I’m starting to become a fan of narrative-heavy games. Don’t get me wrong, I love tight, intricate gameplay, but there’s something about a game that unravels like a good novel. What Remains of Edith Finch is a masterclass in storytelling. Told through the perspective of the last surviving member of the Finch family, the player is taken on a journey to discover whether or not the “curse” that has plagued the family for generations is real or merely a figment of superstition. It’s a short, compact experience, but an emotional one that will stay with you long after the credits.
Players themselves will questions the veracity of the “curse” as you get to relive the various tragic experiences of the Finch family. Each experience is around 10 minutes or so, but they are all unique and gripping. What’s fascinating is that every experience is told through a different gameplay mechanism, one feels like a platformer, another acts as an old comic book, and one looks like the beginning of a world-building RPG. Each segment tends to start out whimsical and light-hearted, but as the narration continues to progress, it quickly turns tragic and once the player is snapped back to reality, it feels like an emotional gut-punch. One segment in particular, which I won’t spoil. made me take a moment because once you catch on this particular Finch met their end, it can be quite jarring.
What Remains of Edith Finch is an award winning property and deservedly so, the story, while short, is one of the best in any medium, not just gaming. It has various twists and turns that will make you sympathize with the Finch family. Every member is so well characterized that it feels that this could’ve been a work of non-fiction. Visually, it’s quite stunning as the color palate shifts based off the segment. When roaming around the estate, the colors are dull and drab to capture the dramatic tone of the game. When the player enters a specific segment, the color palate will shift to capture the experience, for example, you’ll know it’s a memory of a child when the colors pop and fly off the screen. It’s simple, charming, and effective. Text will appear on screen during narration and will animate to push you in the right direction. I was honestly enamored by the visual style of this game.
Of course as a narrative-heavy game, the voice acting has to be on-point and What Remains of Edith Finch does not disappoint. Edie, who acts as the player-controlled character, is brilliantly realized as she captures the events of the game. She can be funny, sarcastic, reticent, and somber. Edie is the perfect representation of a mature, thoughtful character who sees hope in the darkness. It should be noted that each of the various Finch members are also well vocalized and the narration through their segments will emotionally pull you as they reminisce on their loved ones. You truly do feel like a fly on the wall as nothing you do will change the fates of the Finch family.
Upon completion, I couldn’t help but find myself wondering why it took me so long to play this game. It contains an utterly fascinating story about the mystery of a seemingly normal family who has constantly been beset by tragedy. It’s a short, but brilliant game, that doesn’t do much in the way of gameplay, but because its narrative is so strong, this can easily be overlooked as What Remains of Edith Finch is an experience. Rarely, does a game come along in which you’re so engrossed in that you forget you’re actually playing a videogame. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how great this game is, this is a must-play for everyone.