What Remains of Edith Finch was a title I first saw at last year’s E3 in a collaborative video dedicated to exclusive indie games. Of all the games in that collaboration, Edith Finch was the one I held the most anticipation for. That trailer is the same one published on the PS Store, and what makes that clip so special is that, while it does hint at what the game has in store, it avoids how the game actually plays. For my own sake, I kept myself detached from as much news and coverage of the game as I could before it launched so that it still had that new game smell when I loaded it up. Despite all that anticipation, I had no idea what I was getting into, and I’m thankful.
For the sake of spoilers, I will be speaking in vague terms, saving anything remotely revealing for a response piece I wrote in regards to Edith Finch. Seventeen-year-old Edith Finch returns to her odd, isolated home in upstate Washington with a motive to understand what happened to the rest of the Finch family. Being the last member of the family, Edith wishes to explore what had been inaptly named the Finch Curse and why it debilitated the family over the course of a century.
Walking simulators are challenging to explain without giving away narrative happenings, because the narrative is the prime factor to the game. On a technical level, What Remains runs with stable frames and smooth animations, with animations in the more fantastical events yielding that rising stomach feeling on a roller coaster or gut-wrenching anticipation from an ominous situation soon realized. Stutters occur when significant transitions take place, such as the first reveal of the house or moving from one enclosure to another. There were even some graphical breaks that I saw early on when moving one way and looking another. This could be due to the PS4 Pro’s Performance Mode, but I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention it.
The story is told through Edith Finch’s narration, small foreshadowing hints and observations along the way to instill further intrigue, and the voice actor choice is perfect. Valerie Rose Lohman delivers a character that feels young, apprehensive, and even a bit at-wits-end in a curious way from time to time. Other voice actors comprise roles, and they all play to them perfectly, but Lohman’s efforts steal the show.
What Remains is gorgeous in a way that still appears cartoonish. Every texture is vivid, from the people down to the decals in any given backdrop, but they all have an extra touch to them that makes them a little less real, a little more fantastical; think a more realistic Bioshock, in terms of aesthetics. Rooms in the house are dedicated to each family member’s story, such as one’s room or workshop or favorite place to be, and these are as much embodiments of each person as the characters themselves. A lot of ground is covered in the two hours or so it takes to navigate the entire Finch property and history, and the house adds to the characterization as much as, if not more so than, the family itself.
Please play this game with a headset or dedicated sound system. The crystal clear sounds of the game–the trail underfoot, the old house groans, the ocean beating the coast–all add to the immersion, and are essential to What Remains’ intrigue.
What Remains of Edith Finch is brief and potent. It explores the spectrum of humanity, sheer bliss to utter tragedy, and here they run together. It’s not a spoiler to indicate that the Finch Curse all but wiped out the family, but not much is spoken on the subject itself. How it is delivered and what it represents is far more important. In the medium’s relatively brief history, there are only a few instances where a game explores mental illness, oftentimes it’s an experience in that state of mind. What Remains focuses more on the charm and imagination and humanity that is lost when illness is mishandled. For generations, the Finches neglected their issues, and the outcome reflects that. The house is a labyrinth with doors sealed off, and hidden pathways are the only way that everything in the house stays connected. It’s through these hidden pathways that Edith finds the truth she needs. These paths are not puzzles. They’re not time-consuming. It takes very little effort to discover the secrets to the Finches, and that’s the point. It takes very little effort to want to help someone, even if the way is not the intended one.
As I mentioned before, I had a lot of excitement leading into What Remains of Edith Finch, but I never would have imagined what I got out of it. I cannot say that it will speak to everyone the same way it did to me–classics generally don’t–but this game will be something special to those who need it. Slight hiccups aside, What Remains of Edith Finch is a game to be remembered, and the interlacing narratives that Edith unearths won’t soon be forgotten.
Due to the profound effect of the game, I also wrote this article (SPOILERS) which explains more deeply why What Remains of Edith Finch is a classic.