As a gaming experience, What Remains Of Edith Finch is a fine example of the first-person stories in recent years. The plot hits a dramatic nerve as you follow the titular character as she explores her family home in Washington. As you go through doors and secret passageways, you learn more about Edith’s ancestry following from recent family events. As Edith, you experience different stories of each deceased family member and start to unravel what might turn out to be a familial curse. The home itself is a gorgeous feat of design, and as you unlock the mystery through each member of the Finch family, the realization of this being a truly special game dawns on you. The developer Giant Sparrow, best known for the triumphant The Unfinished Swan has hit another home run. As a game, its depth lends itself more towards the filmic sides of PC games now, and though the entire game can be completed in a very short space of time (it took me just over two hours to finish it), it’s not a game you play just once and let it go. A deeply immersive experience, it isn’t something to play while you’re on the go.
As a playable game, it is quite lacking in challenges. The real difficulty of the game is finding your way into the locked rooms of the labyrinthine house, which is via secret passages. The whole feeling I got while going through these secret passages did remind me of a rich family drama, like a ghostly Downton Abbey! But don’t let that put you off if you’re not into that! The rich storytelling from the characters exudes such a vast array of imagination that it could have easily made its way into one of those morality tales like Grimm. As I went through the game, I found myself feeling very different emotions, but honestly, I was a little bit peeved at the minimal dips in performance. Though to be fair, this was only when I approached the Finch house for the first time.
As you explore each room of the house, the narrator, who is Edith, explains how each family member came to an end after the wonderfully rich lives they led. It’s an experience to fully immerse yourself in, and as the trend towards interactive first-person dramas peaks again, it’s time to make the most of your inner sanctum, as you’ll be going back to the game more than once! Have a look at the gamer chairs compared to standard ones because you may as well be comfy when you go back to it! The immersive experience is where the game really has its charm. It’s not an edge of your seat style gameplay, it’s a slow burner where you can really relax into your chair and take in the stories as they unfurl. There aren’t many obstacles that prevent you progressing, and as far as puzzles are concerned, there are very little. In fact, there are fewer than other first-person games like Gone Home, but the final moments of each Finch family member’s life are where you really get the charm of this game. As you find a memento of each family member located in their rooms, you are told the story of their death, done through allegories of a fantastical nature. Rather than boring, each individual story is told through an experience that really helps subvert the art form of gaming. I was continually baffled, overjoyed, and aghast at where each new style took me. Overall, I found myself completely taken aback by the form of each story, and you won’t be disappointed either. For each sequence, the dreamlike quality exuded a feeling of Twin Peaks (or maybe it’s the box set I’ve overdosed on recently). Apart from one sequence that involved controlling animals from the first-person perspective that I couldn’t really get my head around, I found the dream sequences to be the thing that elevates the gaming quality to another plateau.
As a plot, it would be a bit extreme to compare it to a really good piece of literature, but the quirks of each family member really do merit repeat playing. The overarching theme, of course, is about death. But the subject is treated with a real sense of creativity. Even the subject of the death of a child, as horrible and stomach-churning as it might be, is treated with a real sense of, dare I say it, flair. The human moments in a time of tragedy is what brings the plot its sense of light in the dark. As you find out how each family member is related and the impact of each member’s death on the next stayed with me for quite a while afterwards, which is no mean feat for a game! The family members are full of their own eccentricities and bring to mind movies like The Magnificent Ambersons or The Royal Tenenbaums, both obtuse family tales that merit repeat viewing. And this game really demands that you play the game once it’s over. As a glossy piece of viewing, the game is wonderful, which does mean there is a little lacking in terms of interactivity. There isn’t much in the family home that you can touch or play with, unfortunately, but as a piece of pristine design, the game is very hard to beat! The house has so much character that you could swear that it had been lived in for many generations, and the detail in the house far outweighs the “please don’t touch” setup.
Overall, as an experience, the game thoroughly demands going back to. There were so many little details I missed out on during my first play, that I went back and did it all again, and got so much more out of it. Even though it takes around 2 hours to complete, you really don’t mind, as the detail and texture of each room and each story is so finely-plotted, that it’s an absolute pleasure to involve myself in this world. Touching, beautiful, heartbreaking, What Remains Of Edith Finch is an experience I heartily recommend.