Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, and PC.
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Annapurna Pictures
Earlier this year I played a little game called What Remains of Edith Finch on PlayStation 4. It’s easily one of my top 10, if not top 5 games of 2017 so far. Despite sitting down and only playing it for about two hours or so before credits began to roll, I was so invested in it. It’s so magical and while the story could’ve maybe been told in a novel, I don’t think Edith Finch would’ve been as good as it is outside of the medium of video games.
Last week, I was told that the game was coming to Xbox One and that I could play it all over again on Xbox if I wanted to. It took me no more than a minute to decide if I wanted to jump back into that world again. Even though it’s a linear, narrative driven game, I genuinely wanted to revisit the game and see if there were things I missed the first time around (there definitely were). For those unaware, What Remains of Edith Finch is about a girl named Edith Finch. She comes from a family who all lived in one cartoonish looking house. Each member of the family has some sort of tragic or very… strange way of dying. Edith is that last surviving member of the Finch family and she returns to the house that she grew up in to learn and reminisce about her family’s past.
A simple yet beautiful game filled with heart and personality:
The game is simple, you walk from room to room and learn about the person who occupied it. Each room is designed with such care and everything in someone’s room is unique to them, the environment tells as much of a story as anything else in the game. The rooms are visually breathtaking and are popping with color and the lighting helps set a sense of tone for certain rooms and gives off a feeling of the individual’s personality. In just a mere matter of seconds of walking through the door, this old, now lifeless house hits you with all of the wonders that once filled it.
In each person’s room, there is a unique item that triggers a stylized vignette that shows that person’s final moments. Some are very straightforward and can be a bit jarring (in a good way) with how they present some of the characters’ deaths, others are a bit more fantastical and take you through this short story. These stories feel personal and real, they capture a sense of emotion in such a short period of time. While I was never fully moved to tears, I could feel this lump looming in my throat constantly. It’s a very heartbreaking game that manages to balance its somewhat depressing tone with its very warm, welcoming colors and beautiful presentation.
I genuinely don’t believe that there’s any other medium that could capture the essence of Edith Finch’s story outside of video games. Through the way it constantly introduces mechanics in a unique way, the way it keeps you engaged and invested, and just the way it presents its story to the player, there’s absolutely nothing like it.
Slight technical issues cause minor annoyances:
The one downside of the game is that there are some noticeable technical flaws, I was able to mostly look past them but it’s stuff that’s still worth pointing out. The frame-rate can be a bit jittery at times which is a bit distracting. It’ll be perfectly fine and the next thing you know, it seems to be dipping below 20 FPS. It isn’t often enough for me to want to rip my hair out but it causes these very long pauses during gameplay. My other issue stems from some pop-in and texture issues, this was apparent in the PS4 version too. The game frequently has textures and assets load in from time to time, breaking the immersion a first-person “walking simulator”, for lack of a better term, tends to want to simulate. The Xbox One version is technically on par with its PlayStation 4 counterpart so you can’t go wrong with either version, I’d even recommend playing it on both if you’re a big trophy/achievement hunter.
What Remains of Edith Finch is the best representation of what a video game can be. It doesn’t need super in-depth gameplay mechanics, lifelike worlds filled with hundreds of hours of quests and thousands of NPCs to talk to. All a game needs are great mechanics that are built around the story to help make it feel more intimate. A movie can have the biggest screen and the loudest speakers but there’s nothing more personal than being able to interact with a story and feel personally invested. What Remains of Edith Finch does exactly that which makes it an essential game.