Video Games Review: What Remains of Edith Finch (PS4, 2017) Is A Haunting and Poignant Tale

What Remains of Edith Finch is the beautifully told story of titular protagonist Edith Finch as she explores her family’s mysterious history, and her connection to the family’s curse. While many might be quick to dismiss the game as ‘just another walking simulator’, what Edith Finch brings to the table is an entirely new and artfully told story that draws you in from the opening scene, and refuses to let you go. I found myself thinking about the stories and the characters of Edith Finch for long after the tale was over, as travelling through the Finches stories was a deeply affecting experience. At its core, Edith Finch is moving, wonderfully poignant tale about life, death, and everything along the way.

The story of Edith Finch is illustrated largely through artful vignettes, each of them told in a range of quirky and wonderful styles. Particularly brilliant was the story of Barbara Finch and her rise to stardom, told in a thick, cel-shaded comic style reminiscent of SEGA’s stellar Comix Zone. Each vignette takes on a wholly different style, and while these disparate pieces make Edith Finch a mishmash of storytelling genres, it’s one of the things that I liked most about the game. Allowing the narrative to be shaped by a range of styles really underscored the stories of each character. The game seeks in some ways to represent the diversity of lives and experiences of the Finch family, and does so brilliantly by allowing the game to be shaped by its characters, and its central mystery.

 

Edith Finch hooks you in almost immediately, leaving the audience to question the meaning of every story, and every life. The themes inherent in each story you encounter are deep and hard-hitting, and Edith Finch refuses to shy away from visceral, emotional tragedy. Taking the role of Edith upon her return to the abandoned Finch family home, a deep sense of foreboding quickly builds. As you journey through the house, the tension is absolutely palpable, and as you discover the many tragedies of the Finch household, the mystery soon deepens. The stories presented in Edith Finch are wild and diverse, with many of them shaped by tragedy. The Finch family is one seemingly cursed by death, and while the majority of the game is a dense slog through the tragedies of the Finches, the tale is also bookended by hope for the future generation. Occasionally, the story is bogged down by its own dour tone, but through several quirky moments of reprieve, including an out-of-nowhere segment where the player must control a shark as it rolls down a forest hill, the game effectively balances its darkest moments with a subtle humour.

While the story itself is brilliant, I did have minor issues with the controls, as some segments – particularly Molly’s story, and the aforementioned shark-rolling-down-a-hill sequence were hard to control and felt a bit unpolished. The game itself occasionally featured murky, unremarkable sequences that felt out of place for a current gen game, particularly as much of the game takes place in darkness. These complaints are minor, however, as Edith Finch’s story takes clear priority over its control scheme or graphical prowess.

Despite a minor lack of finesse, there were still several moments that still took my breath away, particularly a journey towards the original, ancient Finch house, and a slow trudge along the coast of the family property towards the Finch cemetery. These moments were largely guided by the stellar musical score of the game, which was crafted by Fargo composer, Jeff Russo. Not only does the game feature absolutely brilliant, raw voice work, it also contains a sweeping soundtrack that underscores the best moments of the game. Edith’s narration guides players as she and the player discovers the deep secrets of her former home, and though we never see her face, I found myself drawn to Edith. Edith is a wonderful character that becomes so realised and well developed by the end of the tale. Her narration is the thread that ties each of the disparate stories together, and its through her own story that we come to understand the central plot and why these stories must be told.

A pitfall of many of Edith Finch’s fellow ‘walking simulators’ is often a lack of attention to character, but it thankfully avoids this common trope. Each character in the game is provided a distinctive voice and sound through the game’s score. Barbara’s tale is filled with violin-filled suspense, while the epic quest of Edith’s brother, Lewis, is accompanied by sweeping, blaring trumpets. The journey crafted by Edith Finch was, in many ways, emotionally draining, and despite its short length, it made a massive impact on me. Through the many twists and turns of the story, it crafts a brilliant and profound look at the value of life, and the many turns it can take. Clocking in at around the two-hour mark, Edith Finch is a tight, well-paced tale that is bursting with style, and leaves a moving, long-lasting impression.

Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: Artful design; wonderfully moving story; well-realised characters; brilliantly paced storytelling
Lowlights: Some dodgy controls; occasionally murky visuals
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Annapurna Pictures
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: PS4, Windows PC, Mac

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.