Why I Love What Remains of Edith Finch.

What Remains of Edith Finch is a story about a girl and a house. The sole surviving member of the Finch family, Edith returns to her family home to relive the stories of her deceased family members and to learn the truth behind the Finch family curse.

What follows below are my thoughts and feelings of the game and these will contain *SPOILERS*

The house itself is a marvel. Situated in the middle of a forest in the state of Washington, the kooky, non-uniform Finch house is impressive from a distance, eerie in close proximity and fascinating inside. Extensions and new upper floors have been precariously added to house to preserve the old bedrooms as shrines for the deceased. Once a Finch family member dies, their bedroom is sealed as a macabre tomb. It’s Edith’s hope to discover the secrets locked inside.

Books, empty takeaway boxes and mementos from the Finch’s lives are scattered throughout the ominously large house. Each room is filled with life which parallels with the continuous theme of death throughout the game. Exploration of the old house through secret passages reveals the stories of Edith’s ancestors, stories hidden from her when she was a child. Upon entering these abandoned rooms it’s easy to see how much the grief affected parents of the unfortunate. These rooms are frozen depictions of youthful childhood lives, beloved hobbies and immortalised moments of happiness.

Grief weighs heavy on the heart of Edith Finch, yet it’s clear that she’s disconnected with many of her relatives due to that fact that only one Finch from each generation lives long enough to have children of their own. It appears that Edith’s passive remarks when uncovering the untimely fate of her uncles, brothers and grandparents are a result of the constant death that surrounds her family. For me as a player, however, I felt the grief and sadness with each short story or letter reminiscing on the last precious moments of life. Each room features interactive objects, things of personal importance to their dead owner, alongside scatterings of memorabilia there is a portrait and a piece of scripture. Interacting with these transports the player into the shoes of each lost soul for a short segment. These stories are incredibly diverse, spanning from as short as a single minute to as long as fifteen. Text propelling these short stories forward is embedded in the environment, interacting with it using objects allows each of these individual stories to progress.

Because death in the Finch family is uniformly unforgiving, several of its recipients are young children. This was deeply upsetting for me and many of the stories featuring children filled me immediately with a sense of dread. Calvin’s story moved me. His death and final moments are revealed in a letter from his twin brother Sam titled ‘How I Want to Remember my Brother’. Reading this letter takes the player to a swing high above the ocean beside the Finch house. Swearing to himself to not be afraid after the death of his older sister Barbara, Calvin begins to swing higher and higher. A lover of astrometry, rockets and space, young Calvin is desperate to fly, and the player has no choice but to swing the swing faster during the horrible realisation that you have no other choice to progress in the game. Sam’s letter describes the inevitable before it happens ‘My brother said he’d die before he ate another mushroom. And he did.’ This statement made me hesitant to continue, part of me wanted to turn my PS4 off and leave Calvin happily playing with his swing. Alas, Calvin’s swing eventually moves so fast that that it circles the tree branch multiple times sending Calvin flying off the cliff face and into the ocean. To prevent this short sequence from becoming drenched in sadness Calvin begins to soar into the sunset just as he always dreamed of doing, and Sam concludes his letter: ‘That’s what I want to remember about my brother. The day he made up his mind to fly… and he did’.

The subsequent stories all play out similarly, elements of happiness tainting unfortunate deaths that are impossible to avoid. It’s clear that every death shakes the Finch family a little more than the last one. As Edith’s exploration of the Finch house concludes it becomes clear that Edith herself is pregnant and her reasoning for returning to the house is so that her child knows the truth behind the Finch family curse and doesn’t have the same secrecy of his heritage that Edith herself had. Life and death are once again poignant in the final section of the game with Edith’s story coming to an end as she dies in childbirth, leaving her son the sole survivor of the Finch family at the end of the game just as his mother was all alone at the opening.

As well as a powerful and memorable story, What Remains of Edith Finch boasts a moving soundtrack. Throughout the Finch family stories it is subtle, bubbling underneath the narrative, underneath the sadness. Occasionally, however, it soars with wind instruments and bright chimes which allows there to be a positive element to each and every story, and maybe even a notion of happiness found after death.

What Remains of Edith Finch is unlike anything I’ve ever played before, utterly heart breaking and totally unforgettable. I was so involved with the story that I forgot I was effectively playing through a walking simulator. Questions of ‘curses’, the fragility of life and the inevitable conclusion of death are the standout themes of this story, but their interpretation is left solely to the player. Is there a family curse? Are the Finches ‘the most unfortunate family in America’? or is the misfortune that follows them simply down to parental neglect? These are the questions I can’t stop considering days after I watched the final credits roll.