What Remains of Edith Finch

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What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch cover art.jpg
Developer(s)Giant Sparrow
Publisher(s)Annapurna Interactive
Director(s)Ian Dallas
Producer(s)
  • Alvin Nelson
  • Michael Fallik
Designer(s)Chris Bell
Programmer(s)Joshua Sarfaty
Artist(s)Brandon Martynowicz
Writer(s)Ian Dallas
Composer(s)Jeff Russo
EngineUnreal Engine 4
Platform(s)
Release
  • Windows, PlayStation 4
  • April 25, 2017
  • Xbox One
  • July 19, 2017
  • Nintendo Switch
  • July 4, 2019
  • iOS
  • August 16, 2021
  • PS5, Xbox Series X/S
  • July 28, 2022
Genre(s)Adventure
Mode(s)Single-player

What Remains of Edith Finch is a 2017 video game developed by Giant Sparrow and published by Annapurna Interactive. The game centers on the character of Edith, a member of the Finch family, afflicted by a perceived curse that causes all but one member of each generation to die in unusual ways. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2017, for Nintendo Switch in 2019, for iOS in 2021, and for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S in 2022.

Edith returns to her family's home off the coast of the state of Washington and learns about her relatives and their deaths by visiting their bedrooms, sealed off and treated as shrines to their memory, with each death played out in a short gameplay sequence to the player. The game is presented as an anthology of these mini-experiences, wrapped in the dramatic retelling of the family's history and fate through Edith's narration.

What Remains of Edith Finch was met with positive reception from critics, who praised its story and presentation, and is considered an example of video games as an art form. It won British Academy Games Award for Best Game 2017, and won the Best Narrative category at both the 2018 Game Developers Choice Awards and The Game Awards 2017, among other awards and nominations.

Gameplay[edit]

In one gameplay sequence, the player must manipulate Lewis Finch's imaginary fantasy setting on the left side of the screen, while continuing to bring fish into the right side to a slicer to decapitate them with a separate set of controls.

What Remains of Edith Finch is a first-person exploration game. The player explores the Finch house and surrounding wilderness through a linear series of rooms, footpaths and secret crawlspaces. Players are guided through the house by expository voice narration from Edith Finch, her words visually displayed to the player as part of the scene to direct the player's attention. Throughout the house they encounter a series of memorials to deceased relatives. Players make progress by interacting with these shrines and experiencing vignettes of the relative's death. Each flashback varies in gameplay genre and visual style.[1]

Story[edit]

The player character takes a ferry to Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state, carrying the journal of Edith Finch. The journal details Edith's experience returning to her ancestral home on the island for the first time in seven years. As a 17-year-old, Edith writes that she is the last surviving member of her family. The player then takes the perspective of Edith as she reexplores the house and discovers the circumstances surrounding each relative's death through a series of vignettes.

Edith explains that her family is believed to be cursed because of the untimely deaths that frequently befall them. In 1937, in an effort to escape the curse after the death of his wife Ingeborg and newborn son Johann, Edith's great-great-grandfather Odin Finch emigrates from Norway to the United States. Alongside his family (his daughter Edith (Edith sr., or 'Edie'), her husband Sven (né Hoffstad), and their newborn daughter Molly), he ferries his family house with them. But, waves off the shore of Orcas Island, Washington capsize the house and Odin drowns. The remaining family builds a new home and accompanying graveyard nearby. Here, Edie then gives birth to Barbara, Calvin and Sam, and Walter.

For a while, Edie believes they have avoided the curse, but unusual tragedies begin to befall her family. At 10 years old, Molly dies after ingesting fluoridated toothpaste and holly berries; at 16, Barbara is murdered during a home invasion or implied domestic dispute; at 11, Calvin falls to his death from swinging off the edge of a cliff; at 49, Edie's husband Sven dies during a construction accident at the house; and, at 53, after having spent 30 years living as a recluse in a bunker beneath the house and traumatized at witnessing Barbara's death, Walter is hit by a train after stepping outside for the first time since.

