What Remains of Edith Finch Review – A Storied Success

Giant Sparrow
Giant Sparrow /

They say you can tell a lot about a person from the state of their bedroom. What Remains of Edith Finch takes that idea and runs (or walks) with it to create something really special.  

Developer: Giant Sparrow

Publisher: Annapurna Pictures

Platform: PlayStation 4 (version reviewed), PC

Release Date: April 25th, 2017

I went into What Remains of Edith Finch not knowing a great deal about it, but came out of the other end glad that I hadn’t. As an experience which indulges in the magic of discovery and the allure of secrecy, What Remains is best enjoyed going in blind, so please forgive me if this review strays from going into too much detail.

What you need to know is this; as the long-awaited follow-up from Giant Sparrow, the studio behind 2012’s brilliant The Unfinished Swan, What Remains is a short story with a big heart. The first few minutes, in which you wander up to an abandoned house to learn about the main protagonist’s family history, doesn’t do the game any favors by immediately resembling other titles of its kind like Gone Home, but the two-hour adventure quickly flourishes into its own thing from there.

What Remains is a story about storytelling, where Giant Sparrow explores different genres, forms and perspectives to relay key moments throughout the troubled history of the Finch family, set within the overarching framework of Edith’s beautifully written narration.

What Remains of Edith Finch
Giant Sparrow /

That latter story is the one which left me relatively unsatisfied, however, with an ending that didn’t provide me with the answers I (or Edith) was searching for, like a book left open just before the last page has been turned. It’s told elegantly, though, as are the collection of short stories which make up the majority of the work, each of which feels distinct as its own intimate window into the life of another Finch family member.

What Remains is always determined to keep the player involved and engaged in the world with carefully crafted moments of interactivity.

The Finch’s incredible house is also a story in and of itself. A looming and labyrinthian network of homemade rooms and hallways, it looks like something Tim Burton would have built in Minecraft, but it’s the interior details that make all the difference. Don’t rush this one; instead, savor every nook and cranny of each room, taking in the details to soak up the atmosphere and learn more about its former inhabitants.

What Remains is a mechanically linear experience, but exploration is encouraged through observation, where scouring the walls or reading an open book uncovers a new piece of information that you might have otherwise missed. As a series of spaces painted in exquisite detail, it represents one of the most memorable settings I’ve ever had the pleasure of walking through.  

Needless to say, What Remains is also a genuinely beautiful game, with only a few technical hiccups to break the immersion of an otherwise spellbinding tour of gorgeous vistas and intimate embellishments.

What Remains of Edith Finch
Giant Sparrow /

As you might imagine, interaction is limited, but never stifling. Some of the stories involve unique gameplay elements, and the game likes to focus on tactile hand animations, such as the turning of a music box or opening a tin of peaches. Unlike something such as Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, where you feel like an inconsequential observer to events set apart from your character, What Remains is always determined to keep the player involved and engaged in the world with carefully crafted moments of interactivity.

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By the end of my time spent as Edith, I felt as though I knew every one of her relatives with the same intimacy that had drawn her back to the house in the first place, despite still knowing very little about their lives. That’s a remarkable achievement of storytelling, and one which Giant Sparrow should be proud of.

What Remains of Edith Finch. 9. Yes, it’s a slow-paced, story-driven walking sim, but What Remains of Edith Finch is also one of the finest of its kind; an example of how the genre can tell stories in a way which no other form can achieve, and an enthralling journey from start to finish.. Giant Sparrow.

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