Every family has their stories. You share between you stories of joy, stories of woe, stories of success, and stories of failure. From the moment we’re born a new chapter begins as part of a larger family thread that has wound through the centuries, each of our ancestors leaving their own mark on our genes and familial history. The tragedy is that we’ll never know all the exploits of those that came before us, but some records will always be kept. What Remains of Edith Finch is but a snapshot of the lives of one family, and it may just be one of the best journeys you’ll take.
Edith Finch is the main voice in the game as she returns to her family home as its last living member. It’s a home that she hasn’t been in for years, but when she enters everything is exactly as it was after she left. The Finch house has this air of mystery to it and its own secrets that contain answers about the family history. It’s a history that Edith wants to discover for herself, having been left in the dark regarding quite a lot of it.
The Finch house contains sealed rooms that Edith needs to find a way into, but that isn’t a huge barrier as the game nudges you along. Each room is dedicated to a member of the Finch family, extending back to the 1940’s and up to the modern day. Within, Edith will find something that triggers the story of the family member, and the one thing these stories have in common is that they are set on the days the people die.
That may sound incredibly morbid, but many of the stories are constructed in such a way that it celebrates the life of each individual, despite paying witness to the methods of their deaths. Every memory plays out differently and follow different styles, though in each of those moments characters with depth are built even if they themselves never say a word. Some of the memories go on for a little while whereas others will last just a couple of minutes, but in every one I felt an understanding for the person and could gauge their personality.
Giant Sparrow has done a great job in personalising each memory and giving each its own spin. One takes the form of a comic book playing out to a fantastical conclusion, while another is centred around photography. Each is as completely different as the characters they portray. It is further helped by the voice acting of Edith’s character and the supporting cast that really draw you in.
The way What Remains of Edith Finch looks is almost perfect in design. Every room is tailored perfectly to the character tied to it, filled with items that fleshes each one out even further. Exploration is definitely encouraged to uncover the motivations and dreams of characters, and the house itself is constructed in such a way that it holds this sense of wonder and mystery, because you’re never sure what secret it will reveal next through one of its many secret passages.
While the game has this sense of wonder and celebration of life you can’t escape the underlying tragedy. Death is an ever-present motif as all of the character meet their demise in their own way, with Giant Sparrow’s narratives exploring themes like childhood wonder as well as depression. What Remains of Edith Finch also shows how indiscriminate death is, not sparing anyone of any age.
This is a relatively short experience, clocking in at around two hours, but it is engrossing every step of the way. At no point did it feel like the quality dropped or that any story beats fell flat. Giant Sparrow have managed to weave a compelling mystery that evokes various emotions from happiness to sympathy and sadness. The only complaint I can give is that there were a couple of brief moments where the action stuttered near the beginning of the game.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a short experience, but one of the best that has been released in recent memory. Giant Sparrow rose to prominence with The Unfinished Swan and here the studio has cemented itself as one of the best at constructing narratives intertwined with engaging environments. Both a celebration of life and a commentary on the tragedy of death, What Remains of Edith Finch should be experienced by as many people as possible.
Version tested: PS4