Edie memorializes each death by turning their respective bedrooms into shrines. Sam marries a woman named Kay Carlyle, and they have three children: Dawn, Gus, and Gregory. However, Dawn is the only one to live to adulthood. At 22 months, Gregory drowns in the bathtub after being left unattended by his mother; and, at 13, Gus is crushed by a totem pole during a storm. Sam and Kay get a divorce, and, at 33, whilst on a hunting trip with Dawn, Sam falls to his death after being bucked from a cliff by a deer.

Traumatized, Dawn moves to India, marries Sanjay Kumar, and they have three children: Lewis, Milton, and Edith (Jr.). In 2002 Sanjay dies in an earthquake and Dawn returns with her children to the Finch home. At 11 years old, Milton inexplicably disappears, and Dawn becomes paranoid. She seals off the memorialized bedrooms of the deceased and forbids her children from learning about their family history in an attempt to save them from a similar fate.

In 2010, after struggling with substance abuse and mental illness, Lewis commits suicide at the age of 21. Now desperate, Dawn decides they must all leave the house. Edie, however, refuses to go, and, after a heated argument, Dawn and Edith flee the house without her, leaving most of their possessions behind. The next day, Edie is found dead at the age of 93, the cause of which implied to be complications due to consuming alcohol alongside her prescription medication.

Seven years later, Dawn succumbs to an undisclosed illness, and 17-year-old Edith inherits the property. Returning to the house, Edith discovers for herself the stories of her family's unique history, documenting her own thoughts and experiences in her journal. Edith reveals that she is pregnant and that the journal is intended for her unborn child in case she should die before she is able to tell them the stories herself.

In the final scene, the player character is revealed to be Edith's son Christopher, and that Edith has died during childbirth in 2017. In an unspecified time in the future, Christopher places flowers on his mother's grave.

Development[edit]

The Giant Sparrow team, at the 2018 Game Developers Choice Awards. From left: Chelsea Hash, Ian Dallas, Michael Kwan, Chris Bell

What Remains of Edith Finch is the second game developed by the team at Giant Sparrow, led by creative director Ian Dallas. Their debut effort was the BAFTA-award-winning The Unfinished Swan. The concept of What Remains of Edith Finch grew out from trying to create something sublime, as described by Dallas, "an interactive experience that evokes what it feels like to have a moment of finding something beautiful, yet overwhelming". Dallas embodied this concept by using his own experience as a scuba diver while he had lived in Washington State, and seeing the ocean fall off into darkness into the distance.[2] The game initially was based on this scuba diving approach, but this created a number of problems with conveying narrative. While the game was in this state, they came up with the idea of using floating text captions of the narrative to be seen by the player, which remained as a key gameplay element through the game's ongoing changes.[3] The team struggled on the diver idea until Dallas came up with the idea of a shark falling into a forest with a child uttering the line "and suddenly I was a shark", which sparked the idea of moving into more strange and unnatural scenarios; this specific one would eventually become the mini-experience for Molly, who died after eating poisonous holly berries and whose bedroom is the first the player explores in the game.[3] While the Molly scenario was fleshed out further, the team broke out to develop other scenarios that captured the same sense, giving the player something interesting to watch or do but knowing that their characters were about to die, creating the type of experience they wanted to evoke.[2][3]

The Finches' home, with new additions built atop it in a seemingly haphazard manner. The game guides the player by presenting the voice-over narration as text within the game's setting.

To link these mini-experiences, they had to come up with a framing device. Initially, they considered a scenario similar to The Canterbury Tales but set in a modern-day high school,[2] but soon recognized that placing these deaths in context of a cursed family would work better, forming an anthology work like The Twilight Zone, while borrowing concepts from the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which similarly involved the overlapping stories of various family members.[3] With this approach set, the team then only had to determine the genealogical nature of this family and how the house should be styled.[2] For the house itself, Dallas stated they had three words they worked from, sublime, intimate and murky. Their goal was to make the house itself feel like "a natural force. It begins to look almost like the bark of a tree; something that has an order to it, but it’s too chaotic for us to be able to follow."[3] While they had designed all the bedrooms in roughly the same order the player experienced them in the game, it was not until the second-to-last bedroom, that of Lewis who had been into marijuana use, that they realized that these bedrooms can be used to say much more about each family member by how they were decorated. Lewis' had been heavily decorated with posters and other items that indicated his drug addiction, and the team realized this shared a lot about his character they did not have to communicate via narration or the death sequence. Major changes were made to all the previous bedrooms to provide similar expository elements for each character over the last few months before release.[4]

