What Remains of Edith Finch. A game that intrigued me simply by the cover alone, I questioned myself as to what exactly remained of Edith Finch and why a game with such a title was held in high regard by all gamers who played it. It’s not my usual taste in games, I would go for big blockbuster games, action/adventure games, or the typical sports game, so What Remains of Edith Finch was seen almost as uncharted territory to me. I had high anticipations for the game, and believe me when I tell you it delivered in a way I did not expect.
What Is It About?
Obviously, the character in the title is the “protagonist” of the story as it tells a tale of a 17-year-old girl returning to her family home, the Finch home. With the calming scenery in the surroundings and the sounds of birds chirping and waves of the ocean, it instantly set a calm atmosphere that was meant to put the player at ease. It set a harmonious tone that would be continued throughout the entire playthrough as we are taken along the Finch family tree to experience snippets of each and every Finch family member over four generations through the eyes and perspective of Edith Finch, who is the only surviving member of the family left, hence the title. Coming up to the house, you can see how this household was able to accommodate thirteen members of the family with its ascension and renovation as time went on. Having all the rooms designated to certain members of the family, there was a clear indication as to how each member of the family was cherished and remembered in the house, but the question that stayed in my mind as I was going through the game was, ‘What made this family so special, and why should I dedicate my time towards understanding the history of the family?’. Initially, I had doubts as to whether this game was worth continuing, but the intrigue of understanding how a whole game was developed to tell the story of one unfortunate family kept me going.
The Good and the Bad
Going through each family member’s story of the Finch household, it is apparent that they are very diverse in their nature; however, they all shared one sad fate: They died tragic deaths at considerably early ages. One thing that the game absolutely succeeded in was sending its intended message. Going through all these deaths in the Finch family shed light on problems that are faced today and how far people are willing to go for their own ideals. It tackles the topic of mental illness and people’s vulnerability towards it; it shows how strong someone’s belief in something is that they eventually die for it, and that no matter how much you believe in a collective, there is still an element of individuality in each and every person that differentiates them from others. Being taken through the game with text reminds you that as much as we focus on the Finch family, we never lose sight of the perspective that this is coming from, which is Edith’s, and it also keeps you glued to the screen, which quite frankly helped me stay on track. Also, being able to pack these messages into a small number of hours allows for the effects that the game intended to remain burrowed in without being lost in endless hours of repetitive gameplay.
Nonetheless, it is quite a short tale, about three hours to be exact, and portions of time are spent moving around due to the slow pace of the game, which is actually quite sluggish. Even if it is being used as a way to allow the player to take in everything going on in the game, anybody who enjoys fast-paced games might immediately be thrown off by this one, which could sway them not to continue. The story would be quite intriguing to someone who is a story-driven gamer, but it also lacks in depth. We understand as the gamer that family is important and must always be remembered, but the connections between the family members is never really explored, and so this may leave you confused when certain actions of the member of a family are in the response to the death of another. It is almost instantly implied that this family loves each other, but due to the lack of evidence of the connections between the different siblings, their actions may not resonate as powerfully to the player, and so relatability can be challenging.
Most Powerful Aspect of the Game
It is quite interesting how an entire game can be dedicated to showing the deaths of family members across time. The Finch family curse was spread across the family tree, and we were treated to the perspectives of each family member’s life just as they were about to die.
It was really bold for the game to include the first-person death of a baby because, in a way, it could seem insensitive and vulgar to include such a thing now with all the sensitivity in the world. However, What Remains of Edith Finch excelled in being able to portray most of the family’s deaths in a positive light as each death came either through positive imagination, breaking through a personal barrier, achieving a goal you set your mind to or regaining something that you thought was once lost. In a way, the game is giving you a choice of thought. You could view the early deaths in the Finch family as a curse that cannot be avoided so long as you have the family name, or it can be seen as each family member being freed from the shackles of life through their self-actualization and, ultimately, their untimely deaths. Leaving this thought to interpretation of the player is why this game was very powerful in delivering its message.
So sure, the title might be a simple tale of a cursed family, but it is still worth investing in. Nothing is perfect. Regardless of the lack of depth in the storytelling, there is a clear narrative to the story, and the message the game tries to relay to the player is tenacious enough to stay in your mind long after the game is complete. And to compress this all into a short run time kept it fresh all the way through to the end.
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 25th April 2017