatch is about a 6 on the Playability Scale for The Blind Lady!