On Xbox Game Pass, you have to play this underrated indie classic as fast as possible

On Xbox Game Pass, you have to play this underrated indie classic as fast as possible

Tech Highlights:

  • “ALL GREAT AND PRICELESS THINGS ARE ALONE,” wrote JOHN STEINBECK. Sure, he was writing about Sam Hamilton’s indomitable virtue in East of Eden, but there’s a reason why this remark still resonates with millions of readers. We have an innate awareness of loneliness and solitude as an essential mechanism for navigating our own humanity, not as a punishment or indicator of mental illness. And one of the best indie games of 2016 (and, in my opinion, all-time) knows this better than anybody else.

  • On Xbox Game Pass, you must play this underappreciated indie gem. ASAP

Firewatch from Campo Santo is, on its surface, a gorgeous and chill game.

Without delving too deeply into spoiler territory, Firewatch follows the journey of recently-widowed Henry as he wrestles with his grief in one of the most romantic ways possible: a summer spent in a firewatch tower.

You can watch a trailer and look at screenshots and get a vibe that makes you feel like this is a nice, relaxing adventure in the woods. But from the very opening montage all the way through its captivating mystery story, Firewatch delivers an emotional depth that delights and inspires.

It’s essentially a rustic studio apartment in a tower in the middle of a national forest, and his job is to (wait for it) watch for fires. He has a middling level of authority, like a bootleg park ranger, and takes instruction via CB radio from a woman named Delilah.

Gameplay-wise, there isn’t anything complex. Delilah gives Henry assignments for potential hazards, like people using fireworks or issues with power lines. It’s a first-person game that is mostly driven by puzzles, found narrative and decision trees. You might have to figure out how to fix a broken bridge or interact with rowdy teenagers, and then report what happened to Delilah. What you choose to tell her, or not to tell her, shapes your relationship.

And it’s the relationship between Henry and Delilah that is the star of Firewatch. It’s clear Delilah has some issues of her own, and there’s a shared understanding that if you’re electing to spend an entire summer isolated and alone in a forest then you’re probably in need of some emotional space. But the antidote for loneliness is company. This creates tension as Henry and Delilah bond despite their walled-off personalities and coping mechanisms. It has the feeling of a great stage play, with masterful performances from Rich Sommer as Henry and Cissy Jones as Delilah.

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