INSOMNIA

What Remains of Edith Finch (2017, PC)

By Fnzzy / May 28, 2017


What Remains of Edith Finch is a short story about a family's dying members that is experienced by walking through the weird family home and exploring rooms to uncover the stories of each individual person.
   I am going to come straight to the point. This story has little to no redeeming qualities that would justify it to be presented in the form of a game. The experience is driven forward by walking on a set path and occasionally clicking on things when told to. Doing anything other than following the instructions will make you waste your time. You cannot go back and revisit areas or try to find things that you may have missed because the game won't let you. There is no decision-making or any meaningful input from the player required which makes me believe that this story would have been a more enjoyable experience if they had chosen to tell it through a short film.

   If the game has one thing going for it, it's the aesthetics. The 3D work in this game is great! In addition to the overall stylized look, the layout, modeling and texturing is very detailed and makes for realistic and believable environments and the lighting in combination with atmospheric effects set the mood quite nicely.
   One thing I am on the fence about are the controls. Your character moves quite slowly which is okay for navigating inside the house (although I know no one that moves through their house at a crawl speed) but in more open spaces it can get annoying very quickly because it feels like you are not getting anywhere. Luckily these spaces are few and far between and you spend the majority of your time inside the house. The objects you interact with throughout the game oftentimes have to be manipulated by moving your mouse or pressing the directional keys, be it opening a book and flipping through the pages, opening a door or playing with a flip book. It's supposed to give you the feeling of you actually interacting with the object, which seems like a nice idea at first but gets old real quick. Only once I felt like this mechanic actually added something to the experience but this moment didn't feel impactful enough to the point that I would deem it a necessary storytelling element.
   But what about the story, Is it any good? You play as Edith Finch who goes back to her former family home to learn about the deaths of the other family members who all died of unnatural causes. The game is a visual representation of a letter she wrote for her at the time unborn son, so Edith's point of view is narrated by herself. The various deaths are shown by small, playable flashbacks that last a couple of minutes each, with some being longer than others. The causes of the deaths are quite unspectacular. The baby drowns in the bathtub, someone falls off a swing, the next guy falls off a cliff, the girl ate something bad, another one commits suicide because he was unhappy with his life and two people just vanish without further explanation. You only learn the bare minimum about each person to make you understand their death and nothing more. This makes it impossible to get emotionally attached to any of the characters in the game or feel for them. The only thing you know about them is that they once existed and how they died. The story doesn't give me any reason why I should care about anyone. At the end you learn, unsurprisingly, that Edith is dead as well, which was quite obvious by the game's title and the way the narration was presented. After not even two hours of play time you see her son standing over her grave and that's the end of the story.
   You go through a house to briefly learn about the unspectacular deaths of people you know nothing about because you wanted to sum it up for your yet to be born son before dying yourself. There was no twist, no climax, no mystery or anything that would make this story remotely interesting.
   Okay, but this is still all my preference. What if you like this kind of stories and don't mind the lack of interactivity? Is it worth the price or the time? In my opinion, no. For the €20 (or your equivalent) you get content that maxes out at about two and a half hours of playtime if you really look at every object for multiple minutes. You are much better off by going to the cinema a couple of times or buying a few books if all you want is a good story.

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