What Remains of Edith Finch
|What Remains of Edith Finch|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
What Remains of Edith Finch is a 2017 adventure 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. Edith returns to her family's home off the coast of the state of Washington. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2017, and for Nintendo Switch in 2019.
Edith 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.
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. Through 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.
The player character takes a ferry to Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state, carrying the journal of Edith Finch. Through the journal, Edith recounts her last visit to her family's home on the island in 2017. The player witnesses Edith's return from her point of view, with separate vignettes when she writes about each deceased relative.
Edith explains that the family is believed cursed: all but one child of each generation die, leaving a sole child to continue the family. Her great-great-grandfather Odin, after losing his wife and their newborn child, tries to escape the curse by moving from Norway to the United States with his remaining daughter, Edie, and her family in 1937. Odin insists on bringing their home with them, but waves capsize the house and Odin drowns just off the shore. The remaining family build a new home on Orcas. Here Edie gives birth to more children, and builds a family graveyard nearby.
For a while, Edie believes they have avoided the curse, but unusual tragedies befall her husband Sven and all her children (Molly, Calvin, Walter, and Barbara) save for Sam. Edie memorializes each death by turning their bedrooms into shrines. Sam marries and has three children. Edie refuses to repurpose the bedrooms in the Finch home, and instead they construct additional stories atop the home for Sam and his children Dawn, Gus, and Gregory. Dawn is the only one to live to adulthood; she marries Sanjay and has three children of her own: Lewis, Milton, and Edith Jr. Following her husband's death, Dawn brings her family back to the Finch home. Milton, an aspiring artist, goes missing,[a] and Dawn becomes paranoid. Dawn seals off the memorial bedrooms, not wanting the other children learning of their family past, though Edie insists they leave a peephole in each door.
Lewis commits suicide in 2010. On the night following his funeral, Dawn decides that the remaining Finches must leave the home, but Edie refuses. Dawn and Edith leave that night, abandoning most of their possessions. When the nursing home arrives the next day to pick up Edie, she has died.
Six years later, Dawn succumbs to illness. She leaves Edith a key to the Finch home, leading Edith to return and explore the house while writing her journal. Edith discovers the key unlocks secret passages between the sealed-off bedrooms. She writes her own thoughts and eulogies to the departed family in her journal. Edith eventually reaches her own old bedroom, and writes to the unborn child she carries, hoping her journal will help it understand their family's lineage.
In the present, the player-character is revealed to be Edith's son Christopher—the sole-surviving Finch after Edith dies during childbirth. Disembarking the ferry, he travels to the Finch home and places flowers at Edith's gravestone.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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, 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. With this approach set, the team then only had to determine the genealogical nature of this family and how the house should be styled. 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." 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 of release.
|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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
The game had been in development since at least 2013, when Giant Sparrow partner with Sony Computer Entertainment, and was first announced with an on-stage trailer at the 2014 PlayStation Experience event as a title to be published by SCE Santa Monica Studio, with a subsequent trailer released prior to E3 2015. 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 of those that had been at Santa Monica Studios and working with Giant Sparrow on a daily basis for What Remains of Edith Finch left the studio to form Annapurna Interactive, which then became the game's new publisher. 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 that they 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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."
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."
"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.
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."
Eurogamer ranked the game second on their list of the "Top 50 Games of 2017", while GamesRadar+ ranked it fifth on their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017. 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. 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. EGMNow ranked the game at #25 in their list of the 25 Best Games of 2017, while Polygon ranked it 13th on their list of the 50 best games of 2017.
The game won the award for "Best Story" in PC Gamer's 2017 Game of the Year Awards, and was nominated for "Game of the Year". It was also nominated for "Best Xbox One Game" in Destructoid's Game of the Year Awards 2017; for "Best Adventure Game" and "Best Story" in IGN's Best of 2017 Awards; and for "Best Moment or Sequence" (Cannery Sequence) in Giant Bomb's 2017 Game of the Year Awards.
|2017||35th Annual Golden Joystick Awards||Best Storytelling||Nominated|||
|Best Indie Game||Nominated|
|Breakthrough Award (Giant Sparrow)||Nominated|
|The Game Awards 2017||Best Narrative||Won|||
|Games for Impact||Nominated|
|Best Independent Game||Nominated|
|Titanium Awards||Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Best Indie Game||Nominated|
|2018||New York Game Awards 2018||Big Apple Award for Best Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|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|||
|Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction||Nominated|
|National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards||Camera Direction in a Game Engine||Nominated|||
|Game Design, New IP||Nominated|
|Game, Original Adventure||Won|
|Original Light Mix Score, New IP||Nominated|
|Italian Video Game Awards||Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Best Indie Game||Won|
|Game Beyond Entertainment||Nominated|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||Excellence in Narrative||Won|||
|Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award||Nominated|
|Game Developers Choice Awards||Innovation Award||Nominated|||
|14th British Academy Games Awards||Best Game||Won|||
|Performer (Valerie Rose Lohman)||Nominated|
|2018 Webby Awards||Best Art Direction||Nominated|||
|Best Game Design||Nominated|
|2018 Games for Change Awards||Best Gameplay||Won|||
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