What Remains of Edith Finch Review
What Remains of Edith Finch Review
What Remains of Edith Finch is a treatise on death, but it’s not as morose as the singular topic would lead you to believe. In a strange way, Edith Finch is more about the light following the darkness than the hopelessness of fate.
Posted: 06/30/17 | Category: Review | Developer: Giant Sparrow | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive | Platform: Windows, Playstation 4

Genre: Adventure
Release date: April 24, 2017

Can video games be art? To many gamers this is an obvious fact (yes, yes, a thousand times yes), but back in the dark ages of 2012, there were two Playstation 3 exclusives at the forefront of the inane debate: Journey by thatgamecompany and The Unfinished Swan by Giant Sparrow. The media saturation and critical acclaim of both games forced many industry outsiders to reassess their perspective on the capabilities of video games.

One of those games, The Unfinished Swan, is particularly dear to me. I’ve played through it a dozen times, each time finding myself equally mesmerized by its artistic vision. I recommend it to friends, family, strangers, whoever crosses my path. I consider The Unfinished Swan to be one of the finest games released on the PS3. That’s no small feat.

So when Giant Sparrow announced their follow-up title at the Playstation Experience in 2014, I was overjoyed. A brief trailer was shown, but the more memorable reveal was the game’s superb name: What Remains of Edith Finch.

I added the above preamble to give an insight to the enormous expectations that I placed upon this game. Where The Unfinished Swan had been a masterclass of minimalism, What Remains of Edith Finch promised to be a dense narrative. Could Giant Sparrow capture lightning in a bottle twice?

In short, absolutely. What Remains of Edith Finch is no sophomore slump. While it doesn’t surpass the innovation of The Unfinished Swan, Edith Finch is confidently within the pantheon of first-person story-driven games thanks to experimental gameplay, extraordinary dialogue and a narrative of magical-realism.

Storyline 
 

What Remains of Edith Finch follows, you guessed it, Edith Finch after the death of her mother. Edith is the last Finch alive and she returns to her childhood home to gain insight into the “curse” that affects the Finches, “America’s Most Unfortunate Family.” Edith — and, by proxy, the player — are intruders into the private lives of the previous inhabitants (a fact enforced by the act of crawling through the dog door to enter the home).

Throughout the home, Edith enters the rooms of her deceased family members to experience their stories. The stories themselves vary in both their gameplay and their tone, but each story has one guarantee — the family member will die at the end. 

What Remains of Edith Finch is a treatise on death, but it’s not as morose as the singular topic would lead you to believe. In a strange way, Edith Finch is more about the light following the darkness than the hopelessness of fate. We are all going to die, but we can choose to celebrate those who came before, as Edith herself does, or we can choose to glue shut the doors of the past and flee from predestination, as is the case with Edith’s mother.

“I don’t want to make the same mistakes she made... trying to bury something that’s still alive,” Edith says of her mother.

The success of a game can hinge entirely on successful writing. While I may be in the minority, I was so turned away by the abysmal teen dialogue of Life is Strange that I’ve since cursed the game for stealing even a minute of my time. What Remains of Edith Finch is the polar opposite. Wise beyond her years, Edith is the guru that leads us up this mountain of memories. “Nothing in the house looked abnormal. There was just too much of it, like a smile with too many teeth,” says Edith. Her observations brought my thoughts to life in digestible quips. More often than not, I’d find myself thinking, “Exactly! That’s exactly how this feels!”

Gameplay 
 

In traversing the house, Edith’s controls are limited to the ever-popular options to walk and interact, but the game saves its magnificent quirks for the interactive memories of her deceased family. What other game can say that you’ll get to play as a gluttonous sea monster, battle the confines of gravity as a determined young boy on a swing, or explore a family’s history using an old View-Finder?

There is a nigh-untraceable throughline that connects Edith Finch’s diverse gameplay elements. In some ways, it’s hard to imagine the cohesion between unrelated tasks when viewed in retrospect, but every twist of the analogue stick and click of a button feels distinctly...Finchian. Each Finch vignette has a different style of gameplay, and through these Giant Sparrow effectively establishes individual desires and personalities.

Audio and Visual 
 

The Finch house is a splendor to behold, towering above the state of Washington as a rickety monument to the magical setting. Inside, a tennis ball hangs in the dusty garage to help with parking, a tri-fold student presentation sits in a makeshift classroom, and scores of menus for Imperial Palace litter the house (it was the only restaurant that would deliver to the Finches). These little choices help to make an un-relatable family relatable.

That being said, other choices only enhance the quirks of this cursed family. I laughed when I entered Great Grandma Edie’s room and found that she kept memorial portraits of each of her deceased birds in the cage that each had occupied. And I found myself uncomfortably entertained while flipping through a comic book detailing the demise of the celebrity Finch.

A carry-over from The Unfinished Swan is present in the narrative text that is presented in the environment. Text enters the scene with a panache that I fell in love with in Giant Sparrow’s first game, and it disappears with clear thoughtfulness from the developers: it floats up a chimney, gets batted away by tentacles, or races across the bridge in front of Edith.

The tone of the game is beautifully accented by a soundtrack by Jeff Russo, the composer behind two of television’s most atmospheric narratives, The Night Of and Fargo. While never falling into maudlin melodies, it captures the essence of curiosity and mystery, and eventually — as with a candle at the end of a long hallway — the glimmer of hope. 

Conclusion 
 

What Remains of Edith Finch is a celebration of individual diversity that never loses sight of an unalienable fact: family members may be separated by their identities, but they are bonded by something larger than the rooms that divide them. We experience the many deaths of the Finch family, but the game is about so much more than dying. It’s about mortality and what we do with the time we’re given. 

Edith herself provides the most succinct impression of this game: “The best we can do is open our eyes and appreciate how strange and brief all of this is.”

Grade: A
 
Diverse gameplay elements 
+ Meticulously crafted world
+ Extraordinary tone-balancing
+ Hope
 
No negatives
 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

System Requirements

MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows Vista SP2 64-bit or later
Processor: Intel i3 2125 3.30 GHz or later
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: GeForce GTX 750/AMD Radeon 7790 or later
Storage: 5 GB available space
 
Specials from Digital Download
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