External video
video icon Greenlight trailer for What Remains of Edith Finch

The team also recognized that from some of these mini-experiences they created, they wanted to leave them open-ended as to exactly what happened, following the convention of weird fiction to leave the player questioning if the mini-experiences they had played through were grounded in reality or not.[2] They did not want to make a horror game, where their purpose would be to intentionally scare the player, but wanted to borrow concepts common in the horror genre, such as Lovecraftian elements. The game had started out titled The Nightmares of Edith Finch, and its greenlight trailer has a spookier nature to it, such as the protagonist exploring the house mostly in the dark with a flashlight, but the team eventually backed off on these elements to leave the more eerie elements, renaming the game to its final title.[5] The game's ending was considered the most difficult part for the team, according to Dallas, as they did not know if they should end the game on a mini-experience that elevated the sense of unease from previous ones. Eventually, they opted to go with something completely different, a closure on the story that was intended to give time for the player to reflect on what they had just played through.[2] Dallas credits suggestions made by Dino Patti of Playdead and Jenova Chen of thatgamecompany, following a playtest of the game, of inspiring the pregnancy and childbirth facets to close out the story after all the death that they had experienced.[4] In an unusual move, the player is able to look down from the first-person view in-game at Edith's body and see her belly, hinting about her pregnancy. Though Dallas had not wanted to have the player see parts of the character's body, their tech artist Chelsea Hash insisted on keeping this in, which Dallas found later to be a pleasant surprise for players that discovered this on their own.[3]

The game had been in development since at least 2013, when Giant Sparrow partnered with Sony Computer Entertainment. It was first announced in an on-stage trailer at the 2014 PlayStation Experience, as a title to be published by Santa Monica Studio,[6] with a subsequent trailer released prior to E3 2015.[7] In the interim, Sony started to wane on its support for independently developed video games, and Santa Monica Studios dropped the title from its lineup. However, several people that had been at Santa Monica Studios working with Giant Sparrow left the studio to form Annapurna Interactive, which then became the game's new publisher.[3][8] Annapurna relaxed some of the deadlines that Sony had originally had for the title, allowing Giant Sparrow to keep and refine some of the more significant mini-experiences they created and would have otherwise had to cut under a tighter schedule. These included the infant Gregory, who drowns while in the bath while his mother is distracted. The drowning sequence set to "The Waltz of the Flowers" from The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Lewis', a mini-adventure game taking place in Lewis' mind while at the same time decapitating fish at a cannery that was inspired by "The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap" from The Book of Wonder.[3][9] Gregory's story was particularly one of concern since it involved the death of an infant, which raised concerns with their publisher. To help alleviate these, Giant Sparrow specifically brought in parents to help playtest as to make sure the story handled the topic in a sensitive manner.[9]

One of the most-changed stories was Walter's, Edie's son that withdrew after the death of his older sister Barbara and locked himself away in a basement bunker, only decades later deciding to leave via a tunnel and getting hit by a passing train. Originally, once in the bunker, Walter would have experienced still people that moved when he looked away, similar to Doctor Who's Weeping Angels or The Prisoner, and then would imagine himself living on a model trainset where an invisible hand would move pieces around on the set. Both aspects were to represent the passage of time for the decades Walter lived there, and out of paranoia, Walter would then escape through the tunnel and to his demise. This was ultimately trimmed down to showing Walter going through the same routine each day, eating peaches from a can, until one day he decides to escape.[3] Another scrapped idea for the game was to bring in "Weird Al" Yankovic to compose a song about Edie. Inspired by the story of Harry R. Truman, a man who had refused to leave his home prior to the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the team had envisioned a scenario that Edie would have also refused to leave her family home despite the threat of a nearby forest fire sometime in the 1980s. With this concept, her story made national news and made her a national icon that, in the timeline, Yankovic would have made a song about her that would have been included as part of Edie's story. However, this idea came too late in the development without enough time to follow up on it.[10]

