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What Remains of Edith Finch

Hello video game people!
I’ve just seen that What Remains of Edith Finch is going to be free for us console-using-betas with PS4s in the month of May :slight_smile: - if you haven’t had an opportunity to play this game PLEASE take this one, because it is just such an exceptional and powerful game. In honor of its beautiful release, I thought I would share a review that I wrote for it back when it came out in 2017. It is a little spoilery, but what the heck :slight_smile:

For those who have played it, thoughts and feelings? Any fans of The Unfinished Swan out there?

EDIT: Disclosure: I DO NOT work for Sony, or the studio that made the game at all. I just really love it and want more people to play it. haha

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This is good news! I was born this month, it’s kind of like a birthday present I wasn’t expecting!

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EDIT:

YES!

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Yessssss!
Both of these games are just so good. Beautiful and emotional and really well executed.

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I completed What Remains in one sitting. Was free on PSN so thought why not give it a go?

A couple of hours later it was gone midnight but I felt compelled to finish it. I couldn’t go to bed until I knew what remained of Edith Finch.

It’s both depressing and wonderful which is quite bizarre.

I will say though that I have a new desire to better record my family’s life. Not just talking about photos and video here, but written accounts of conversations or questions my daughter may have asked me etc. Quirks and personality that develop over time that are not found in a photo or a video of bike riding or blowing out candles.

I want to remember real life.

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I was prepared to love Edith Finch and was quite surprised, and not a little dismayed, to find that it simply didn’t click for me. I liked some of the individual sequences in and of themselves, but it never came together into a whole, and the themes it leaned into heavily, or rather the way the game handled them (in particular what it did with the themes of family and death), either fell flat or actively rubbed me the wrong way. Which is a shame, because in the moments where I could just focus on the individual scenes I often found those delightful, imaginative and evocative.

That’s happened a couple of times in the last few years, though: I seek out games that try to convey emotions and moods, but some of the best-reviewed games in that space didn’t do it for me, like this one, To the Moon and Life is Strange. Perhaps I’m becoming something of a grumpypants as I get older…

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I can empathize with your heartless monster ways. The game felt like a freshman creative writing class. It was a good idea, but the writing for this would really need to be outstanding for it to shine… and it’s just alright, fine, perfunctory. It’s pretty good writing for a video game, but that’s a really low bar. A few stood out in using the game mechanics as a kind of subtext, like the fish and the bath, but generally it didn’t hit it for me. The idea behind each story often stood out really early, and it was sometimes a case of waiting for the story to quit warbling on so the thing could happen.

In terms of storytelling, this game makes the biggest case for an acclaimed author getting involved that I’ve seen in a game. It seemed like a story first and a game second, but beyond the scope of the usual interactive novel. I can imagine someone like Donna Tartt, Neil Gaiman or David Mitchell could do something fantastic with this. A Cloud Atlas game in this style would be really great! Certainly a better fit for that book than a film.

I’m in the same boat. Especially Life is Strange was a big let down for me. When I was 16 years old I would have loved Life is Strange but I’ve heard the story one too many times now.
Edith Finch was a similar experience most of the time…

The older I get the more I lose interest in such games. I feel strangely disconnected from the characters. I guess it’s because the authors try so hard to do something special, have a twist and what not until the stories just don’t feel relatable anymore.

However, I always have Kentucky Route Zero Act V to look forward to. And I enjoyed Night in the Woods’ very relatable story (despite the game itself being not especially good). Uhhhh, and I love Catherine. Part of me says I shouldn’t but I do! It felt so wrong to sneak into the bathroom to read sexy text messages, but I couldn’t resist. mh…above-average sexy games…
excuse me, what were we talking about???

Night in the Woods and Kentucky Route Zero may just be among my favourite games of the last ten years, and it’s in no small part because I think they are among the few games that manage to combine great aesthetics, wonderfully fitting visuals and sound/music, with strong writing - not just “good writing… for a video game”. The main reason why I didn’t enjoy Edith Finch and especially Life is Strange is that, like you, KIR and nerdvsgame, I didn’t think they were written particularly well (though LiS did grow on me over time). I could always see the ideas, but I didn’t find the characters behind the ideas particularly convincing. Both of these games worked best for me when they shut up, so to speak, when they spoke not with words but with visuals and music and generally tone.

At the same time, and again especially with LiS, it may at least partly be because I’m not the game’s main audience. I may have liked it better at 16, but that doesn’t mean that the game is worse for that. There are books that I enjoyed greatly in my mid-30s that I think I would’ve got a lot less out of when I was in my late teens, and I’m glad that we didn’t do those books in school.

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So, after finally getting bored of the after-game of RDR2, I fired up Edith, which I have intentionally avoided looking at any mentions of until now.

I went into this without knowing anything about it, and I think that helped.

It was original and provided a narrative that was appropriate for the medium. It hit me hard in a few places, and was spooky when it it needed to be, and thoughtful when it it needed to be.

I really got a lot out of it, so-called “walking simulators” have gotten a bad rep they don’t deserve. This one is really a work of video game art.

(Edit: full disclosure, it took me a few years to get around to finishing Dear Esther)

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