People often use the term “walking simulator” in a derogatory sense, I have done so myself, the implication being that a game is about as interesting as a random stroll in the park. What Remains of Edith Finch slaps that definition out of even the biggest cynical mouth and shows us how fascinating a walk can really be.
Developed by Giant Sparrow for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2017, with a Nintendo Switch release in 2019, What Remains of Edith Finch chronicles the lives and demise of the Finches. A very imaginative family suffering under a mysterious and deadly curse.
The game plays out as an exploration of the Finch family home, a quirky and sprawling stack of sealed doors and ramshackle tomb-like rooms, perched on the edge of an encroaching ocean. The house is wonderfully envisioned and designed, full of little details to discover and examine, a real pleasure to explore.
Gameplay is minimal and light but still offers some memorable and exciting moments throughout the game, chasing seals as a shark and living out a horror comic were highly unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable highlights for me.
The real power and draw of What Remains of Edith Finch is the deep and emotional story at the game’s core. It may be a little on the short side, but it is hugely engaging and captivates you from the opening through to the ending credits.
The story is actually made up of smaller stories that weave together into the Finch’s family tree. These stories are fascinating little peepholes into the lives and deaths of the Finch family. They often start quite surreal and whimsical but the tides soon turn and they move into much deeper and darker waters.
In terms of writing and storytelling, this game is simply superb. The story has great pacing and the perfect levels of drip-feeding of information and back-story. Narration plays an important role across this game and forms the backbone of the story. It is often touching, thought-provoking, and emotional, while never being too heavy-handed or weighted with clumsy exposition.
What Remains of Edith Finch also contains some fantastic voice performances that really build on and thrive off the exemplary writing within the game, this combines with a beautiful yet haunting orchestral score and creates a game that is far more than just a “walking simulator”.
This game could easily stand as a masterclass in the art of storytelling. It takes an interesting and imaginative look at human life and all its many intricate challenges. Like life: it is often emotional and thought-provoking; will leave you thinking about it long after it’s gone; it has its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, secrets and revelations. I think Edith Finch says it better than I ever could,
“If we lived forever, maybe we’d have time to understand things. But as it is, I think the best we can do is try to open our eyes. And appreciate how strange and brief all of this is”.