A world apart from action heavy shooters and massive open world RPGs, What Remains of Edith Finch is the latest in a recent trend of critically acclaimed first person, story-driven games.
Exploration based titles such as Gone Home, Firewatch or Journey have set a high standard for what we expect from these experiences, and What Remains of Edith Finch rises to that level with gorgeous style and engaging story-telling.
At its heart, the game is a love story to the grief that can accumulate in a home. Its developers Giant Sparrow manage to weave the tragic tale of the Finch family into every fabric of the game, tasking players with exploring the Finch’s home and its incredibly sad history in order to uncover why seventeen year-old Edith is the last surviving member of her household. Edith returns to the home with the intent of investigating the so called family curse and recording the sad stories of her relatives.
As you uncover their tragic tale, you’re pulled through a stunning series of sequences that illustrate the family’s history in incredibly clever ways. Exploring the home reveals a series of additional rooms, designed and built by the family over generations and sealed upon the death of their resident. Each one of these serves as a memorial for the room’s original occupant, full of their belongings and preserving their memory.
As you uncover these memories, the gameplay evolves into a completely immersive, fantastical imagining of their final moments. Far from a gruesome cut-scene, each family member’s demise is retold in beautiful but heart-breaking style through short narrative mini-game segments.
Speaking to the Daily Express just last month, Giant Sparrow’s creative director Ian Dallas defined their focus as, “Basically the sublime, the experience of being in that dual state of something being aesthetically really engaging but also including this ominous, unsettling feeling as well.”
Giant Sparrow’s BAFTA award winning debut title The Unfinished Swan (2012) was critically praised for its originality and innovation, casting you as a young boy chasing an escaped Swan through an unfinished painted world. That same unique art and original premise is what makes Edith Finch so memorable, but the lack of challenge and interactivity might be disappointing for some players.
The Finch home is beautifully designed, with thoughtful details that define each family member and give you a true insight into their life and death. I couldn’t help but think however that the environments would be more engaging if it were possible to interact more with that scenery and perhaps uncover additional content. Despite this, the game’s environments are so well developed that just exploration alone is entertaining.
Throughout What Remains of Edith Finch’s two hours of gameplay, I was constantly impressed with its striking artwork and the intricacy of its world building. The game’s greatest strength is storytelling, which is almost entirely achieved through obsessively detailed environments and clever, illustrated allegories that bring the family’s history to life in bizarre and beautiful ways.
It’s an achievement in any medium, across all genres, to make your audience grieve your characters in just two hours. Giant Sparrow manages to pull it off with exceptional style.
- Fabulous art-style creates an engaging environment
- Innovative, immersive story-telling
- Exceptional attention to detail in each area really brings the story life
- Limited interactivity
- Very few puzzles or challenges to solve
- Some slight performance issues, particularly for PS4 users