Thanks to Giant Sparrow's award-winning work on The Unfinished Swan, expectations have been high for the studio's sophomore effort, an atmospheric "walking simulator" game called What Remains of Edith Finch. While it may fail to win over devout detractors of the genre, it is sure to please most anyone looking for an engrossing story with interesting characters.
Typical of the genre, What Remains of Edith Finch is a game driven almost entirely by its story. The premise sees players take control of the titular Edith Finch, a 17 year old girl who is returning to her family's old house after the death of her mother. Armed with nothing but a mysterious key, Edith is tasked with navigating the maze-like house and discovering the history of her family.
As it turns out, the Finches are not exactly the luckiest bunch. It's established early on that the family seems to have a curse, with many of them meeting untimely and grisly deaths. The bulk of the game is about Edith reflecting on the deaths of her family members, and discovering more about them by exploring their rooms, which had previously been barricaded by her mother.
Each flashback sequence stars a different member of the Finch family, and transports players to all sorts of different time periods. Instead of just sticking with the same style of gameplay Edith experiences, though, Giant Sparrow mixes things up by having each Finch associated with a new gameplay feature and sometimes even a new art style.
This approach helps What Remains of Edith Finch overcome one of the genre's biggest obstacles, which is a lack of gameplay variety. While it's best not to spoil the different gameplay features each Finch brings to the table, we can say that the gameplay is quite imaginative, and will often put players in roles they may have never experienced in a video game.
Seeing what new gameplay feature the next Finch will introduce is another driving force of the game, right along with learning about each character's death. As stated previously, players will feel compelled to stick with the game until the end to learn the fate of each Finch, as the stories told are all unique, interesting, and often heartbreaking. What Remains of Edith Finch tells a sequence of beautifully written short stories that will tug at the heart strings and stick in players' minds long after the credits roll.
Unfortunately, the overarching narrative is not as compelling as the tales of the individual Finches, and its payoff isn't as satisfying. Since the other stories in What Remains of Edith Finch are told so well, the game's overall ending will likely come as a disappointment, especially for those that are impressed by the smaller stories, or who are expecting a straight-up horror story, as the game's initial marketing suggested.
While the game generally looks great, the texture pop-in on PS4 is disappointing and can potentially break the immersive atmosphere the developers worked hard to create. Thankfully, the texture pop-in issues aren't as prevalent as they are in other games, though it's pretty bad near the beginning.
This minor complaint aside, What Remains of Edith Finch's visual presentation is mostly fantastic, with an incredible attention to detail and a variety of art styles for players to enjoy. There are some really clever visual effects at a few key points in the story that we wouldn't dare to spoil here, with Giant Sparrow really thinking outside the box for some of the visual tricks it pulls out of its sleeve.
What Remains of Edith Finch is not only a visual achievement; it also boasts excellent sound design as well. The musical score is composed by Jeff Russo, who has worked on a number of high profile projects in the past, and it does a great job of setting the tone for the game. Similarly to how each Finch is defined by a new gameplay feature, they are also often accompanied by new music that works to create the appropriate atmosphere for their specific story.
PS4 owners will likely get a little extra enjoyment from What Remains of Edith Finch's sound design. While the feature is often overlooked, the DualShock 4's speaker is utilized just enough to make it effective, but not so much that it becomes annoying or distracting. It seems like a small thing, but the way What Remains of Edith Finch uses the speaker is, like the rest of the game, very clever, and is the little something extra that helps put its audio presentation over the top.
Almost everything about What Remains of Edith Finch is head and shoulders above its competition, though some may be disappointed by its ending and some of the graphical issues. The game's short length (it can be fully completed in just a few hours) and lack of replayability may also be a turn off for some, but anyone looking for innovative gameplay and some of the best storytelling in gaming should seriously consider picking up Giant Sparrow's latest effort.
What Remains of Edith Finch is available now for PC and PS4. Game Rant reviewed the game on PS4.