Games dubbed "walking simulators" typically get a bad reputation in the gaming industry, but after my experience with titles such as The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, The Stanley Parable and Firewatch, there's definitely more to be found in the genre than some may think on the surface. I've always looked at them as visual novels in a sense.
What Remains of Edith Finch is no different as it tells a very tragic, but intriguing story. Unfortunately, it had fallen victim to my backlog until now. Other games, such as Persona 5 and Prey, had been released around the same time, so I never really sat down and played it earlier, but after my playthrough it's easy to see why it was acclaimed.
The whole game is surrounded in a mystery as you play as the titular character Edith. Every member of the Finch family seems to meet their fate in strange ways, which ultimately leads the family to believe they have been cursed. You begin the game traveling to the old family mansion to uncover the stories surrounding deaths of Edith's relatives. Narrative-driven games are always best to go into blind, so I honestly had no idea what to expect from Edith Finch. By the time the credits rolled, I was left with one of the most exceptional stories I've experienced.
Developer Giant Sparrow does a exceptional job at narrating the story through Edith as she traverses the house. More impressive was how immersive the final moments of each one of the Finches lives are presented. Each story has its own gameplay mechanics that are vastly different than in other sections. What most stories do have in common, however, is the fact that the actual death is a highly fictionalized version of what actually happened, taken from the victim's perspective.
For example, a young girl who dies in the story from poison berries, hallucinates in her final moments, so in her and the players' eyes, she turns into a cat, eats a bird, and then transforms into other animals, eventually becoming a monster who eats humans. It all sounds very odd on the surface, but that's how most stories in the game are told. That leaves the player to weed out what is true and what isn't to conclude what really happened. Each story tugs at different emotions. Some left me feeling sad and heartbroken for the characters, while others had a more hopeful feeling to them. Ultimately, each of them are about death and how this "curse" has destroyed this family.
Despite the tragedy that befalls the Finches, Edith finds positivity in her relatives' lives and she discovers how they all died. The incredible details in the house alone are an achievement. It looks and feels like there's plenty of history to it, which I really appreciated. While What Remains of Edith Finch is a short adventure, closing around two hours, it's an absolute fantastic game that I recommend to anyone who doesn't mind tearing up a little while playing.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09