In What Remains of Edith Finch, you play as a young woman returning to her family home for the first time in a long time. Sound familiar? Well, rest assured that besides the basic premise, this game doesn’t share a great many thematic or story elements with the highly divisive Gone Home. Mechanically, however, the two are highly comparable, as you spend a good amount of time scouring a vast and oddly constructed house and its surrounding areas, in order to uncover the various tragedies that befell each individual member of the Finch family.
What is important here is that every single story that the game tells got to me in some way or another. These moments pull from a variety of storytelling mediums and aesthetic influences: from comic book strips and flip books to traditional children’s tales passed down through the generations. The various deaths are explored through numerous intriguing albeit simple gameplay ideas that serve to break up the exploration of the titular family’s home. They’re almost all strange, engaging and thoroughly melancholy, and I found great pleasure in uncovering what each one had in store for me. It didn’t take long for my somewhat morbid Gashlycrumb Tinies style fascination with each woeful tale to grow into a genuine emotional engagement with both the wider narrative and the smaller stories therein. I found myself longing to get to know this family and all their eccentricities.
I was initially concerned that the near constant narration would grow to feel entirely unnecessary and may perhaps detract from the joy of poking around the house and discovering things about this family myself. However, those fears soon disappeared as I came to accept it as being a vital part of the game’s personality, as well as its tightly paced narrative construction. As I’ve already mentioned, the multiple types of gameplay introduced are all definitely rather simple, and interactions with the environment are minimal. However, in a time where every other game seems to be a 50 + hour open world Action RPG hybrid, smaller and more directed titles such as this can act as a much-needed palate cleanser.
With What Remains of Edith Finch, you’re getting a lovingly crafted and carefully considered 2-3 hour experience that addresses some of the issues that its forebears suffered from. It’s a genuinely engaging experience that I do not begrudge paying full price for in the slightest. Seldom have I seen a game with such weighty themes manage to stick the landing so beautifully in its latter half. Its final moments are deeply felt; not out of some sense of contrived sadness, but due to the impressive degree of emotional maturity that it displays.
Ultimately, the game is an intelligent rumination on mortality and how important it is to remember and celebrate the life of those we loved rather than allowing their death to define them. These are ideas that developers Giant Sparrow have tackled before with their prior title The Unfinished Swan, but rarely has the balance between pathos and poetry been as powerfully done as it is here.
You might have found some of what I’ve said to be somewhat vague, but I genuinely wouldn’t want to make you feel as though I have lessened your experience of the game by giving away any one of its enchanting surprises or moments of melancholy. All you really need to know is that I strongly urge anyone who has enjoyed similar titles in the past to pick this one up.
However, if you value runtime above all else, and if you struggle to bring yourself to call these types of games, games then you’ve probably already rightly concluded that maybe this isn’t for you, at least not at full-price.
That being said, I’m very hopeful that this one will indeed find an audience that enjoys it and gets as much out of it as I did. It is without a doubt the most emotionally engaging game I’ve played so far this year, and it’s certainly an exciting step in the right direction for narrative-focused gaming experiences.