I am not sure when it happened, but at some point, it seems “walking simulator” became a pejorative. As a result, you do not have to look far to find a message board or discussion about renaming the genre to something more representative of what happens in the game: First-Person Experience/Exploration, Interactive Story Adventure, First Person Narrative, and the list goes on and on. It’s accurate you do more than walk in these games, but I do not mind calling the walking simulators…because I tend to like the genre. I enjoyed Firewatch, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and because of my experience with The Unfinished Swan finding out the folks at Giant Sparrow were making a walking sim had me intrigued. That interest was paid back multiple times over.
What Remains of Edith Finch has you taking control of Edith as she heads to her childhood home in hopes of piecing together the mysterious history of her family. Each story about a family member presents itself as a stand-alone vignette and the gameplay in each is unique. These scenes vary from splendid to downright brilliant. From a story perspective, that is all I am telling you. As someone who is not typically bothered by spoilers, this is one experience where I believe the less you know, the better.
If you have not enjoyed walking sims in the past, there is a chance you could get into this one. The world is beautiful and a joy to navigate. The story is told with both voice-over and the narrative being painted over parts of the world as you progress through the story. You spend the majority of the game exploring Edith’s childhood home, and it may be the single best realization of a home in a video game. The rooms overflow with memorabilia and knick-knacks appropriate to the family member. As the story unfolds you find references to specific things you have found elsewhere in the home.
One aspect of What Remains of Edith Finch that may go overlooked, but should not, is the beautiful soundtrack. Created by Jeff Russo, who has done some excellent TV soundtracks (Fargo, Legion, The Night Of, and others) it is soaring and robust with a sense of mystery and intrigue and fits the game perfectly. A fun fact is that Jeff is an original member of the 90s band Tonic, and I would highly recommend his work there as well!
When I sat down to play What Remains of Edith Finch I was hoping for a good experience based on the enjoyable time I had with The Unfinished Swan. What I did not expect was another game to enter into my running for my game of the year. While it is a brief experience (about 90 minutes to 2 hours, ideally done in one sitting), I have thought more about this game since I played it than I have most other games this year. In what has been a strong start to the year, What Remains of Edith Finch would be easy to overlook, but in doing so, you would be missing out on one of the best games of 2017.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a reminder in a busy 2017 that some of the best games come from the smallest experiences.