As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression in the past… still do now and again if I am being honest. The title of this game stood out to me before I even knew anything about it. It was that word ‘suicide’, a word that has passed through my own mind more than a few times over the years, that jumped out at me (don’t worry, I’m in a far better place now than I used to be).
I have always been interested in games that do tackle hard to talk about subjects. The indie game scene is amazing for this kind of stuff. AAA devs wouldn’t dare to go anywhere near games with ‘certain’ themes, yet indie devs are willing to take bold risks to make their titles. Developed by ONE-O-ONE GAMES and published by Daedalic Entertainment The Suicide of Rachel Foster is… well, it’s a little fucked up.
LEWIS & CLARK COUNTY, MONTANA, US
Ten years ago, teenager Nicole and her mother left the family hotel after discovering her father Leonard’s affair with, and pregnancy of Rachel, a girl her own age who eventually committed suicide.
Now that both of her parents have passed, Nicole hopes to fulfill her mother’s last will to sell the hotel and make amends to Rachel’s relatives. With the will and determination to put that chapter behind her, she returns to the hotel with the family’s lawyer to audit the decaying structure.
As the weather unexpectedly turns for the worst, Nicole has no way to leave the large mountain lodge, and finds support in Irving, a young FEMA agent, using one of the first radio telephones ever built.
With his help, Nicole starts to investigate a mystery far deeper than what people in the valley thought. A story of love and death, where melancholy and nostalgia melt into a thrilling ghost tale.
So yeah, you play as Nicole, a young woman who returns to her family hotel after a few years. I’m not going to get into the meat of the story here as well, it really is the main selling point of the game and I don’t want to get into spoilers. But the short version is that Nicole uncovers some pretty damning things about her family history with the help of Irving, the only person she is in contact with while at the hotel. The content description of the game states that The Suicide of Rachel Foster ‘touches on mature subject matter’. Well yeah, it certainly does that.
If you have already clicked on the trailer up there ^^^, then you’ve probably already got a feel for what kind of game this is. I’d guess you’d throw it into the walking simulation sub-genre. If you have ever played something like What Remains of Edith Finch, then you’ll know exactly where you stand, in terms of gameplay, here. Which makes writing this review kind of tricky. See, these games really live or die on their stories and I don’t want to get into spoilers… so I can’t really delve into the story. I mean, I can tell you that the story is pretty damn WTF when you get into it… and I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.
All I really can get into is the gameplay, which is very bog-standard walking sim fare. Now, I don’t mean that to sound dismissive. It’s just that… it is a walking sim, you walk a lot, do a bit of interacting with the scenery and pick up the odd item now and again. It is simple and basic gameplay. So there really isn’t much to shout about here in terms of how The Suicide of Rachel Foster plays. See, this is why this is a hard game to review. It plays just like any other walking sim and the bit that really sells a walking sim is the story… which I’m not going to cover as I don’t want to spoil it. I have little to write about then.
In terms of looks, The Suicide of Rachel Foster is perfectly fine. The hotel is creepy and atmospheric. From narrow hallways to large and open ballrooms, the game feels like a certain Kubrick film from 1980. The fact you are snowed in too really does send out some strong The Shining vibes. There are some really fantastic moments here that work brilliantly, in terms of the plot, which really is what The Suicide of Rachel Foster is all about. But I have to be honest and say that the game begins to lose some of its luster in the last act. As the story does open up and builds to its finale, things happen that will leave you disturbed, but also suddenly hit you with how ham-fisted the writing becomes.
I think this is The Suicide of Rachel Foster’s biggest failing. The story starts out good, great in fact. It grips you and you really want to learn more of what happened. Then it gets to a point where you do learn what happened and the subject matter is pretty depraved and that is when the writing feels wrong. Not the subject matter itself, just how it is handled and it feels very soap opera. The game is set in the nineties, you have a chunky mobile phone and trying to sort out some deep family dramas. Seriously, you should’ve just called Jerry Springer to sort it out. That is what this story ends up being, a Jerry Springer episode.
With only around a three-hour playtime and with this being sold for £15 to £17 (depending on format). I can’t really recommend The Suicide of Rachel Foster. That is way too much to pay for such a short-lived gaming experience and flawed story. There is a brilliant premise here, the story starts out amazing and does try to touch on some very serious issues. But it soon descends into farce. The subject matter is disturbing when all the pieces fall into place… yet it is just handled so badly that it almost becomes parody. The gameplay here is your basic walking sim stuff and never does anything new or creative with it either. Exploring the hotel is great fun and (as I previously said) it feels very The Shining, with quite a few nods and (indirect) references. But while Kubrick’s film was supernatural, this game is far more grounded and in no way a horror game. This is a story about a family drama, no ghosts, no jumpscares, etc.
There are some really nice looking environments around the hotel but most of the doors are locked, which does limit where you can go. So as big as the hotel first seems, it soon becomes clear how few places you can really go. Then there’s the fact that Nicole moves pretty slow too. This is one of those games that has a run option, yet the run is about the same speed your average person walks. The hotel has been unused since 1989, so if you are of a certain age, like myself, you’ll find plenty to put a smile on your face, like a Commodore 64 in the office.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster isn’t a bad game at all, it’s just a very average, one that would’ve benefited from a better writer and an extra hour or so of gameplay to flesh out the rushed and abrupt final act. A great idea that is sadly wasted and a subject matter that really should’ve been written better.