Composer Jeff Russo, whose previous works include the soundtracks to the Fargo TV series, The Night Of, and Power, composed the soundtrack for What Remains of Edith Finch. The sequence involving Barbara, who gained fame as an adolescent scream queen and who longs to return to Hollywood but dies on her birthday on Halloween night, is played out in the pages of a comic book styled after Tales from the Crypt. Following several horror genre tropes, her boyfriend intends to inspire real fear to induce her to regain her famous scream, but they then seem to be stalked by a serial killer whom she disables, only to be scared to death by either friends throwing her a surprise birthday party or supernatural monsters or a band of hoodlums in costume. Dallas had Russo try to create a soundtrack similar to the theme from John Carpenter's Halloween. Dallas had considered asking Carpenter to narrate this section, but at the time, the video game voice actor strike was ongoing, making this impossible, but Carpenter did agree to license the use of the Halloween theme for this sequence.[3]

Reception[edit]

What Remains of Edith Finch received "generally positive" reviews across Windows, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch platforms, while the Xbox One version received "universal acclaim", according to review aggregator Metacritic.[11][12][14][13]

Destructoid's Brett Makedonski scored the game a 9/10 with the consensus "A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage."[15]

Marty Sliva's 8.8/10 score on IGN stated that "What Remains of Edith Finch is a gorgeous experience and one of the finest magical-realism stories in all of games."[1]

Andy Chalk's gave a score of 91 out of 100 on PC Gamer and said it was "Touching, sad, and brilliant; a story worth forgiving the limited interactivity to experience."[20]

Josh Harmon of EGMNow awarded it 7/10, stating that Edith Finch is "a brilliant accomplishment. It's also a game that repeatedly fails to live up to its potential in serious, heartbreaking ways. Until now, I'd never realized it was possible to be both at the same time."[16]

Griffin Vacheron from Game Revolution gave the game a score of 3.5 stars out of 5, saying that "If you're more like me, though, and deviate from the assessment of tragic events as an inherently higher form, then you may find the Finch's tale doesn't activate your almonds as much as it probably should. Still, as a spooky, logical evolution of the Gone Homes and Firewatches of the world, with an impressive short-story style to boot, What Remains of Edith Finch is ultimately worth your time if its premise grabs you."[18]

"In What Remains of Edith Finch, death is a certainty and life is the surprise. Its stories are enchanting, despite their unhappy ends. I was sad I never had the chance to know the Finches while they were alive, but thankful for the opportunity, however brief, to learn a bit about them. The final farewell left me crying, but What Remains of Edith Finch is, without doubt, love," was Susan Arendt's conclusion on Polygon with a score of 9/10.[21]

Colm Ahern's score of 9/10 on VideoGamer.com said that "First-person, narrative-driven games generally follow a pattern. What Remains of Edith Finch plays with those established conventions to create a beautiful story that breaks your heart, while making you smile just as much. A triumph in the genre."[23]

Eurogamer ranked the game second on their list of the "Top 50 Games of 2017",[24] while GamesRadar+ ranked it fifth on their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017.[25] In Game Informer's Reader's Choice Best of 2017 Awards, the game came at fourth place for "Best Adventure Game" with just 10% of the votes, about 4% behind Life Is Strange: Before the Storm.[26] The same website also gave it the award of "Best Adventure Game" in their Best of 2017 Awards, and of "Best Narrative" and "Adventure Game of the Year" in their 2017 Adventure Game of the Year Awards.[27][28] EGMNow ranked the game at #25 in their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017,[29] while Polygon ranked it 13th on their list of the 50 best games of 2017.[30]

