Now on PS4 and Xbox One, this The Suicide of Rachel Foster review covers the PC release, published by Daedalic Entertainment, that came out earlier in 2020, but still the same game.
Following in the footsteps of Nicole, you receive a letter from your deceased mother, informing you that your father, also dead, has left behind the family hotel in your name. Your mother suggests you inspect it, take an inventory and put on the market, using the funds for university.
The rest of the money needs to go to the family of Rachel Foster, a 16-year old girl that committed suicide some ten years ago, who just so happened to have an affair with Nicole’s father, causing immense pain for all those involved.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster Review
A challenging title to play, especially when you know a person in real life with the same name, the opening sequence immediately hits hard with a melancholy score that had me hovering towards the whisky glass.
In fear of any spoilers, the premise is the affair between Nicole’s father and Rachel destroyed the lives of everyone involved. Told from the perspective of the mother and Nicole, it was the betrayal and humiliation – Rachel was the same age as Nicole at the time.
Nicole’s father, Leonard, sacrificed everything for the girl, then when she committed suicide, the aftermath was sewn into time, ripping apart Rachel’s loved ones and a tight-knit community.
A legal representative is hired to assist, and Nicole reluctantly sets out to the family-owned Timberline Hotel for inspection, then sign off to be sold on to a hotel chain. Within the first day of her arrival, a storm prevents her from leaving, and the legal rep is unable to meet up with her.
Set in the early 90s, there’s no internet or mobile phones; instead, a cellular brick-like phone that the yuppies used to carry about in late 80s is her only communication with the outside world and a chap named Irving, a representative FEMA.
He’s a bit of a boy scout, often stumbling over his words as Nicole doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Still, as the relationship ‘blooms’, it becomes comparable to Firewatch, and this relationship, along with the characteristics of the hotel, are the biggest selling points.
Welcome To Hotel Timberline
The hotel is quite the wonder. Not in the sense that it resembles the Burj Al Arab with splendour, but it’s enormous. The number of rooms for the guests to stay in are somewhat limited, and one particular floor is pretty dilapidated, but overall, it occupies a large space.
This was her home as a child, and ignoring the odd anecdote about childhood that she shares with Irving, you feel like a child in this space as it’s so vast, with crawl spaces and hidden paths that it’s easy to get lost.
Fortunately, the hotel comes with floor plans that you can pull up at any time. While there aren’t any legends such as ‘you are here’, you do get an idea on logistics, but it’s easy to get lost, and with some of the filler-like back-tracking in the game, The Suicide of Rachel Foster does feel like a walking simulator.
Fellow console gamers may be impressed with the visuals, resembling the art aesthetic of P.T. By default, the display settings were set to high but were increased to epic. Noticing a slight slow down (the PC, not the game), I switched back to the high settings but having seen how good the textures were on the garage walls where you begin, I bit the bullet and put up with the slight frame drop. It wasn’t that bad once into it.
Timberline feels lived in, and it could be argued that the design was inspired by The Stanley Hotel from The Shining. The textures, lighting and 3D modelling at times were sublime, but it did start to become a bit of a bore picking up the 20th bottle of cleaner to inspect that had zero to do with the story or objectives.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster soon became a bore too, not having anything to do other than walk from one side of the hotel to another was mundane. Then the phone rang with a request but felt more like a threat. Followed by the lights going out and having to navigate crawlspaces filled with drawings by a child and hopscotch etched into the floor, feelings of unease crept through, as did interest.
Ghost In The Shell
With the introduction of ghost hunters and a few devices of the age used to track them (taking polaroids or using a sound device to track ambient noises), the game shifted, and admittedly, I was starting to feel uncomfortable, not handling supernatural narratives too well.
Comparable to The Blair Witch Project, what happened in my imagination was far worse than the film – the same applied to the game as these vivid thoughts never materialised, but the atmosphere the game created and subsequent tension were great.
How long it takes to finish the game depends on the person, but you could easily do this in one sitting. It took me three nights: a mixture of time management and, on one occasion, a little apprehensive that this was going to give me nightmares. From what I understand, there are two endings but are quite similar in conclusion. Whether you play through a second time depends on whether you like the story.
It’s not that difficult to locate a spoiler on the internet or sit through a walkthrough, but I won’t reveal anything here. The story is quite engaging, but all the more compelling through the voice acting and script and the reveal. While it wasn’t a surprise for someone who studied film and plays games, it was still great.
The themes covered are unsettling, and the handling and sensitivity aren’t the best. In some interpretations, the story can be quite dismissive. There are two sides to every story, and The Suicide of Rachel Foster is a bit one-sided.
Reflecting on my notes trying to recall why I was reviewing a PC game that was released in February, I came across quite a few negative comments, how some people were offended or upset with the way the game dealt with the issues.
They’re all entitled to their opinion, and I agree with most, from a real-world perspective. As a father – hell, as a person, the themes were upsetting, but this is an interesting story, made all the better through the relationship between Nicole and Irving, plus the enigmatic hotel, which had a non-speaking part.
As an experience, The Suicide of Rachel Foster was uncomfortable, for the right reasons. You shouldn’t be going into this game expecting a platform game or Animal Crossing title.
It’s a mature piece, a little insensitive in places, but highly doubtful that ONE-O-ONE GAMES intended to offend anybody, but if it triggers debate and more awareness to the topics covered, then on an academic level, job done.