Title: Suicide of Rachel Foster
Developer: One-O-One Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Genre: Action, Indie, Casual
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Official Site: The Suicide of Rachel Foster
Where to Buy it: Steam, Microsoft Store, PlayStation Store
WARNING: The following review does deal with sensitive topics and contains spoilers for The Suicide of Rachel Foster.
Do you like the eerie setting of the frozen-over Overlook Hotel from The Shining? Do you like the intimate relationships developed in Firewatch? Or how about the exploration of family secrets in games like Gone Home or What Remains of Edith Finch? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you will definitely see their influence in The Suicide of Rachel Foster. That being said, the tact, thoughtful execution, and engaging gameplay seen in the above examples are missing from this disappointing walking simulator.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster follows Nichole as she returns to her family’s hotel after being away for ten years. Her parents’ recent deaths bring her to the hotel, but the raging snowstorm outside keeps her trapped inside. In the days to follow, Nichole delves into her family’s past, unearthing the secrets revolving around her father’s affair with a sixteen-year-old Rachel Foster, who later kills herself. Nichole’s only connection to the outside world is through cellular conversations with a local ranger, Irving. As the storm rages on and the ghosts of the hotel become louder, Nichole must put the pieces of her past back together.
Numerous issues aside, the one thing The Suicide of Rachel Foster has going for it is the visuals. The game looks great, and there is something about the visual design that gives it an almost dreamy feel. This dreamy feel lends itself well to the creepy, isolated atmosphere created by the hotel itself. The rooms are well decorated, and there is plenty to see if you choose to explore. But that’s the problem: you have to decide to explore it. The narrative itself has the player going back and forth between the same few areas, so the vast space really gets lost in that.
At first, I believed that the sound design was brilliant. Odd pops, creaks, and whispers fill the empty halls of the hotel, and it does an excellent job of putting the player on edge. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that the same sounds happened in the same spaces in the hotel whenever your character passes through them. With how big the hotel is, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but your character traverses this same sort-of trail so often that you become desensitized to the aspect of the atmosphere.
When it comes to gameplay, there isn’t much of it. Most of the game revolves around Nichole moving from one part of the hotel to the other, waiting for a call to come in on the cellular walkie-talkie (and yes. That’s definitely a technical term). The story and mystery are just interesting enough not to make this too painful. However, more than once, I wandered around with no objective, just waiting for something to happen, which was edging onto the painful side.
The biggest problem comes at the end. Once the puzzle pieces of Nichole’s past (kind of?) comes together, she suddenly decided to kill herself to be reunited with her family. A family, I would take a day, that she mostly speaks about with disdain and unpleasantness. Now, the game forces the player to take the steps with Nichole as she chooses to end her life. Ultimately, you can make a choice not to have Nichole kill herself, but the game asks about two or three times if you’re sure you want to live. One step further, the player doesn’t receive the achievement for completing the game until they choose to have Nichole kill herself.
Considering everything in the story so far, this rash and the uncomfortable ending doesn’t really make sense, and, therefore, it makes the potential suicide at the end feel awkward and insensitive. Even the warning at the very beginning of the game seems a little impervious in its phrasing, especially considering the ending feels like it there strictly for shock value. Paired with the romanticization of the relationship between her father and a sixteen-year-old, it feels like The Suicide of Rachel Foster really needed some serious editing and input.
It’s true; life is messy. The problem with The Suicide of Rachel Foster isn’t that it deals with suicide or a relationship between a young teenager and a grown man. The problem is that the game cannot be fully “completed” until you choose to have Nichole kill herself. The problem is the way the game tends to romanticize the affair involving an adult and a technical child. By the end, The Suicide of Rachel Foster left me feeling uncomfortable and anxious without having any sort of payoff.
Verdict: Video games can tell compelling stories while tackling tough subjects in a way that other mediums can not. Because of this, developers have the responsibility to make sure these things are done tastefully, and, unfortunately, The Suicide of Rachel Foster falls short in this regard. Even putting the disturbing ending aside and other troublesome narrative elements, little to no gameplay, and a wasted environment makes this a disappointing (and uncomfortable) experience overall.
- Good visuals and setting
- Little to no gameplay
- Wasted setting
- Poor handling of sensitive subjects