“You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.” Never has an expression felt more appropriate than when playing through What Remains of Edith Finch which sees the titular character return to her family home seven years after leaving with her mother to uncover the secrets behind a curse that has haunted the family for generations. A curse that sees each relative meet their untimely end.
Brought to us by Giant Sparrow, the team behind the compelling The Unfinished Swan, What Remains of Edith Finch is a first-person narrative adventure that follows each member of the Finch family through a series of short stories that concludes with that person’s death.
As Edith, you enter the Finch household to find abandoned belongings, dirty dishes and family portraits and immediately you feel a sense of sadness that this once lively family home that has seen generations of the Finch’s grow, has lied dormant for the past seven years. What’s More, as you explore the cluttered hallways of the house, you soon find that most of the Finch’s bedrooms have been locked and bolted to prevent you from entering.
Thankfully, the Finch family Patriarch, Odin Finch, was a fan of secret passages and hidden levers which you must locate to progress onto each area and explore each of the family member bedrooms. By interacting with trinkets, photographs and journals, you uncover the relative’s backstory and unlock playable events that lead to their untimely death.
Each of the character’s stories is played out in an incredibly unique and compelling way. One of the fantastical tales sees the player assume the role of one of the Finch children who, in a quest to satisfy her nighttime hunger, transforms into an array of predatory animals including; a cat, an owl and a shark. Additionally, a later stage of the game sees the story play out as a video game created in the imagination of Edith’s older brother, Lewis.
Whilst some of the family’s stories retain wondrous elements, others are much shorter and subdued. However, these quieter moments are just as effective and at times downright heartbreaking.
The Finch household itself is incredible. The design of the interior is a mash-up of the Finch’s’ tastes throughout the years whilst the exterior architecture of the home is outlandish and ridiculous. What appears to be a traditional looking home, you soon realise it has had DIY additions over the years including buildings placed on top of each other and even a boat. To put it simply, imagine Grand Designs if Kevin Mccloud was drunk and negligent.
The game’s story is perhaps one of its strongest features. It’s so intelligently and eloquently told that you can’t help but feel compelled to reach its conclusion in one sitting. Thankfully, this is not an impossible feat as the game is relatively short as it clocks in at just under three hours. However, the level of complexity and brilliance that is told in this short time makes those hours feel well spent.
Gameplay is as you would expect from this genre of game. Whilst the individual tales do provide some variety in mechanics, the core of the game is exploring the past of the Finch family and interacting with their possessions until you have uncovered the entire family tree.
However, the options as to the objects you can interact with do at times feel restricted. For example, in some areas, you can only interact with a handful of objects which are highlighted by a pointer. This does make the game feel limited and if I were to nitpick, I would have liked if you had the ability to interact with more of the family’s trinkets even just to add some additional exposition to the story.
As one of my most anticipated games of 2017, What Remains of Edith Finch is a short but meaningful experience. What it lacks in the way of challenge, it makes up for with heaps of intrigue and mystery.
The Finch family are diverse and unique individuals which is perfectly portrayed through their life events within the game which range from odd to heartwarming to heartbreaking. Edith’s curiosity to uncover the secrets of her family tree carries the player through this enchanting experience which shows that even though the Finch family is no more, their memories will remain with the player long after the screen fades to black.