Gaming: ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’

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What Remains of Edith Finch is the latest effort of indie developer Giant Sparrow, following up on the success of 2012’s The Unfinished Swan, which won two BAFTAs.

The story fellows the seemingly fated misfortune of the Finch family, living somewhere on the wooded coast of Washington in an eccentric, Weasley Burrow-esque home. The family believes that it is suffering from a curse, with every member dying an untimely death, leaving only one descendant left surviving from each generation to continue the bloodline.

Played wholly in a first person perspective, players assume the role of Edith Finch who returns to her ancestral home, chronicling the history of the Finch family since its arrival in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. As the story progresses, Edith vividly imagines each family member’s death and the stories that preceded them.

It is rare to find a game that manages to avoid established tropal pitfalls of the medium, and in the process creating a unique and progressively refreshing experience in the process. What Remains of Edith Finch triumphs in its exploration of videogame narrative, pushing it in ways that are seldom seen.

Mixing elements of tahe North American “tall tale” storytelling like the imagery found in Tim Burton’s Big Fish, and the Magical Realism genre popularized by the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the game aims to blur the line between real and fancy. The mystery of the Finch family’s narrative exists in a factual gray area where the blanks in between established truths are supplemented by imagined ones, like the bedtime stories told to children. By revealing very little of the drab actual, the audience is put on the same level of childlike naivety, coaxing them into a state of suspended belief, surrendering to the narrator’s created realities.

With such a deliberate focus on the story, gameplay is put to a bare minimum to be called a video game. For those that are looking for complex puzzles, it may be best to look elsewhere. But whatever control players have allows them to experience the game with a sense of wide-eyed fascination. Each leaf and branch of the family tree varies in the way their stories are told. Visually and thematically, What Remains of Edith Finch gives players something new with each room of the house explored. And while the whole game only runs for a few hours depending on how much looking around one desires, it deserves to be replayed if only just to revisit scenes and elements otherwise missed on the first go ‘round.

With a well-written script built around a carefully designed world where no two floorboards are the same, What Remains of Edith Finch is a truly unmissable game that validates the videogame as a vehicle for literary storytelling.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE August 2017 Issue
Words by Robby Vaflor

Developer: Giant Sparrow | Publisher: Annapurna Interactive |  Platform(s):PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4