What Remains of Edith Finch is a game I’ve been putting off for a while now. I’m not really sure why I waited so long. I already knew it was good. I think we all did. Thankfully, the latest PS5 port featuring a fix of the slowdown issue in the game’s opening minutes, as well as the new addition of a PS5 trophy list and a platinum trophy, really sealed the deal for me.
Finally, diving into the game revealed a familiar walking simulator featuring the labyrinthine house from Gone Home with the tragedy of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Dear Esther. It’s a game entirely driven by its storytelling and a masterclass in characterization.
The titular Edith is the last remaining member of the cursed Finch family, who have all died at varying ages under strange circumstances. Returning to the family home after the death of another family member, our protagonist uncovers the familial history of the curse and the subsequent tragedy that it brings. Perhaps this beautifully broken house will provide some clarity and closure.
After each Finch death, the person’s bedroom was sealed up, never to be used again, resulting in an eclectic, crooked tower of a house, with rooms tacked on here and there over time. Every pathway and corridor is filled with meaning and metaphor, depicting the beautiful chaos of the Finch family tree, but that’s nothing compared to the bedrooms…
Exploring the obscure house uncovers multiple bedrooms connected by secret passages that act as shrines to each deceased family member. Interacting with each person’s journal triggers a flashback to their final moments. All sad. All different. Some with a hint of pitch-black comedy. Others are absolutely heartbreaking. Gregory… hit me hard.
It’s all part of the show, though; a stunning narrative that keeps you hooked from start to finish as you meet each lost member of the Finch family and learn their individual quirks and personalities. It’s not entirely original storytelling if you played any of the games mentioned above, which may cost the game a point or two, that was until one of the game’s later chapters unveiled a surprising and very welcome revelation.
You see, while What Remains of Edith Finch is an incredible story already, it also serves as a clever prequel to one of my favorite gaming experiences of the last decade, the absolute marvel that is The Unfinished Swan. Pay attention, and you’re sure to find that glorious link.
Each beautifully detailed bedroom is a mausoleum for a Finch relative, but all the doors are locked, so the path inside will require some creative exploration. A hatch in the floor of one room leads to a tunnel, which then leads to a ladder in another. Then, a touch of fantasy kicks in, as Edith climbs through a picture to find a story within.
As she explores the rooms, she’s transported into tales of the characters’ last moments. These stories-within-a-story may be twisted by a narrator, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. It’s a game about the stories that families tell each other and how memories occasionally evolve into a fusion of fiction and history, becoming their own kind of truth.
One episode splits the controls between the real world and an imagined one in a story that is designed to resonate with traditional gamers. In another, 10-year-old Molly is the narrator of a psychedelic Lovecraftian trip that transports the player into different bodies. It should be nightmarish, but it’s told with such playful, childish innocence, evoking memories of folklore and nursery rhymes.
There are many dark moments, but anyone expecting jump-scares and traditional horror will be disappointed. Instead, there are unseen monsters under the bed, magical storms that conjure up The Wizard of Oz, a brilliant homage to Tales from the Crypt, and many more homages with fascinating, if tragic, outcomes.
Homely, conventional, beautifully rendered visuals will absorb you throughout this adventure, and the level of detail means that really understanding a place requires a bit more study of its components to really digest. Everything looks real. Everything has meaning. Everything is inviting.
Character models aren’t quite so beautiful, though, and the game knows it. With an engine designed for photo-realistic environments in mind, the Finches themselves look a little out of place, with PS2-like models and wooden animations. The game often hides this well, with characters speaking to the player characters off-screen, through closed doors, or just out of shot. It’s a nice try, but it won’t hide the characters for long.
The voice-acting is a redeeming quality. No two characters sound alike, making every person easily identifiable, yet also well-performed, natural-sounding, and emotional when required. The music is also whimsical yet captivating throughout. Listen out for that iconic theme tune from The Unfinished Swan when it makes its welcome return.
There is the possibility you might have a few loose ends to tie up after the credits roll, but I honestly don’t mind replaying a chapter here or there to grab those missable trophies since it gave me an excuse to return to the magic. In this case, a guide may come in handy for your post-game pottering.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of fascinating tales that deftly jump from one genre to another without ever losing the heart of the story but scratch the surface, and it shares the same themes of folkloric wonder as familiar classics. At times, a character climbs into books in scenes reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or The Neverending Story.
Giant Sparrow seamlessly transports the player from one character to another, shifting viewpoints and time periods through three generations of a family. To describe any of the stories within the game is to say too much, as each chapter is so distinct from the last in terms of gameplay, style, and setting.
The house could almost be considered a character in itself, and to learn more about it, you have to explore and believe me, you’ll want to. Learning more about the house means learning more about the family who came before, and it is incredibly addictive knowledge.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a game that succeeds in recreating the childhood joy of reading a book and being utterly transported into its pages, only to reach the end and realize it’s not real, though you wish it was. Like The Unfinished Swan, What Remains of Edith Finch won’t hesitate to tug on your heartstrings for years to come.
- Intriguing concept
- Beautiful story
- Genuinely moving
- Character models look out of place
- Some slow-down on PS4