What Remains of Edith Finch: A blessing or a curse? - Games Weekly

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Monday, February 9, 2015

What Remains of Edith Finch: A blessing or a curse?

Giant Sparrow's intriguing trailer for What Remains Of Edith Finch might have misled you some what. By the studio’s own admission, the game’s dark and mysterious reveal is likely to lead people to think that it is a horror game. Giant Sparrow says that while there is enough element of that in Edith Finch, to call it a horror title is to apply a label doesn't quite represent what the game really is.

Spanning from 1900 to the present day, What Remains Of Edith Finch is constructed as a collection of short stories that will let us step into the shoes of the various members of the cursed Finch family. What with them being cursed and all, each story will end with a family member dying though perhaps Edith, the last living Finch, will find a way to escape her fate as she investigates her family history.


Again, we’re venturing in to what sounds like horror territory, but Giant Sparrow says that the game isn’t being designed specifically to scare people. Rather, the game is intended to be evocative of the sublime an encounter with something that’s both beautiful and terrifying by virtue of the fact that it is unknowable. Indeed, the game is inspired in part by weird fiction authors like Lovecraft and Borges, intimately concerned as they are with the unknown.

Another important feature of the game is the way that it contrasts the human and natural world, embodied in the opposition between the Finch family house and the forests that surround it. The house is not intended to feel like a ‘haunted house’, but a place that’s familiar, a place that feels like it’s lived in. In opposition to that, the deep forests that encircle the house are intended to breed a sense of unfamiliarity that makes you feel ill at ease. Trees are deliberately grouped close together to make the forest difficult to make out, giving the impression that it’s hiding something. Similarly, the tree’s textures are painterly, the intention being that they create a certain sense of irreality that helps foster the forest’s mysterious character.

It’s fascinating to hear how much thought Giant Sparrow is putting into the design ofWhat Remains Of Edith Finch’s world, how it wants to ensure that its thematics permeate every aspect of the game. It is not really a surprise, then, that the studio is approaching its work that way, given that its last game was The Unfinished Swan. This is a studio that is very much focused on crafting an overall experience, or creating games that spark certain feelings or emotions in the player. In that regard, it makes sense that the studio is carefully crafting What Remains Of Edith Finch around a particular theme the unknown, and those uneasy emotions that we may experience when we confront it.

In other ways, though, What Remains Of Edith Finch is very much a departure from what Giant Sparrow has done previously. Despite its surreal and pseudo-mystical bent, What Remains Of Edith Finch is far more grounded than the conceptual The Unfinished Swan. It is also far more narratively focused than Giant Sparrow’s last game, so it will be interesting to see whether the studio is as good at writing dialogue, creating believable characters and crafting an engaging mystery story as it is at building beautiful worlds.

Giant Sparrow has shown that it’s got interesting ideas and artistic flair with The Unfinished Swan, and that makes us excited to see what the studio does with its new PS4 exclusive. That’s only enhanced when we hear the studio talk about the game, demonstrating as it does that it has a clear and intelligent vision for Edith Finch and has put a great deal of thought into how best to achieve what it envisions for the game. Granted, we know very little about how the game plays and we’d love to know more before we make any judgements, but the clarity of Giant Sparrow’s vision provides a solid base that gives us cause for optimism. 

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