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What Remains of Edith Finch
Annapurna Interactive
Giant Sparrow
April 25, 2017

What secrets does my family hold? What kind of legacy will I leave behind once I have passed on? How much do I really know about my heritage? All these questions arose as I played through Giant Sparrow’s remarkable What Remains of Edith Finch. As is the case with a number of other so-called ‘walking simulators’, the story leaves you with plenty of food for thought long after you have put down the controller. Though often derided for their lack of ‘real’ gameplay, I have often found walking simulators to be enjoyable experiences in their own light, able to craft stories with a lot more ambiguity and open to interpretation from the player. They are able to explore topics that otherwise might not work in a video game that requires more heavy player interaction. I went into the game expecting to enjoy it, as I usually do with these kinds of games. But I knew next to nothing about the game. I didn’t do any extensive research on it before-hand, the most that I knew going-in was that it was highly-acclaimed by game journalists. Sufficient to say, it lived up to the reputation.  

The game has you control the titular Edith Finch, the last living member of her family, returning to the old family home after it had been abandoned for some time. As you slowly explore the various nooks and crannies of the somewhat-bizarre structure, you come across documents that detail the final moments of various members of the family. Tied together is the belief that the family is cursed, where only one member of each generation survives to continue the family line. In each case you are given control of the family member during their final moments and the manner of deaths, which range from a few tragic-but-mundane accidents, to one particularly horrifying incident that you are in full control of. These segments provide the majority of ‘real’ gameplay and each story varies in what you are doing. One story has you taking photographs, another has you transform into an owl and hunt rabbits. These segments help to break up the general exploration of the house and give it a slight edge over a traditional walking simulator. In addition, throughout her exploration of the house, Edith will comment on what she learns and fills in some of the blanks about her time living in the house with her mother and grandmother. Having been kept in the dark about the history of her family, she reflects the same amazement that the player feels as they uncover the stories behind the Finch family. Ultimately this leads to an unexpected but still satisfying conclusion that I didn’t see coming. If there is only one negative I could say about the game, is that I wish it was longer. I finished in only a couple hours and wished there was far more to explore and discover in and around the house. There is one particular segment that is teased, but sadly never delivers. 

What Remains of Edith Finch will make you think about your own family and the unspoken secrets that surround your long-passed ancestors. It is sobering to realize that you may not know your own family as well as you think you do. You even have to ask yourself, would you really want to know some of those secrets? A few of the story sequences are genuinely disturbing and it is very understandable why family members would withhold that information from later generations. You then have to ask yourself, what is it that you would want to pass on to your descendants? Throughout the story Edith records her findings in a journal to be passed on to her son, providing them with a look at the troubles history of the family. One has to admire her willingness to be open about these things. Despite how terrible they may be, she doesn’t want to be the same as her own mother and keep the secrets buried forever. I think the themes of family and legacy are ones that anyone can relate to and find something to ponder over. While I know the genre can be a turn-off to those looking for more action in their video games, I do believe that What Remains is a game that anyone who considers the medium as art should play. 
    
Score: 10/10
 

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