What Remains of Edith Finch is a narrative driven first person experience developed by Giant Sparrow. Their previous release, The Unfinished Swan, was an interesting and unique adventure game that I thoroughly enjoyed. Published by AnnaPurna Interactive and releasing on the Playstation 4 and PC, I was glad to see some solid backing to an already impressive development team. The game centers around the titular character Edith Finch, as she explores her childhood home and discovers stories of her family’s past. Does What Remains of Edith Finch succeed or bore? I’m hoping for the former.
I went into What Remains of Edith Finch with almost no knowledge, only briefly seeing a trailer and some screenshots. After completing the somewhat brief experience (around three to four hours), I completely believe that it’s the best way to experience the game. For that reason, I’ll be reasonably light on narrative commentary, saving that for a spoiler-filled article later on. This review will of course be spoiler free.
What I can tell you about Edith Finch is the set up, one that is enticing albeit slightly cliche. You play as Edith Finch, a 17 year old girl revisiting her childhood home. It’s a scenario I’ve seen before, and the slightly creepy vibe was definitely reminiscent of games like Gone Home and Perception. Like Gone Home, the entirety of the experience lies in discovering the story of the house and the people who lived there. Unlike Gone Home, Edith Finch’s home is expansive and full of characters.
The Famous Finches
As you explore the Finch house, you enter bedrooms that have long since been locked up. Each room is stuck in a place in time; usually after the inhabitant has passed away. Each member of the Finch family gets their own personal story, in which you control them in their final moments. These sequences are numerous, and each one feels incredibly unique. Not only is the art and sound representative of the character you’re learning about, but the game design is as well. These sequences do an excellent job of showing us the essence of each character, through both gameplay and overall content.
For the most part, What Remains of Edith Finch is a somewhat passive experience. You simply walk around, interacting with objects around the house. You’ll occasionally control Edith’s hands by use the left and right analog stick in conjunction with the triggers. This limited amount of input is used to the game’s advantage, crafting insanely memorable sequences. In one sequence, you are in the memory of a family member who enjoyed photography. This entire part plays out by taking pictures of the surroundings as the story plays out in front of you. This is a small example of an ever present theme in What Remains of Edith Finch; variety and emotion.
What Remains of Edith Finch isn’t so fantastic because of an insanely cool gameplay gimmick or a surprise twist ending. Instead, it’s so remarkable due to the consistent quality. Everything about What Remains of Edith Finch is impressive; the sound design, music composition, writing, cinematography, the list goes on and on. Each view seems like a vista, each line of dialogue packed with emotion. The somewhat reserved score creates an excellent cushion of ambience to an already impressive atmosphere.
Like Gone Home, What Remains of Edith Finch evokes a feeling of creepiness. The Finch house is large and intimidating, with many locked doors and hidden passageways. Multiple levels seemed tacked onto the top of the house, as the house seems to lean or wither. In a way it reminds me of the Winchester Mystery House, a real life home with stairs that lead to no where, and doors that open to 40 foot drops. However, I went through every emotion playing the game, some far more impacting than fear.
Disregarding the absolutely enthralling memory sequences, exploring the Finch house is entertaining on its own. The house is so intricate and your journey through it is so well guided, that you almost feel like you’re on a dreamlike tour. Each area of the house feels lived in and expressive, with character bursting from every aspect of design. Combine that with equally expressive character based sequences with individual gameplay experiences to match, and you’ve got a solid game. Drenching that game in a heartfelt, emotion packed, and riveting narrative only strengthens it that much more. When all of these aspects, each completely artful in their own right, are combined in a unique and inspired way, you’ve got something very special on your hands.
The Bottom Line on What Remains of Edith Finch
Giant Sparrow has created something truly memorable with What Remains of Edith Finch. It’s interesting to play, a visual and audio treat, and aesthetically pleasing in almost every way. The voice over work is spot on and the performances are natural. The story of the Finch family is gripping and stays with you, encouraging you to ponder its messages. I was not only surprised by the game’s ability to hold my attention, but also to consistently surprise me with an effective narrative and emotion storytelling.
Not everyone will love What Remains of Edith Finch like I do, but it’s undeniably impressive and unique. Although it draws inspiration from games like Gone Home, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and Layers of Fear, it far surpasses them in overall quality. I cannot recommend What Remains of Edith Finch enough, and I only wish that it were a bit longer.