What Remains of Edith Finch is probably the best game of its kind since Dear Esther, and believe me when I say that it goes one further and wipes the floor with that aforementioned comparison. I personally don’t like the phrase “Walking Sim”, because it doesn’t do the games under that umbrella must justice, and in fact, kind of makes them sound less than what they are. There’s much more to a game like What Remains of Edith Finch than just walking, but it does indeed trade away innovative gameplay to some degree. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but something you should be aware of before diving into the experience at hand.
The game is told through the eyes of Edith Finch, and after losing her mother, she inherits her childhood home. This gravity defying domain is where the game is set, but it’s more than just a home, it’s a collection of stories that chronologize one big emotional package, ready and waiting for you to peel back the intriguing story, minute by minute. It becomes almost instantly apparent that Edith and her mother fled the family home when Edith was just eleven years old, following the death of Edith’s older brother, Lewis. Slipping into the shoes of Edith is something that will stay with me for a good while to come, and something I’m sure many of you will agree with once you hit the end-game.
Because this is a story driven experience, I’m going to dance around the plot as much as I can, to save giving anything away. Returning home after the loss of her mother, Edith is flooded with memories and emotions as she makes her way around the house. She’s the only surviving member of the Finch family, and when you take into account that (supposedly) the Finches were cursed long ago, that’s no small accolade, or is it? Each generation of the Finch family would see most of the generation meet an untimely demise, leaving only a single member of the family to carry on the family name. Some may consider Edith to be the lucky one, me, I found her to be the polar opposite. Though with all due respect, that’s precisely the question that the game wants you to ask yourself throughout the entirety of play.
I was constantly amazed at how realised the family home is. The developers have done an absolutely outstanding job at making the house feel used and lived in, with clutter and personal belongings scattered authentically around the home to really capture your attention. Even with the superb narration to the side, What Remains of Edith Finch is a game that says a thousand words without ever needing to open its proverbial mouth. It’s a shame however that much of what fills the house can only be looked at, and not picked up or investigated. Sure, there’s plenty of items that you can interact with, but these are story-tied and necessary. It would have been nice to have been given the opportunity to really sink deeper into the lore and engage with each set piece, but amidst this fantastic game, that’s a small complaint to make.
The game isn’t overly long and lasts just a few hours, but if you’re willing to trade longevity for something compact and well crafted, What Remains of Edith Finch delivers. I couldn’t help but feel as though Tim Burton had a hand in the experience, due to the surreal touch that the game relays, he doesn’t, but that comparison should give you a good idea as to what to expect. The Finch estate is clearly a domain that’s seen a lot over the years, and it’s up to you to traverse the wonderful (unsteady) environment and discover the stories of each family member and their tragic end. The emotion in each distinct story is both well written and well delivered, and despite that some stand out stronger than others, the package as a whole is dauntingly wonderful.
The far-fetched nature of the game helps to project a sense of fantasy, which in essence, makes the game easier to digest. If these odd elements were absent, the story would have come across too direct or too detached. This is only bolstered by the implementation of clever functions that allow you to toy around with some mechanics that are tied to specific stories. What’s more is that they’re so well nested and suited to each plot that you constantly feel like you’re the subject of a collection of dreams. It’s this formula that makes What Remains of Edith Finch stand out from the rest of the games that share its genre.
Now whilst I cant really pull the game down for the lack of interactive items, what I can complain about is the (albeit not often) momentary freezing throughout the initial phases of play. It’s nowhere near as bad as, let’s say, The Town of Light, but they’re noticeable nevertheless and it certainly pulls your attention away from the otherwise wonderful journey at hand. I do want to point out that these freezes are quite frankly blink-and-you’ll-miss-them, but it happens often enough at first, that you’re bound to witness the fault within the first half hour of play. In any case, it’s nowhere near enough to drag What Remains of Edith Finch from being an utterly tragic yet beautiful depiction of life and death, scattered across several unique scenarios.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a game that stands out in the genre that it’s tied to. Despite the small complaint regarding the freezing, and my personal want for more lore-tied items to investigate, this is without a shadow of a doubt, the best game of its kind that I’ve played. It’s well voiced, it’s superbly written, and it’s magnificently crafted. The distinct functions for each intriguing and heartfelt story are incredible, and goes on to paint one big picture that (although brief) will captivate you long after completion. Make no mistake about it, What Remains of Edith Finch is a gorgeous looking game that’s matched only by the outstanding content within. This is the definition of short and sweet.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.