As the world of videogames and cinema inch closer together, from time to time I’ll play a game that I think is worth discussing on this site, and the recently released What Remains of Edith Finch happens to be one of them.
Developed by Giant Sparrow, this fantastic piece of interactive fiction is the first game published by Annapurna and marks a strong entry into the market. While it could be pejoratively referred to as a “walking simulator,” the unique storytelling mechanics set it apart from other games in this fledgling genre and make it one of the most compelling, gut-wrenching experiences I’ve had while playing a game.
You play as Edith Finch, a young woman returning to her childhood home, searching for the history behind her seemingly cursed family. As you wander through the vast homestead, filled with secret passageways and relics from the past, you begin to uncover the tragic end of those in your family tree, and with it, the sad history of your lineage. Each room you enter is littered with items of the family member who inhabited it, undisturbed from their time on this earth, and as you explore, you begin to relive each person’s final moments as if they were your own.
As if this concept weren’t macabre enough, many of the Finch members were only children, or even babies, when they perished, adding an even more tragic, somber tone to the already heavy story. Each account is told in a completely different and unique way, some more straightforward than others, but nothing ever feels dull or boring; there’s weight to each tale, and each one adds to the troubled history of this doomed family.
There are a few twists along the way as you begin to understand more about Edith’s visit, and for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that each one is satisfying and packs some serious emotional heft.
With each uniquely crafted story comes an equally different visual and narrative style. One sequence plays out like an issue of Tales From The Crypt, with a pulp comic look, while another has you transforming into a cat, an owl, a shark and then finally a monster, while inhabiting the imagination of a child. This diversity of technique makes the linear progression of the story so much more enthralling than in other storytelling games like Gone Home, another masterpiece in its own right, which simply lays out each story beat through text.
The only real downside to the game is its fairly short playtime. I completed the whole story in one sitting, taking about two hours or so. Considering that the developers created such a rich and interesting world, I wanted to spend more time in it, learning everything I could about the Finch family
I can count the number of times on one hand that a videogame has brought me to tears, and What Remains of Edith Finch has done just that. It’s a brilliant piece of storytelling that blurs the line between game and cinema and does so in such a beautifully artful way that, even if you aren’t a big gamer, you owe it to yourself to dive into this experience.