The disappointing ending of Firewatch
Content warning: discusses Firewatch spoilers
Campo Santo’s lovely debut title Firewatch has released to both critical and financial success, and yet the internet seems to be split on one specific element of the game: the ending of the game. During the course of the game, the player assumes the role of Henry, a man running from life and a marriage falling apart by taking a job as a firewatch in a national park. Through a walkie-talkie, he speaks to his supervisor Delilah, who is a mountain away. Throughout the course of the game, the two get personal and flirty, and something of a romance blossoms in the subtext.
As the game progresses, it sets everything up for Delilah and Henry to meet. The problem to a lot of people is that they never do. During a raging forest fire threatening the entire area, Henry discovers that an oversight made by Delilah might mean she is partially responsible for a young boy’s death, Delilah is devestated, but says she’ll wait until Henry arrives at her watchtower, so they can finally meet. Before he can, though, she has been lifted out by rescue chopper. When he pleas with her to meet up later via the radio, Delilah tells him to go back to his wife.
That’s disappointing. Games aren’t meant to end on a disappointing note. Since we identify so strongly with the avatar, going for an impossible objective in your final stretch is pretty much the biggest fuck you the game could give you in terms of game development. You fail. Henry is dependent on Delilah, looking to meet finally her, and you can’t. Delilah leaves and decides things are better that way. She doesn’t want to meet anymore.
And you know what? I love it. It’s brilliant. Delilah doesn’t want to meet. Life sucks sometimes. Deal with it. I’m glad a game can be that, too. That people can leave feeling upset, incomplete, frustrated, and thoroughly sad.
So to everyone complaining that Firewatch has a disappointing ending? I’m glad you liked the ending.