What Remains of Edith Finch is a gripping surreal story which unfolds as Edith Finch explores the home where every member of her mother’s side of the family died. Going into the game I was expecting it to be a bit disturbing and maybe a bit sad, but I wasn’t expecting a deeply moving story which would resonate on a very personal level. I also didn’t expect the story to be as deeply layered and nuanced as it is. This is our review.
When I first started this game, I was feeling a bit like Edith Finch when she talks about wanting to find out the truth about her family but also being a bit afraid to. I’m an innately curious person so right from the first moment when Edith started talking and I got my first glimpse of the house, I wanted to know more. I was eager to start learning about everything. I was also feeling very wary because the concept of experiencing someone else’s death through their eyes is fairly horrific. Giant Sparrow did a fantastic job playing up the tension between these two feelings throughout the game and it really heightened the entire experience.
Each story is well crafted to not only let you get to know who each character is before they die, but they are also very carefully molded to fit together. It’s no surprise since everyone is related, multiple characters will be in each other’s stories and we often get to see characters at multiple different ages. The brilliance here is it feels natural while also giving the player a chance to connect with the characters in many ways. Additionally, each story is told in a completely different style but each style fits the personality of the character who dies perfectly.
Since the family was cursed most of the death stories have, on some level, an air of the supernatural which can be both intriguing and a bit confounding. However, on reflection with a friend who also played, we came up with logical explanations for all the deaths; which rather than taking away from the story adds an entirely different level to their impact. This also brought up themes having to do with the stories we tell about ourselves versus the stories other people would tell about us. It’s an interesting dichotomy almost anyone can relate to. I have a lot of thoughts on this and other themes in the game, unfortunately very little of this discussion can be had without spoilers. For now, I’ll just say I have many words I want to write about all of this but they will have to wait.
Out of all the stories, the deaths of Lewis and Gregory really destroyed me emotionally because they were the most relatable for me. Which is one of the remarkable accomplishments of What Remains of Edith Finch. While everything fits together very well there’s enough diversity in the stories to make them relatable to a lot of different people and it just depends on someone’s life experiences what will resonate with them personally. For example, Sam’s death was kind of hilarious, I literally laughed out loud there. For other people, I can see how that one could be particularly horrific.
The art design is also thoughtful and beautiful. Every detail has a reason for being and if something isn’t directly explained there’s a logical reason for it existing. The house itself looks, from the outside, like something out of a Doctor Seuss and Edgar Allen Poe collaboration. As I explored the house and learned more about the history of the house and people, it made perfect sense how it ended up looking the way it did. Each character’s room (or area) is carefully filled with decorations and items which further explain who the character was. Each bedroom felt like a lived-in space filled with loved items belonging to the characters. This family was full of strong personalities and they all left a lasting mark no matter how young they were when they died. Conveying all of this through the art isn’t a small task and it is executed perfectly.
One of the very few criticisms I have involves the system that’s in place to help direct the player towards important things. For the most part, if there is an item which can be interacted with in some way it will have a white dot to point it out. This a pretty standard way of doing things in these types of games, but the problem was sometimes things weren’t marked when they really should have been. To be clear I don’t have an issue with there being missable items, things which you don’t have to use to not be marked. This adds to the feeling of discovery and reduces the autopilot feeling which can sometimes pop up. It’s when you must interact with something and it’s not marked I have an issue. For example, about an hour and a half into the game, I came to a ladder which it seemed obvious to me I had to climb to proceed, however when I walked up to it there was no dot. This caused me to think maybe I needed to do something different and I literally wasted time looking for another option. It is frustrating when a game seems to break its own rules for no apparent reason.
My other issue is only a problem because of how I tend to play First Person games, and it’s probably because most of the time those are First Person Shooters. Whenever I enter a room I will immediately turn around to make sure there was nothing hiding right inside the door. This is an incredibly deeply ingrained habit; I don’t even think about it at this point. The problem is there are a few rooms where entering or exiting them is an animation not controlled by the player. I often would enter a room, immediately turn around to look behind me, and the exit animation would start up causing me to leave again. Reentering the room would, of course, require the animation again and it was just a frustrating waste of time.
Overall What Remains of Edith Finch is a masterfully executed story and experience. If you are looking for an intriguing story to take an active part in and experience this is a great game to check out. I know I’ll be thinking about this game and going back to it to look closer at various aspects for a long time to come and is well worth anyone’s time.