What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of short stories about a cursed family in Washington State.
Each story offers a chance to experience the life of a different family member with stories ranging from the early 1900s to the present day. The gameplay and tone of the stories are as varied as the family members themselves. The only constants are that each is played from a first-person perspective and that each story ends with that family member's death. It's a game about what it feels like to be humbled and astonished by the vast and unknowable world around us.
You'll follow Edith Finch as she explores the history of her family and tries to figure out why she's the last Finch left alive.
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me: The villain of What Remains of Edith Finch? Wouldn't call it a "villain" personally, but in the sense that it's the source of the tragic events of the story I'd say it's intergenerational trauma, interlinked with mental illness. Though obviously certain characters make bad, often neglectful decisions which cause harm, I feel it would be callous and mistaken to call any of them a "villain". The developers walk a fine line of weaving into each family tragedy both their virtues and their weaknesses/blind spots to create a sense of ironic inevitability, conveying to the audience each family member's individual experience trying to process and overcome their cumulative grief/psychosis before succumbing to it. Situating Edith (at the tip of the nearly-dead family tree and the only hope for it to continue) as the player character tasked with interpreting or reinterpreting each story (which are often conveyed through second- or third-hand accounts that naturally invite skepticism and critical reading) forces us to confront the familial fear that one's fate is predestined, while allowing relative detachment from which she/we hope to find some lasting healing for herself and her child. If anything, the attempt to identify a culpable villain is a trap the game seems to hope Edith avoids: there is no silver bullet for personal demons, no solution from without to solve any one person's inherited trauma and self-destructive patterns. Convincing yourself that someone else or a family curse is the sole cause of your tragic circumstances can cause you to neglect your own capacity and responsibility (obviously excepting systemic social issues here, this isn't some conservative "don't blame other people for your failures" argument). Though we may understandably lash out in blame at those who seem to pull us in and perpetuate these tragic cycles--and it may be necessary to cut off those whose coping mechanisms perpetuate the inherited trauma, as Edith's mother does for her and her children's sake--we must recognize they are also suffering and also coping and also deserve our sympathy. That the Finches and Edie in particular are often irrational (sometimes ridiculously, Gashlycrumb Tinies-ly so) does not speak to villainy, it speaks to the central metaphor and family dynamic being explored and the style being adopted.
a video essay with 4.5 million views: the villain is the old lady, that attention-craving bitch
This is a truly fascinating look at one particularly heavy family tree. The stories of the Finches both as individuals and as a family are fascinating. The game has you, as the latest in the family tree, exploring the family home. You're doing this to learn more about the family. As you play through, you find out about various family members but also the history of the family as a whole and their "curse" which is essentially the cycle of unfortunate deaths that befall them. That's what I got out of it anyway.
I don't know if they ever meant to imply there's a REAL curse but as members of this family die, other members are affected in various ways and some start to believe there must be a reason for there to have so many young deaths in the family though it's history. It's THAT itself that propagates a "curse" at all. Not like it can be helped when all the members in this family live in the same house through generations as a constant reminder of their history.
This is the more fascinating story telling aspect of this game. For nearly a century, the whole Finch family has lived in the same house. That on the surface isn't very strange but the unique characteristic of this house is that as the family gains new members, so to does it gain rooms. As the family grows, so does the house. Due to this, so many of the young ones who died early have their history frozen in time. Their rooms are never really used again and are kept just how they were even decades before. What's more is that the rooms are closed off at some point and they can only be observed through peepholes in the doors. So now there are these time capsule rooms that encapsulate the family history of young deaths and its made all the more enticing by having them be off limits. THIS is the curse. Without realizing it, they exacerbate their own interest in their family history and with all that going on on top of usual curiosity of ones history, who could blame you?
The house itself is also where things falter for me a bit though unfortunately. The house is, mostly, very well designed to be an exhibit of family members in this museum of their history. It does an excellent job of feeling like someone really lived in each room but, like a museum, it's all very nice to look at but you can't touch anything. There's NO interactivity really at all though the game. Anything you touch is strictly highlighted and not really missable and there to just push you forward. There's nothing to figure out for yourself and it feels like a huge missed opportunity ESPECIALLY when there's hidden passages built throughout the house. The way the game is built though, it's more like there are hidden paths because of the story needing a way forward rather than being a puzzle or secret you work out for yourself. Hidden paths lose their charm when they're perpetually your only way forward.
So yeah. The stories are very strong both individually and how they all connect. It's a drag that they couldn't have you engage with them in a way that suits how truly special they are and they whole game is linear despite following a branching family tree. Overall though I think it's a strong story in a walk around type game. I've seen it done better but I still think I'd recommend it. Short and sweet!