Top-notch narrative adventure What Remains of Edith Finch will be free to download from the Epic Games Store next week.
Looking at places to live in games, it would be easy for the most magnificent, pompous and elegant palaces and castles to dominate any appreciation. But there is plenty of room to appreciate those residences that are tucked away, perhaps underrated, that are not major hubs or destinations and that are only subtle intrusions. Some draw a curious sense of attachment from players, eliciting a sense of pseudo-topophilia - a close relationship with a virtual land or place. The resulting effect is sometimes enough to cause the sentiment: if this place were real, I would live there.
Seeing as it's fresh from winning the Best Game award at this year's Baftas, we thought it might be a nice moment to return to What Remains of Edith Finch and take another look at a few of the things that make it so very special.
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Giant Sparrow's surreal family drama What Remains of Edith Finch is known for being haunting, literary and elegant. None of these words would typically be used to describe parody artist and musician Weird Al Yankovic, yet that didn't stop Edith Finch director Ian Dallas from wanting to collaborate with the man behind Amish Paradise and Pretty Fly for a Rabbi.
Editor's note: As you may guess, there are spoilers for What Remains of Edith Finch ahead. Read at your peril.
What Remains of Edith Finch, a surreal anthology of short stories centred around an eccentric, uniquely unlucky family, was borne underwater. Creative director Ian Dallas, best known for the whimsical PS3 curio The Unfinished Swan, previously told us that this follow-up effort was inspired by a scuba diving excursion.
Surreal family drama What Remains of Edith Finch is coming to Xbox One on 19th July, publisher Annapurna Interactive has announced.
I half remember a brilliant review from the old, old days - which in games probably means it was around ten years ago at most. This review was for a shooter sequel of some kind, back in that period when designers were starting to experiment with putting physics objects into their games for the first time. The shooting was fine in this particular game, the review stated, but the environment was a problem. All those physics objects, those parts of the background of games which were suddenly, emphatically, promoted to being parts of the foreground. They got underfoot. They got in the way. They turned a John Woo ballet into a prolonged Laurel and Hardy pratfall. I wish I could remember the game, but in truth, the date alone would do. The date that games first encountered things - properly encountered them - and then discovered that games and things had to coexist.
There are a lot of books in the Finch mansion. Books on the shelves. Books on the floors. Books on chairs. Books over doors. If you find your way into the kitchen - if you find it by fighting your way past stacks of books, naturally - you'll find that there are books all over the kitchen, too. I don't remember checking the sink, but there are books everywhere else, piled on work tops and spread over counters.
SPOILER ALERT! This article mentions key plot points in What Remains of Edith Finch, and I'd hate to ruin anything for you. Don't read on until you've finished a playthrough.
What Remains of Edith Finch is an evocative narrative experience with an air of mystery, a beautiful presentation and silky-smooth performance - provided you're playing on the PC. PlayStation 4 suffers by comparison, with immersion-breaking stutter, intrusive pop-in, bad frame-pacing and clear performance problems. Playing on Pro helps considerably, but issues remain.
The game itself is the second release from Giant Sparrow - the company responsible for The Unfinished Swan, released back in 2012. Edith Finch was first announced at the PlayStation Experience back in 2014 with Sony Santa Monica as its publisher but since then, the game has changed hands and is now published by Annapurna Interactive - the new games division of the film production company, Annapurna Pictures.
The pairing of developer and publisher makes a lot of sense. This is an interactive story in the style of Gone Home and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter but still manages to upend expectations. We'll still clear of spoilers here, but suffice to say that this is a cinematic experience, so presentation is critical in grabbing the attention of players.
Sometimes, in the aftermath of an unexpected bereavement, a family will leave their departed loved one's bedroom unchanged for weeks, months, maybe even years. The preserved room serves as a walk-in memorial, a place to feel close to the departed (their beloved books heavy on the shelf, their smell soft on the pillow), to keep them in the present even as time shunts them ever further into the past. It's a way to wrest control back from fate's capriciousness: fortune may have taken this person from me, but I choose when to let them go.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Publisher: Annapurna Pictures
What Remains of Edith Finch, the upcoming title by The Unfinished Swan developer Giant Sparrow, is about a young woman exploring her family abode. It's a strange ramshackle concoction predicated on one ludicrous notion: that once a family member dies their room shall remain forever untouched. Naturally this leads to diminishing real estate opportunities, but the Finch lot is nothing if not resourceful, continually building new additions to this most haunted of tombs.
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