After playing (and loving) titles such as Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch in the past, I’ve found myself more and more drawn to the ‘walking simulator’ genre and the many mysterious tales that it tells. The Suicide of Rachel Foster is the latest to pique my interest, with its unsettling narrative and setting causing a stir when it released on PC earlier in the year. It has now made its way to consoles too, giving me the perfect opportunity to dive into its deeply emotional experience.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is a walking simulator with a tense and eerie mystery to be discovered within its gameplay, with players slowly unravelling more secrets about the hotel setting and the dark events that occurred within it many years earlier. The best game to compare it to would be the aforementioned Gone Home, with the emphasis on discovering more about your family, trawling through their old belongings, and always feeling uneasy and that something *strange* is happening helping strengthen your intrigue as the tale unfolds with each bit of progress.
Naturally, given the walking simulator approach that the game takes, that tale is the most important aspect of the entire experience. Set in the early 90s, players take on the role of Nicole: a young woman who returns to her family’s old hotel in order to sell it following her father’s death. It should have been a quick and easy process, but unfortunately an unexpected snowstorm means that she’s left stranded within its walls for a short while until she’s able to leave. I hate it when that happens…
Whilst stuck in the hotel, Nicole explores her memories and the many events that led to her leaving the hotel with her mother in the first place. See, Nicole’s dad had actually been having a secret affair with a teenage-girl – a girl named Rachel Foster who ended up committing suicide. With nothing but the haunting rooms of the hotel, the many dark memories within them, and phone calls with a FEMA agent named Irving to keep Nicole company during her stay, she ends up exploring further into her family’s past and uncovering the secrets behind the tragic events that tarnished her younger years.
It’s clear that The Suicide of Rachel Foster tackles some uneasy themes, so much so that it has a message at the start of the game that warns of it and also tells anyone who may be suffering to seek advice. It’s hard to delve too deeply into this without revealing too much about the game’s plot though – whilst the title makes it obvious that suicide is addressed in the game, there’s so much more in place as to what drove the titular character to it, with themes such as emotional abuse and crippling anxiety found within the tale. The same goes for protagonist Nicole who has to uncover everything that actually went on within the hotel and how it actually affected her family, with each harrowing discovery bringing with it a sense of hurt.
As mentioned, I don’t want to go into detail so I can avoid spoilers; just know that the game manages to handle it well, with nothing ever feeling overly exploitative or disrespectful to the struggles that people go through. Sure, there’ll probably be a few moments where some character actions will feel out of tune with what might be considered the ‘correct’ way to handle these situations, but it thematically fits within the troubles that the game is actually addressing and helps build upon the narrative in a meaningful way.
The game itself is spread across several days, with Nicole having to complete a myriad of tasks during her time in the hotel… you know… making sure the electricity is running, keeping herself fed… basic things. However, it’s during her time completing menial tasks that she starts to uncover more about the mysteries within the hotel, with rooms full of objects to examine and secrets that she never knew existed. A lot of the areas you explore are expertly crafted too, bringing with them this sense of tension that you don’t know what might be lurking around in the shadows – this was something especially apparent within the basement and crawl spaces, where I always felt like there was something watching me within the darkness. There wasn’t, and no, The Suicide of Rachel Foster isn’t a horror game, but it just goes to show how unsettling its mystery can actually be.
It’s something that’s strengthened thanks to its meticulously crafted world, with plenty of intricacies and small details to be found within the hotel. Since the game is set in the 90s, you can expect plenty of hallmarks of the era including the massive mobile phone you can use, CRT televisions that take up half of a room (an exaggeration, sure, but you get my point) and decorations that would feel ancient in this day and age. Big shout out to the carpet by the way, which may feel familiar to anyone who has watched The Shining. It makes for a wonderful location to explore though and I loved uncovering everything within the game world. Sure, it can be pretty linear in how you approach exploration and not every room of the hotel can be explored, but it never stops being an intriguing location to discover more of.
One thing I have to give The Suicide of Rachel Foster extra praise for is its sound design, which is absolutely on point throughout. Not only is the voice acting well-presented and believable, but the constant noises you’ll hear around you in the hotel add to the uneasy atmosphere – things like doors closing, creaky footsteps, the bustling wind and snowfall… they’re minor details in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re isolated and lonely in a hotel full of dark memories? They REALLY help build a satisfyingly foreboding atmosphere.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster does a brilliant job of building an unnerving atmosphere during its roughly three-hour runtime, though it does have a few problems that break the immersion a little. I did come across a few issues with the dialogue cutting out in some instances, whilst other times it didn’t seem to match up with the game’s subtitles properly. There’s also the occasional grammatical error to be found too – in fairness, this isn’t really that big of a problem, but it’s still noticeable.
It could be argued that the game doesn’t really end with a bang either. Whilst I really enjoyed uncovering the tale and seeing it through to its conclusion, some elements of the otherwise immersive storytelling just felt a little rushed out by the end. I could see some of the twists coming too, though I also had some unanswered questions that didn’t give me a clear sense of resolution. It’s not a bad ending by any means and I didn’t feel like it completely fell apart by any stretch of the imagination, but I hoped for a *little* bit more given the immersive and harrowing tale I’d uncovered as Nicole.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster tells a harrowing and emotionally driven tale that’ll keep players completely hooked in as they uncover its unsettling secrets. It’s worth noting that it does tackle some dark themes that might hit a little close to home throughout its three-hour runtime too, but it does so in a meaningful way that builds upon them to strengthen the story it is telling rather than feeling exploitative of people’s struggles. It’s good stuff.
It does have some issues with the audio cutting out on occasions and I did feel slightly underwhelmed by the ending, but neither of these issues stop The Suicide of Rachel Foster from offering a deep and engaging mystery that fans of the genre should certainly pay attention to.
Developer: ONE-O-ONE Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC