Indie game developer Giant Sparrow first caught critics’ attention with its 2012 debut “The Unfinished Swan.” Though a brief experience, “Swan” earned a pair of BAFTA awards and marked creative director Ian Dallas as a figure to watch.
Giant Sparrow’s upcoming sophomore outing, “What Remains of Edith Finch,” focuses on a collection of narratives that tell the story of what Dallas describes as “a cursed family in Washington state.” The eponymous protagonist has returned to explore her childhood home as the last living Finch and to learn more about her deceased relatives.
Each of the 13 family members’ stories is brief and features its own gameplay mechanics, which are simple but up to the player to sort out how they work.
“The whole game is meant to feel like you’re tumbling down a rabbit hole,” Dallas told amNewYork during a private playable demo in Manhattan.
The latest narrative critics have been able to get their hands on centers around Edith’s brother Lewis, who died only a few years earlier. He works a monotonous job in a factory, lopping the heads off fish, but passes the time by drifting increasingly deeper into a fantasy realm in which he is a beloved ruler.
As they story unfolds, the player controls Lewis from a first-person perspective as he executes his menial task using one analog stick. At the same time, the other stick controls the movement of a small, third-person avatar representing the imagined world Lewis’ mind wanders off to.
As one might imagine given the factory setting and the knowledge Lewis is deceased, he meets a grisly end — one that is spares the player the gruesome visuals.
Dallas points to his own lifelong fascination with the notion of dying as an impetus for Edith’s journey.
“I am just really interested in death,” Dallas said. “… It seemed to be an interesting thing to explore in video games, where there’s so much death, but it’s usually very casual.”
Although the nature of the game is dark, the basis of Edith’s journey is grounded in a heightened reality. There are no jump scares in the Finch clan’s unusually-designed house, only what Dallas referred to as an “ominous” vibe that comes with exploring an abandoned home alone.
Like “The Unfinished Swan,” Dallas and his team aim for “Edith Finch” to be a relatively short experience start-to-finish.
“We want to keep the pacing fast enough that you’re never stuck for very long,” Dallas said.
“What Remains of Edith Finch” is slated to be released April 25 for PlayStation 4 and Windows PC and will be published by Annapurna Interactive.