The Suicide of Rachel Foster knows that its story may weigh heavy on players, beginning with a statement that those who are currently suffering should not play alone, reminding players that there is help if they are willing to reach out for it. And while yes, the game does delve into some incredibly serious issues, it only scratches the surface, leaving most of what happens up to player’s interpretation.
What begins with a simple note from a dying mother to her daughter weaves into a tale about overcoming past trauma. After her parents’ death, Nicole is forced to return to the family hotel, The Timberline, located in Helena, Montana. There Nicole must meet with an attorney to inspect the hotel before signing away her rights permanently, ridding herself of the last remnants of her shattered childhood.
Nicole’s family, once prominent members of the community, were now disgraced after her 45 year old father had a relationship with a 16 year old girl. That girl, Rachel Foster, later committed suicide. Rachel’s death destroyed both Nichole’s family and her own, forcing Nichole and her mother to leave the father alone at The Timberline to wallow in his grief, while they left him, and the hotel, permanently.
Ten years pass before Nicole is forced to return, albeit reluctantly, in 1993. She is immediately trapped alone at the hotel due to a snowstorm, forcing her to explore the remains of her childhood, mostly untouched since her departure. The phone lines are out, but Nicole is contacted over the radio by a FEMA agent named Irving who becomes her lifeline to surviving the harsh storm.
Nicole is a faceless protagonist. Throughout the game players will hear her voice and be able to make dialogue choices while she speaks with Irving over a radio, but we never see her face and anything beyond her hands. She is cold and blunt, a girl raised on trauma that has yet to learn how to control her anger. She speaks harshly to Irving, and in turn, exudes an air of indifference to the hotel, Irving’s help, and her past.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster puts players in Nichole’s shoes as she explores the hotel, repairing various aspects of the slowly decaying hotel and uncovering the truth about her family’s past. A mix between a walking simulator and a psychological horror game, Rachel Foster’s story is mostly told through various items you’ll find during your exploration, including newspaper clippings, journals, and random items left behind long ago.
The hotel can be daunting at first, although Nicole is armed with a detailed map and a To Do list which thankfully updates as you progress to ensure you never get lost.
My biggest complaint is the lack of exploration involved despite the setting. There are moments when you can explore, but the story will not progress unless you explore specific areas or complete various tasks. The game progresses quickly, and many times when you reach a new area or complete a task the game then quickly jumps to the next day, leaving no time to explore other areas of the house.
While this did bother me at first, I did eventually succumb to the developer’s wishes and quit exploring for the sake of exploring. Instead allowing the story to be told the way it was intended. The story moves quickly, with the entire game lasting only 3 or so hours, but tells a gripping tale, although I can almost guarantee a few players will be upset at some of the more ambiguous answers – or lack therefore – that the game presents. I was OK with the story though, as life isn’t always clear cut and I enjoyed experiencing a story which didn’t pretend to have any answers – it just simply presented reality for these individuals in a blunt, take-it-or-leave-it manner.
Fans of walking simulators with mysteries, ala Gone Home or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, will enjoy The Suicide of Rachel Foster. Those looking for a jump scare filled horror game may want to look elsewhere. This game does not use scare tactics to disturb you, rather than the ugliness of reality. I found it to be a fresh take on the walking genre and enjoyed my time exploring The Timberline and unraveling the mysteries of Nichole’s past.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and Windows. Special thanks to ONE-O-ONE GAMES and Daedalic Entertainment for providing Fandomize with a review code.