Sometimes all you need is a good story. Whether you’re reading one or writing one, the power of an event unfolding in your mind can not be underestimated. An entire world can come to life right in front of you. Things that are far away can feel like they are right there, if only just for a moment. You can’t have them but you can feel them. Through stories, people’s actions can exist long after they’ve been performed. History can be preserved. A single moment can become its own feeling to go back to. Sometimes you need a bit more though. Sometimes you need a good videogame.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a slow-paced adventure game that takes you to the large Finch family mansion, surrounded by dense forest. Many tragic events have happened here and it has resulted in every Finch family member dying in different ways, and you’re there to investigate what this curse is all about. With no real knowledge of who you even are or what’s waiting in the house, it has a very curious feeling right from the start. All you really know is your character “inherited” this place but hasn’t come here in years. Why would you not visit your gigantic house? It’s this detail that gives a subtle hint of danger and intrigue. How bad could it be?
This game is absolutely beautiful both inside and outside. Through the windows the trees sway with mystery, while the water of the lake gushes peacefully. Inside the house the detail is almost overwhelming. It’s uncanny how much stuff there is in EVERY room, to the point of disbelief. Hundreds of books, paintings, random chairs, more than you would ever need while living somewhere, let alone in a deserted house. Every bedroom is immensely crowded to the point where I don’t think I could live in any of them. There are ridiculous passages all over the place that make no structural sense. Somehow, this all blends together and creates a somewhat surreal “fantasy” storytelling feeling and the game absolutely gets away with it. I was so immersed in the story and learning about the house that I didn’t care how much sense it made. The design is consistent so it keeps you in.
This kind of mess would be so disgusting in real life, but it just impresses me with its detail in a videogame. Wow, all those objects to look at! Cool! There’s probably a super interesting story behind this empty plate. Like, someone ate food there, then left for several years. Wow. The game just promotes that curious mindset that you have to look at everything, so it brings each room to life somewhat. The last people who lived here packed up quickly and left all this stuff that has remained in place for years.
A lot of narrative-driven games like this are criticised for their shallow gameplay, but Edith Finch has a surprisingly large amount of gameplay variety. The majority of time you are exploring and reading, until you read someone’s “story” that puts you in their body with completely new game mechanics. Flying a kite as a child for example, or controlling unique animals. There are some wild ones that are better left as surprises, but they’re all fun. There’s a good amount of these and they last just long enough to be a heavy part of the game. The controls remain very polished and accessible for each one, although it can take a few seconds to adjust. When you put these different gameplay sequences in-between all the slow-paced walking and exploring, you have a game with absolutely fantastic pacing that is very hard to put down.
The game is quite short which is common for this genre. I’ve seen people say its a 2 hour game but it’s more like 5 hours if you’re like me and look at everything. It’s undeniably short but I didn’t feel like that was a problem. The amount of detail is very respectable. It’s worth looking around, and more importantly thinking about things. The game is very easy and almost impossible to fail as a gameplay challenge, but it challenges your mind with ideas and a journey with no real definition. If you expect the game to tell you what it’s doing all the time, you’re going to be disappointed. You have to poke around for answers, in the game and in your mind. For me, that was the beauty and defining aspect of this game.
This game had a huge impact on me with the way it presents some pretty heavy concepts like life and death, but also writing. The power and weight of writing itself is made tangible to the point where it made me realise how important writing is. It spoke to me on a very personal level as someone who often thinks their writing is worthless. It’s definitely not. Telling a story and remembering a story is effectively remembering that entire event and person. Heck, multiple events and people. Even just ideas and feelings. I want to get across as many of those things as possible in writing, and this is simply about a videogame. A moment can live on, as someone reads and cares about it in their own heart, thus the event itself expands. None of these things were immediately evident when the game started for me, or even an hour into it. All I thought at first was “these trees are pretty” and the text font is quite easy on the eyes. Slowly but surely it gets more involved. It doesn’t shove any concepts down your throat, but simply presents them.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a very short game that accomplishes things many videogames couldn’t do in 100 hours. It’s not for everyone with it’s complete lack of difficulty and very slow walking, but it nails everything it set out to do at its own pace. Even if the story flies over your head you at least get to see some awesome environments and explore new gameplay ideas. It brings this world to life with great graphical detail, strong writing and a refreshing structure. It’s a very comfy game to sink your teeth into over a few days and very welcoming. Just a warning though, everyone who ever plays this game will die at some point in their lives. It’s a risk but it’s worth it.