The game won the award for "Best Story" in PC Gamer's 2017 Game of the Year Awards,[31] and was nominated for "Game of the Year".[32] It was also nominated for "Best Xbox One Game" in Destructoid's Game of the Year Awards 2017;[33] for "Best Adventure Game" and "Best Story" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards;[34][35] and for "Best Moment or Sequence" (Cannery Sequence) in Giant Bomb's 2017 Game of the Year Awards.[36]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref.
2017 35th Annual Golden Joystick Awards Best Storytelling Nominated [37]
Best Indie Game Nominated
Breakthrough Award (Giant Sparrow) Nominated
The Game Awards 2017 Best Narrative Won [38]
Games for Impact Nominated
Best Independent Game Nominated
Titanium Awards Game of the Year Nominated [39]
Best Indie Game Nominated
2018 New York Game Awards 2018 Big Apple Award for Best Game of the Year Nominated [40]
Off-Broadway Award for Best Indie Game Nominated
Herman Melville Award for Best Writing Nominated
Statue of Liberty Award for Best World Nominated
Great White Way Award for Best Acting in a Game (Valerie Rose Lohman) Nominated
21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards Outstanding Achievement in Story Nominated [41]
Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction Nominated
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards Camera Direction in a Game Engine Nominated [42][43]
Game Design, New IP Nominated
Game, Original Adventure Won
Lighting/Texturing Won
Original Light Mix Score, New IP Nominated
Italian Video Game Awards Game of the Year Nominated [44]
Best Narrative Nominated
Best Indie Game Won
Game Beyond Entertainment Nominated
SXSW Gaming Awards Excellence in Narrative Won [45][46]
Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award Nominated
Game Developers Choice Awards Innovation Award Nominated [47][48]
Best Narrative Won
14th British Academy Games Awards Best Game Won [49][50]
Game Design Nominated
Game Innovation Nominated
Music Nominated
Narrative Nominated
Original Property Nominated
Performer (Valerie Rose Lohman) Nominated
2018 Webby Awards Best Art Direction Nominated [51]
Best Game Design Nominated
2018 Games for Change Awards Best Gameplay Won [52]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sliva, Marty (April 26, 2017). "What Remains of Edith Finch Review". IGN. Retrieved April 26, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Espineli, Matt (May 7, 2017). "What Remains of Edith Finch Dev Discusses The Game's Ending". GameSpot. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Shilling, Chris (June 2, 2018). "The making of What Remains of Edith Finch". PC Gamer. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Dallas, Ian (March 21, 2018). "Weaving 13 Prototypes into 1 Game: Lessons from 'Edith Finch'". Game Developers Conference. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  5. ^ McAloon, Alissa (April 26, 2018). "Take a look back at some of the early concepts for What Remains of Edith Finch". Gamasutra. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  6. ^ "Introducing What Remains of Edith Finch, a New PS4 Exclusive". PlayStation.Blog. 6 December 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-19.
  7. ^ PlayStation (2015-05-25), What Remains of Edith Finch – House Introduction Trailer | PS4, retrieved 2017-01-19
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  12. ^ a b "What Remains of Edith Finch for PlayStation 4 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
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  14. ^ a b "What Remains of Edith Finch for Switch Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 25, 2020.
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  30. ^ Polygon staff (December 18, 2017). "The 50 best games of 2017". Polygon. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
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  36. ^ Giant Bomb staff (December 27, 2017). "Game of the Year 2017 Day Three: World, Wolfenstein, Moments, and PLEASE STOP". Giant Bomb. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
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  39. ^ "The list of finalists for the Fun & Serious Titanium Awards has been revealed". Fun & Serious Game Festival. 2017. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  40. ^ Whitney, Kayla (January 25, 2018). "Complete list of winners of the New York Game Awards 2018". AXS. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
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  51. ^ "2018 Winners". The Webby Awards. April 24, 2018. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  52. ^ Fogel, Stefanie (June 29, 2018). "'Life Is Strange: Before the Storm' Wins Big at Games for Change Awards". Variety. Retrieved July 2, 2018.

External links[edit]