There have been a lot of sad moments in gaming. Many fans will point to Aerith’s death in Final Fantasy VII has the first time a game made them cry. Others sadly remember Agro not being able to successfully make that one jump in Shadow of the Colossus. Loss, death, and nostalgia are emotions that video game companies have long try to exploit.
In recent years, some studios have taken a more genuine approach to grief. Instead of taking the easy route of killing off a character the player has spent twenty hours with, these games attempt to craft entire stories filled with emotion. Take Giant Sparrow’s What Remains of Edith Finch. This is not a game about skill, dexterity, or power ups. Edith Finch succeeds in telling a moving story.
The player plays as the titular Edith. The seventeen year old has gone back to her family home after the death of her mother. It has been years since and her mother hastily left. The game chronicles the history of the Finch family as Edith explores rooms in the abandoned home. It is a first person game with a number of different mechanics that has a focus on storytelling.
Games like Edith Finch that are labeled as walking simulators and quickly dismissed are never given a fair shot. Obviously, if you are a fan of fast paced first person shooters or racing games, then this would not be for you. For gamers that are as interested in a good story as a they are gameplay, Edith Finch has something to offer. There is a lot more here than just opening doors and reading letters.
For starters, the game offers a variety of gameplay mechanics. From simple platforming to flying a kite, each narrative in the game offers more than just another story; it also has the player play a different game. There is even a section that includes top down dungeon crawling and some choice. (This is in the strictest sense of the terms. Edith Finch is a linear game.) This variety keeps the player involved and engaged.
Each section is strikingly different. From entering a pulp comic to working in a cannery, the game is always throwing something new to the gamer. It is a constant case of “what comes next?” or “what do I have to do now?” The gameplay is smooth and requires very little feedback from the game itself. There is the occasional white dot to inform the player of a book to read. But there is little hand holding and the player is left to figure out what to do during the individual stories.
These stories are the biggest highlight of Edith Finch. This is not a group of writers trying to manipulate your emotions. Edith is simply telling you the strange tale of her family’s history. Some stories are more outlandish than others, but they all have a sense of realism that makes each one relatable. Barbara’s story may be the most sad while Gregory’s is the scariest. Each story will make the person playing feel something.
This is helped by the stellar voice acting. Valerie Rose Lohman is spectacular as Edith. This is extremely important since her’s is the voice heard about 95% of the game. She brings a sincerity and introspection that lifts its already strong story. The music is also well done. The opening score when Edith first steps off the ferry immediately draws the player in. Edith Finch also uses the theme from Halloween during an very creative segment and “The Waltz of Flowers” from The Nutcracker in another powerful scene.
In an age when games brag about being hundreds of hours long, games like Edith Finch are an oddity. While a strong argument can be made that games have become too long, a case can also be made that this game is too short. I finished it in about two and a half hours. There are no side quests and the replayability factor is nil. That being said, the game is tight and focused and never wastes the player’s time.
What Remains of Edith Finch is an outstanding game that should not be discarded. Sure, games are a form of escapism, but sometimes that escape is a well told story that makes us feel something. Edith Finch is an emotional game that uses various types of gameplay along with an engaging story to stand out. You may detest walking simulators, but Edith Finch is a game anyone can enjoy.
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