I’ve been thinking a lot about family of late. What it means to have one, to cherish it, to keep it, and how it feels to lose it. Or rather perhaps, how it feels to watch it change, as all families do and must over the passage of time.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a game all about family, and while it’s one I completed and thoroughly enjoyed back when it released in 2017, a new patch with optimisations for Xbox Series X|S had me wanting to go and relive it. Not just my memories of the game, but the lives and stories of the Finch family.
To Build A Home
What Remains of Edith Finch can probably be slotted into the genre most fondly referred to as ‘Walking Simulator’. A narrative told entirely from a first person perspective, the game has you take control of young Edith, who wants to reconcile her memories of her family and her past, as she looks towards safeguarding a family and future of her own.
The Finches arrived in America from Norway in the late 30’s and took with them their old house, travelling by boat. Believing their family to be cursed, despite their wealth, they tried to run away from their problems. Alas, a terrific storm sunk the family home entirely, just off the coast of the island on which they would eventually settle. It sits there still, half submerged beneath the waves, a constant reminder of the past.
As Edith, you’ll explore your family home, discovering as you go from room to room, the stories and histories of each Finch family member, dating back to relatives that existed long before Edith was even born. Each story ultimately weaves the final moments of each family member, but it’s surprising in a game that deals with so much death, how much it seems to be about the joys found in life.
Each history that is retold is done so via unique gameplay, and the variety and scale on display is pure imaginative delight. From playing as a cat, a monster, from within a comic book, or even a nice nod to isometric RPGs, with some delightful twin-stick game design, you’ll never be bored in the games approximately two hour run time. One particular sequence, seen from the eyes of a young child, is utterly heart-breaking to play through as a parent, and yet is told so kindly, so sweetly, that even if the subject matter leans towards the macabre, I would still urge you to play through it.
It’s a testament to the writing here that all the characters stories feel so genuine and real. They exist and speak to us not just through the gameplay segments designed to enthral and surprise, but in the individual rooms littered haphazardly throughout the Finch abode. There are layers upon layers of detail here, personalities shining through normal everyday objects, from stoner-ish hippie attics, to beautifully carved and revered rooms for space-obsessed youngsters.
The character of the Finch house itself looms large everywhere, a labyrinth of secret passages and and sealed shut bedrooms, begging to be explored and examined. It’s incredibly strange and almost impossible in it’s existence, and yet feels very real and lived in. The game now displaying in native 4K/60 on Xbox Series X made all these details shine the brighter, and the game felt better for it.
The story itself, narrated to us via Edith as well as other characters and voices as we dive deeper into the family tree, is woven throughout the game, text weaving itself into existence in the air before being blown away by the the tail of a kite, or on the walls and belongings of those that came before; subtly pulling the camera to highlight something relevant before fading from view.
It’s elevated all the more by an absolutely enchanting score, subtle and heartfelt, each track consistently fitting the story as it plays out on screen. One favourite is Milton’s Tower, which I’ve used for this video, and have found myself humming regularly, long after I’ve stopped playing.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a story all about life; its uniqueness, its magic and the surprises that can come from just…existing.
The pace of the tale told is pitch perfect, and you’ll never find yourself confused or lost as you explore. Available on your Xbox Game Pass subscription, it’s a game that is undoubtedly worth a couple of hours of your time.
Death is not an end – a certainty for all of us, sure – but not something to shy away from. Melancholy, thoughtful and as uplifting as it is heart-breaking, it felt good to visit the Finch family and remember them again. There’s nothing but love in these walls, even amongst the sadness.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC|
|Release Date||April 25th, 2017 | Upgraded Version: July 28th, 2022.|
|Developed By||Giant Sparrow|
|Published By||Annapurna Interactive|