What Remains of Edith Finch is an indie-made video game that follows the story of Edtih Finch as she explores her abandoned childhood home to unravel the truth of what happened to each of her family members who met their demise due to a supposed curse. The game has won a handful of awards and is considered to be an example of video games as an artform. Let’s explore this gruesome tale of a game to see if it’s worth the praise or if it needs to be forgotten.
What Remains of Edith Finch tells an incredibly emotional story that gets the player attached to several individual characters. By playing through each scenario of what happened to the family members, it’s rather difficult to not become invested in them and incredibly sad to know that they’re gone. Since each character feels so real and fleshed out as if they were people who actually existed, the player finds themselves wishing they would have lived. Any media that can get you so emotionally attached to fictional characters is doing something right.
What makes the story of the game truly stand out is that it’s told very differently from other games. It’s told as an anthology of tales and gameplay segments strung together by Edith exploring the maze of a house. There are several smaller stories within one larger, sadder story. For each of those smaller story segments, the gameplay is changed greatly. Some of them even feel like you’re playing a completely different game. Even the way the stories are told is different each time, from playable comic book panels, to voiceovers reading poems, and even to imagining a fantasy adventure that’s playable with one half of the controller while working in a fish cannery with the other half. This variety of gameplay and story elements keeps everything feeling fresh so the player never gets bored of it.
It’s also worth noting that the gameplay for each segment is legitimately fun and interesting. The controls are always simple, which makes it very easy for anyone to pick up and play without ever feeling overly confused by the gameplay changes. Each segment, and the game overall, is super approachable while never feeling dull. Anyone can jump into these very different gameplay segments and immediately figure out what to do.
As you make your way through the house into each relative’s rooms, there is some solid puzzle-solving to be found. Finding secret tunnels through the walls or locating a key hidden in the music box can be extremely satisfying. Piecing together which parts of the house lead to others is mind-bending.
The details found throughout the house and the surrounding environment help to tell parts of the story, which makes exploration rewarding. Some of the story is told through what each individual has in their room or pictures framed on the walls. It makes every bit of the storytelling feel organic. Much of the game has the player control Edith as she searches through this massive house, so every inch of it might as well hold importance.
The voice acting throughout the game is incredible. Edith and the rest of her family are all voiced by insanely talented actors who further help to bring their characters to life. They add even more emotion to this already emotional tale.
Despite the gameplay being varied and overall entertaining, it’s also a bit uneven. What I mean by that is that most family members’ stories offer a solid chunk of gameplay, while others don’t offer much at all. While some feel like intricate and clever minigames, others are just walking simulators. There are even a couple who don’t have any gameplay whatsoever. In one segment, you’ll transform into different animals, have the ability to fly as an owl, and swim as a shark. Then in another, you’ll be able to press a button to swing back and forth on a swing set and do nothing else. It’s really odd that some segments aren’t as interesting gameplay wise as the rest.
The game’s story sets up several mysteries and answers them all quite nicely. It answers all except for one, that is. What happened to Edith’s little brother, Milton, after he went missing and even if he’s still alive is never resolved. We’re left wondering where he went and why, other than a cartoon he drew that barely answers it. The reason for that is because it’s answered in another video game titled The Unfinished Swan. It’s a cool way to connect games that were created by the same developer, but it feels so strange to have everything answered except for this one mystery. It leaves a feeling of emptiness or that something is missing after completing the game. It’s also not fair to players who may not realize the two games are connected at all.
There are times when the game gets a bit too dark. I don’t mean the morbid themes; I mean it gets insanely hard to see anything. You can easily turn the brightness up in the settings, but then things look too grainy. It makes navigating narrow hallways and getting around furniture to be more of a challenge than it’s meant to be since you can’t quite see where you’re going. Thankfully this is only during a few moments throughout the game, and the visuals are quite striking the rest of the time.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a truly bizarre tale that absolutely must be played through. It’s not without some flaws that could have easily been avoided, but its story is extremely emotional and can pull in any gamer and make them feel truly attached to the Finch family. It embraces its weird side, like allowing you to play as a shark rolling down a hill. It offers a cavalcade of unique gameplay experiences that never feel out of place. If you ignore the fact that some segments could have offered more gameplay or that sometimes the brightness could be better, you’ll see that this somber story is a creative masterpiece that can stretch the imagination in ways you wouldn’t think possible.