Trading and Exploring in the Magical World of Fireside

It’s been another one of those weeks, friends, so I bring you Fireside, which is honestly pure positivity in game format. If you’re not interested in cozy games, this one isn’t for you, but if you’re in desperate need of some wholesome tranquility, well, have I got the title for you.

Plot Ahoy!

Picture this, you’re a traveling merchant, and you’ve collected quite the horde of new wares to expand your shop. You’ve just got to get them there, but Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with you. Instead, she tosses a storm in your direction, and you end up as an extra in Castaway. Fortunately, you, unlike Tom Hanks, are not alone. Various people and mythical critters have also washed ashore on this uncharted isle, and you see the perfect opportunity for some trade.

There are some wrinkles, however. First, your spirit has somehow become entangled with the spiritual nexus guardian named Knack. This means your grasp on corporeality becomes a bit tenuous. You can only journey in the physical world for five days at a time, returning with only minimal loot when you do. Now, you can expand the duration of your sojourns in reality by, well, building a prettier house, which is hopefully not a metaphor. However, the limitation on your ability to remain on the island is a bit frustrating, as it’s meant to be.

You’ll travel through three separate zones as you unlock the story: river delta, forest, and mountain. You’ll initially be confined to the river delta, so settle in, my friend.

Review Notes

The entire point of Fireside is to help people through the power of trade, which doesn’t sound incredibly wholesome until you realize that your entire goal is to help the beings you meet to become their best selves. The objects you acquire are merely the touchstones to help them get there. Whether they’re sunglasses or the wherewithal to create a one-creature-band, the items represent the tools required to help your new friends reach fulfillment. There’s something legitimately rewarding about the allegedly simple task of being told what they want and giving it to them.

I say allegedly here because different NPCs will have more or less complicated asks for you, and some of these quest chains can be fairly long, especially given the time limitation mechanic. You’ll need to trade for items. Some, you’ll be able to pick up while wandering through the area between campsites, and other items you get can be traded. Fireside offers a pretty deeply developed cooking mechanic. Cooking really matters because the end products have more trade value.

Fireside also offers random encounters as you wander between tasks. Pay attention to these because the outcomes will be static, so you’ll eventually learn what choices result in you gaining spirit energy and which choices result in a loss of spirit energy. Spirit energy, by the way, is an incredibly important currency in Fireside. You can spend it to improve shrines, though you do this by purchasing spirit tokens. Repairing shrines means you can start your journey from them, which is important given the limited travel time you have.

You gain spirit energy mostly by offering good deals. Fireside actively encourages you to care for the folks you meet and rewards good behavior. It’s like immediate, direct karma, and you’ll find that offering items you know you can’t take will gain you additional, necessary spirit energy. That feels like a metaphor reminding us we can’t take the corporeal items with us, but we can take good will. I think it’s important to remember that games exist to entertain, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. Fireside chooses to emphasize compassion and empathy even through a trade dynamic, which is very much a worthwhile message.

Visually, Fireside opts for a whimsical art style, telling stories through cards and uses a stylized sound that reminds me of writing on paper with a number 2 pencil. In a certain sense, it almost feels as though Fireside offers the player the opportunity to participate in a communal act of storytelling. There’s little to no dialogue, so you’re invited to imagine the voices for the entities you encounter. As such, Fireside deliberately requires that the player become a collaborator in the gaming experience. That’s why each encounter provides the opportunity for different outcomes that may influence the story later in the title, and the most important part of gameplay is forming a connection of sorts between the player and the NPCs. The choice engine plays into that thematically.

Unfortunately, for a title that emphasizes relationship building, once you’ve acquired whatever it is the entities you encounter want, there’s not really any point in pursuing additional interactions with them. You’ll only replay the same dialogue you unlocked by completing the quest chain. If I have a complaint about Fireside, that’s it.


Fireside is one of those titles that requires you to make friends in order to play, and there’s something to that message that I think can get lost in modern culture. Fireside is about creating community through trade with an emphasis on helping entities achieve their dreams, whether they are small, like acquiring sunglasses, or big, like becoming a dragon or learning how to communicate. That’s a valuable lesson, and it’s worth spending the $14.99 that Fireside costs on Steam to learn.

Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard

  1. Be aware that you’ll spend a great deal of time around campfires. The name Fireside isn’t just an artistic choice.
  2. Y’all, there’s an axolotl character and eldritch being.
  3. Fireside is adorable.
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