What Remains of Edith Finch
The game is a collection of short stories. Each of those stories focuses on the death of a different Finch family member and each is meant to look and feel different from the others, the way no two people in any family are alike. [Giant Sparrow]
Single-Player, Atmospheric Walking Simulator
April 25, 2017
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Genre: First-Person Adventure
Platforms: PS4, PC
Rating: T for Teen
Death is a certainty for us all. Throughout life we lose loved ones, whether they’re it’s a dear friend, a grandparent, or sibling— somebody taken far too earlier than they should have been. Many of us grieve, cry, and struggle to get through the days thereafter, but eventually, the light at the end of the tunnel comes where we can rebuild, and somehow move on. What Remains of Edith Finch is a beautiful reminder that no matter who we lose, and now matter the circumstances this loss may take place, the stories we’ve told, and the memories we have of those we’ve lost will forever live on in our hearts.
Violence: Some blood can be seen from a guillotine-like device slicing fish. When playing as animals during one sequence, blood can be seen from eating other animals. Blood spatters can also be seen from a cutting incident using a jigsaw.
Language/Crude Humor: There are a few instances of “d***” and one instance of “h***” used by certain members of the Finch family when playing their timelines.
Drug/Alcohol Use: One FInch family member in particular uses alcoholic beverages to drown away their sorrow.
Other: While not violent in nature, What Remains of Edith Finch delves into the impact of depression, anxiety, and death in unique and lighthearted ways.
Positive Content: Every emotion and detail is left in frame, exposing profoundly anguishing themes which nevertheless develop into endearing pictures of hope and determination through trying times. Also, even with the dark thematic elements, Edith Finch is a celebration of life and having those you love close at all times.
Every inch of a home tells a story about its inhabitants, and the Finch estate is no different. What Remains of Edith Finch has you playing as a returning member of the family, Edith Finch, exploring the old family home years after abandoning it one last time to uncover the deepest family secrets. The reasons for the sudden departure aren’t clear until you progress through the house, revisiting your past experiences and the lives of the home’s other inhabitants over the last hundred years. The Finch homestead is filled with locked doors and the secrets kept behind them, including the mysterious circumstances behind the deaths of many family members who once roamed the narrow, unkept halls.
Each room is unique in both layout and interior decoration and you really get a feel of who inhabited them. It truly is a beautiful to behold, and the attention to detail is is immaculate. Interaction is limited very much to focusing in on certain items and once you do this, Edith will give a bit of a narration about the item. The narration is the thread that holds the whole game together and the actress who plays Edith does some brilliant voice work.
As Edith begins to explore the house, she finds her way into each of the locked rooms where she is granted a small vision into the misfortune that occurs at the end of each family member’s life. Giant Sparrow has excelled at using common objects and experiences to connect with players on a sentimental level. One of the stories concerns nothing more than swinging on a swing, yet it speaks volumes beyond what this simple premise may suggest, forming an intimate bond with even my own childhood memories in a brief span of about ten minutes each. Even the house possesses many familiar elements, creating an uncanny, eerie, and peculiar realm; it is almost as much a character itself as it is the setting for the elegantly grim memoirs held within its walls.
The stories are the stars of the show in What Remains of Edith Finch, with one story being told through the lens of a camera as Edith thumbs through a series of photographs. Another is recounted as a comic book/horror style story, jumping from panel to panel with certain interactive moments and frightening surprises held within. It’s all done in such a way as to never get boring, as I find many so-called walking simulators. I always felt engaged while digging into the Finch family history—enough to complete the game in a single sitting. A shorter length in no way makes it a bad game though. Even once you are done playing, you won’t stop thinking about the Finch family and the brilliantly perfect pacing.
With a few possible exceptions, What Remains of Edith Finch rarely offers explicit details of a family member’s demise. Death is a facet of life most video games often trivialize by sheer mechanical necessity, but What Remains of Edith Finch’s approach cleverly evades this convention. While experiencing each family member’s story through different gameplay sections, life and death are expressed through surreal interpretations of cognitive decay, terrible accidents, and the innocence of childhood. Luckily, it still controls well and is not bogged down by overly slow walking, much like in Dear Esther or Gone Home.
While exploring the brilliantly bizarre home, how much Edith discovers is true is open to interpretation. Edith herself doesn’t believe everything. Despite the strange and often fantastical situations she uncovers as she delves deeper into her old home, she herself is very grounded in reality—even if the house she’s exploring doesn’t quite seem to be. As she finally finds answers to questions she’s been asking for years, more and more questions arise along the way. While some games purposefully feel open-ended as a narrative device, What Remains of Edith Finch feels somewhat different. Sure enough, there are questions we desperately wanted answers to much like Edith. For once, we know exactly as much as our protagonist, and our frustration for answers is her frustration too. She will never know the entire truth of her family legacy, and as much as I want to spend more time exploring the Finch household, the restrictions of being in a virtual world make it impossible to fathom.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a fantastically memorable experience—one which only the interactive medium of video games could provide. While the game is short and only has limited interactions, if you’re looking for a novel and consistently surprising game than this is the title for you.
Review originally published by Josh Brant, and has been restored after a website outage.
+ Well-designed setting
+ Fantastic characterization
+ Gripping and compelling narrative
+ Great message of finding beauty in tragedy
+ Breaks all conventions for walking simulators
- Arguably short in length
- Flashback sequences vary in execution