PAX South 2017: What Remains of Edith Finch is A Journey of Generations [Preview]
There’s a fine line for a lot of first-person, story-heavy games. With these games, it’s not rare see gameplay elements take a backseat to narrative outside of making your way to the various trigger points where the story can continue to unravel. There’s nothing wrong with it --- it’s just the style more than a few developers have chosen to employ these past few years. Interestingly, Giant Sparrow and Annapurna Interactive seem to have found a pleasant middle ground with their upcoming adventure, What Remains of Edith Finch. We got to check it out at PAX South and what we saw was a great narrative with a variety of gameplay elements to make it both intriguing and engaging.
What Remains of Edith Finch opened to a somber tone. We took on the role of young Edith as she made her way towards her family home. Edith is the last of the Finch name and inherited a key to the home, which is a curious-looking and gargantuan place located in the woods. Edith has come back to discover the secrets of her family’s history and attempt to learn why she is the last surviving member.
The Finch home is a perplexing structure that looked as though it would be the abode of any bizarre character in Daniel Handler’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Indeed, the entirety of the setting in What Remains of Edith Finch was a rich tapestry of visual clues that offer bits and pieces about this family and its unique members. Entering the inside of the home exposed us to a bizarre practice of Edith’s mother, where once a family member had passed, she would seal off access to their room. In this enormous structure, many of the rooms were blocked off to start. Of course, there’s always a way in. The house is full of secret doors, passages and other peculiarities left by Edith’s family, which allow her entrance to the otherwise inaccessible areas.
Our time with the demo led us to the room of a distant relative whose diary we discovered. Though much of the story is narrated by Edith herself, the perspective switched to that of the relative. This youthful girl’s story began as a simple telling of being sent to dinner without supper. So hungry, she (and by extension, we) looked for anything she could possibly eat. A bird appeared at the window and suddenly, our narrator took on the form of a cat. In this form, we carefully leapt out the window and jumped from branch to branch attempting to catch that bird for our hungry narrator. Upon catching the unfortunate bird, we found ourselves transformed into a bird as well: an owl this time, still hungry for more. We soared through the skies, hunting and plunking rabbits from the fields as the suddenly very bizarre and imaginative story played out before us. Was it real? Was it made up? We don’t know.
What Remains of Edith Finch continued to unravel in this way. Each family member had a story to discover, each with unusual and interesting mechanics related to the narrative they told. One of the relatives was infatuated with the skies and flying; another, the glitz and glam of Hollywood stardom. Their stories are all meant to be grand spectacles in the way that the hungry girl’s played out, and in-between Edith discovers a little bit more about her strange family and this house they lived in.
The house itself is a character as well. We’ve mentioned the weird architecture and secret nooks and crannies, but there were also tons of things to observe and interact with present. Edith herself mentioned at one point that the house looked as though everyone was whisked away in an instant while the innards of the house were left in their intact state. Books of various origin lay stacked practically everywhere, pamphlet menus for Chinese take-out and to-go boxes litter the kitchen, and scattered Missing Persons posters allude to the tragic disappearance of the brother. What’s more, Edith and other characters have something to share for just about everything you discover. It made exploring everything in our time with the demo that much more rewarding.
What Remains of Edith Finch was gloriously enticing for the short time we had with it. The narrative playout is smooth and rewarding for each discover, the Finch family stories we saw were a great teaser to the grand mystery, and the mechanics we were treated to changed up the regular formula of narrative triggers in a pretty fantastic way. Are these curious stories real or merely just the grand imaginations of the peculiar Finch family at work? Whatever the truth is, we’re certainly looking forward to discovering it.
What Remains of Edith Finch is slated for release on PC and PlayStation 4 in 2017.