Campo Santo have been made of promise since their founding, but at PAX this weekend they’ve finally lifted the cover on their first game, Firewatch. The slightly cryptic title now boasts an only slightly less cryptic trailer, but hints at the kind of style and tone Campo Santo are striving for.
I’m not sure what’s headed these park rangers’ way, but it looks like they are lost in a philosophical wilderness that’s positively ablaze with existential dread.
Full disclosure: the Campo Santo gang are friends and business associates of mine (they host my strategy podcast, Three Moves Ahead), so I’m biased to like their stuff. So take what I say with a grain of salt.
That said, there’s an awful lot here I find really captivating. First, I’m a sucker for the inversion of good old Smokey Bear’s iconic, “Onlyyoucan prevent forest fires.” So if you want to know when the trailer well-and-truly landed me, that was the moment.
But I was hooked throuhgout the trailer. The art and music are great in this trailer, both showcasing a kind of richness in their relative simplicity. It’s not the pastoral realism of a game like, say, The Hunter, but instead something a little more Impressionist. I especially like the use of color, from the cool blues and greens of the watchtower to the burnt oranges and reds of the valley.
It seems to underscore the final exchange in the trailer. Delilah asks Henry, “Why are we even here?”
“To make sure the damn wilderness doesn’t burn down,” he says..
“No. Our job is to be here when that happens. …So just stay in your tower, okay? Stay in there, and watch.”
It’s an interesting exchange, one that establishes the game’s central conflict not as a man vs. nature story (or man vs. burning nature, as the case may be) but as action vs. passivity, acceptance vs. agency.
That’s pretty interesting terrain to go exploring, but it also seems like it would be a challenge to sustain that tension over the course of a game, where most conflicts tend to be the kind you can resolve with a gun or by collecting resources. It’ll be exciting to see how Campo Santo tackle it.
They have said on their website that the game is ultimately a mystery, and the ultimate stakes seem to hinge on your relationship with the person on the other end of that radio.
No word on a release date, though 2015 has been raised a possibility.