Spoiler warning: the main parts of What Remains of Edith Finch will be discussed, including the death of the main characters. Read at your own risk.
Finches have a bad habit of dying young. The deaths are unconventional and sudden, believed to be part of a family curse. For most of the game, you play as Edith Finch, one of the few remaining finches, as she returns to her old family home determined to uncover all the secrets hidden there.
What Remains of Edith Finch is primarily a first-person exploration game, though its narrative spans a wide range of genres. Since the main objective is to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of various family members, the game is very rich in lore, with the cluttered house serving as the perfect setting for environmental storytelling. Each family member’s bedroom is full of small, intricate details that provide you with clues to their life and death. The amount of objects in each room is almost overwhelming, from each birdcage containing a legible name in Edie’s room to the photographs in Sam’s. which you cannot access until you search Barbara’s room, where the location of a secret key is revealed. Everything is placed intentionally, and it’s worth playing the game a few extra times to fully understand the subtle connections and easter eggs.
What Remains of Edith Finch contains a bit of something for everyone. Horror buffs will enjoy the shenanigans of Barbara’s Scream Queen, while those with mental health issues may relate to the internal struggles of Walter and Lewis. There are heartbreaking stories and absolutely ridiculous stories, like the one about Sam being chased off a cliff by a deer who miraculously survived being shot in the heart. But what I really enjoyed about the variety of stories is that they allowed the game to address issues that aren’t often addressed in entertainment. Walter suffers from agoraphobia, refusing to leave the house’s underground bunker. Although this is a condition often used for comedy in various movies and TV shows, the game does not poke fun at Walter’s reasoning and instead urges the player to sympathize with him, as he had been traumatized by witnessing Barbara’s death. Gregory was a toddler who was left unattended in a bathtub, with his death leading to his parents’ divorce. Many couples end up breaking up after losing a child, and seeing how Gregory’s death affected those closest to him made his death all the more impactful.
Coupled with individual mini-games and storytelling, the sections serve as distinct short stories that weave a web of mystery that isn’t necessarily resolved when all is said and done. Although you receive beautifully rendered visual representations of each story, they are not without bias. Remember, this is a supposed family curse, perpetuated by Edie’s commemoration of each death with an elaborate shrine in each room. These tales are distorted by the imagination, by the fantastic nature of the stories themselves. For example, Molly’s death involves her transforming into various animals before eventually transforming into a monster that she believes is coming to eat her. We don’t really believe that Molly was eaten by a creature under her bed. Further research outside of the game suggests that she actually died from eating fluoride toothpaste and holly berries, which are indeed ingested during the early parts of her minigame. This begs the question of whether the family is indeed cursed or whether their belief in the curse somehow contributes to their demise in a twisted self-fulfilling prophecy.
The only thing players may not like about the game is that it lacks meaningful choices. Other than the order of rooms you choose to explore, there isn’t much autonomy in the game. Family members are already dead, leaving you helpless as you watch each death. This lack of meaningful choice also affects the game’s replay value. Although you can go back to each story through the decision tree that is populated during your initial playthrough, you may find it redundant, as nothing changes during replay. , except your understanding of what is already predestined to happen.
What Remains of Edith Finch is an intriguing compilation of stories that will leave you wondering what is real and what is just over-the-top storytelling. If you enjoy delving into complex lore and formulating theories, then this game is for you. However, if you want to have more autonomy and affect the outcome of the story, you might want to look elsewhere.