First-person walking simulators can be pretty low-budget. That isn’t to say that they can’t look beautiful, as the Hebrides does in Dear Esther, which pioneered the ‘walking here for a bit of story there’ sub-genre. Making super detailed character models and animations? That’s complicated and resource-heavy. It’s no surprise that an indie developer doing a walking sim might eschew giving their characters actual walk-on parts.
You often find yourself exploring a world where the story has already finished and you’re putting the pieces together, or following what feels like a very elaborate walking audio tour of a museum. It’s not that these elements are badly designed, but they can feel a bit disjointed or archaic, especially if you accidentally experience them in the wrong order. Firewatch was different. Instead of triggering monologues or mini radio plays, what we got actually emulated a straight-up, naturalistic conversation between fire lookouts Henry and Delilah. Two lonely strangers bonding over the summer of ‘89, with nothing more than a walkie-talkie.