Giant Sparrow (developer of The Unfinished Swan) is back with another game that also has a bird in its title. However, will What Remains of Edith Finch be as much beloved as their debut offering?
What Remains of Edith Finch is a first-person narrative adventure that tells the tale of the unluckiest family in America, the Finches. Why so unlucky? Well, ever since immigrating to the US, every member of the dynasty has met with an untimely and tragic end. The only exception is the titular Edith who is on her way back to her childhood home in order to learn just what happened to each of her relatives and hopefully figure out why her clan is so cursed.
The first thing that impresses is how much work has gone into What Remains of Edith Finch's graphical design. Every room of the Finches' house is practically overflowing with unique items and paraphernalia that serve to illustrate the lives of their former occupants and further saturate you in the world. If you're anything like me then a lot of the time, you'll stop and look around to examine objects and admire the attention to detail. The house is also full of enough hidden doors and crawlspaces to make it feel like you're exploring it on your own terms even though in reality, it's a pretty linear affair.
As you move from room to room, you come across the diaries and personal artefacts of the former residents. Interacting with these initiates a mini-adventure in which you live out the last moments of each respective family member. Here, again, the game excels by creating a wide range of different gameplay experiences for each flashback. In one, you're a little girl pretending to be a cat while leaping through the tree outside and trying to catch a bird while in another, you live out the scenes of a comic book as the family's young starlet attempts to survive a serial killer attack to the backing of the Halloween theme tune. For a game that looks like another bland walking simulator on the surface, it's refreshing to find that it actually has a large amount of variety to offer.
Further immersing you in the experience is the tactile control scheme. Using only the analogue sticks and two shoulder buttons, it requires you to open doors by pulling back or pushing forward, turn keys in locks by rotation, and read books by manually flipping the pages. It's a rather simple technique that's used in a lot of titles these days but it's very well employed here and serves to draw you into the world just that little bit more. The only thing that breaks the immersion is the large amount of texture load-in after loading up your save or selecting a story to replay.
While What Remains of Edith Finch succeeds in creating a wonderfully realised world, it doesn't give you much time to experience it. The campaign is very short and can be completed in one sitting. Given the fact that it's retailing at the equivalent of a high-end indie game, it's a lot of money for the amount of time that you'll spend with it. It's also a rather depressing time, too. After playing through multiple scenarios in which the protagonists (many of whom are children) lose their lives in such tragic ways, you're likely to be left feeling pretty miserable. Kind of like a soppy movie, it's not an experience that everyone will enjoy.
What Remains of Edith Finch is an immersive and memorable experience that succeeds at pulling you into its richly detailed and dreamlike world. However, its short length and relatively high price point ultimately make it a questionable value proposition.
- + Rich and detailed environments that invite exploration
- + Wide variety of gameplay styles
- + Tactile controls make it more immersive
- - So many tragic stories make for a depressing experience
- - Can easily be completed in one sitting
- - Lots of texture load-in after loading