The Suicide of Rachel Foster Review
At first glance, The Suicide of Rachel Foster looks like your typical walking simulator: exploring, mystery solving and so on. But while the gameplay is rather average, there exists a fantastic story that makes the game shine and motivate you to play all the way to the end.
Where in the World is Rachel Foster?
You play as Nicole, who inherited a hotel from her dead father. Nicole travels to the hotel, but a storm traps her within the confines of the building, leaving her with little choice but to tour the structure with the help of Irving, a FEMA agent who acts as her only source of human contact via cellphone.
While exploring the hotel, Nicole gets a mysterious phone call, which says that Rachel Foster – a young lady who committed suicide a few years back and caused Nicole’s parents’ divorce – did not actually kill herself. After receiving the phone call, Nicole realizes that the caller may be right and that Rachel is still alive. Nicole, with the help of Irving, continues to explore the hotel, but with the intent of uncovering the mysteries hidden behind the old hotel’s walls.
The story starts off fairly uneventful, but intrigue slowly builds as you progress through the game, with the latter portion of the story being a dark surprise. The ending ties up the main threads of the story, and though it left some loose ends behind, it was still an amazing cinematic-like experience, definitely not for those with a light heart.
Your best friend is the map. It’s not your typical game map; it’s the hotel’s blueprints. You will not have an indicator for where you are. At first, I was annoyed by this – how can I figure out where I’m going if I don’t even know where I am? But as the game progressed, I realized that I began to become less and less reliant on the map; I almost memorized the whole hotel layout. Not only did I find my way around faster, it also just felt great to not have to pull up the map to figure out where I am. For an additional great feeling, there exist secret passages in the hotel that the map doesn’t hint at; finding them feels like an accomplishment because they aren’t very obvious.
The map also includes a to-do list. It’s located in the corner of the map, which unfortunately makes it hard to read in dark places. It’s definitely helpful since it’s easy to forget what you’re supposed to do when you’re still struggling to know what room is what, but it could be a lot better if they were on the HUD for easier accessibility.
Oh! The Horror!
The developers weren’t kidding when they advertised horror elements: creaky doors, dark and claustrophobic passages, and faulty flashlights are but a few examples of how the game creates an eerie feel to it. The sound design is phenomenal, and it got me spooked at times, even in broad daylight. But the game still has a lot of missed potential because I feel like it was built for horror, and it would be a more immersive (and frightening) experience if they focused more on that element.
Phone a Friend
Nicole will talk to agent Irving over the phone throughout the course of the game. Sometimes you will be given two dialog options, but no matter which one you choose, the conversation will play out the same way. Occasionally, you’ll get only one dialog option. Whenever that happens, Nicole’s words are given extra emphasis because you know that’s the only thing she can say for that conversation. I feel it’s kind of wrong to write dialog options this way because the illusion of choice is much clearer than if it had a more impactful effect on the conversation.
Still, the conversations with Irving drive the plot forward and fill in parts of the game that otherwise would be mindless filler. After all, you’re mostly just walking during your time playing. Irving starts of as a flat character, but toward the end of the game, he becomes a lot more interesting and becomes an integral part of the story. My only complaint would be that sometimes you have to wait for a conversation to end before you can progress or even move. It felt restraining and just outright annoying to not be able to do a single thing whenever that happens.
Through The Looking Glass
There are certain objects you can look at and pick up, with some items being required to move on. Generally, this isn’t a problem, but when the items are small, like keys, and you don’t know what you even exactly need, it can be really infuriating. (I even had to use a walkthrough at one point.)
One particular graphical issue I found while playing on Xbox was the slow loading textures. When you first pick up an object, the textures aren’t loaded for about a second or so, and when you rotate the object – even a little bit – the textures are unloaded and need to be reloaded again. I’m unsure if this is a rare occurence, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re playing on Xbox. But despite this hiccup, the models and textures are generally detailed and look nice, with the lighting playing a key role in defining the mood of the rooms you visit.
Suicide Doesn’t Always Have to be Scary
The Suicide of Rachel Foster focuses primarily on the story, and it’s simply a phenomenal story. The characters feel like they’re starring in a movie, and the way the game portrays Nicole’s plight brought out emotions inside of me that I totally didn’t expect to awaken. It definitely helped that the soundtrack and sound design was emotionally compelling.
I still wish that they did more with the horror elements the game exhibited. There’s a lot of suspenseful moments, but not all of them had an impactful effect compared to if they had been intended to scare you, even just a little. There’s also the false sense of having your choices matter via dialog. I felt that it would’ve been better if there weren’t any choices and instead more conversations to compensate for that. But, this isn’t something you’d play for gameplay anyway; the story is where the game excels. The Suicide of Rachel Foster has been a special narrative to have experienced, and I recommend it if you’re looking for something more interactive than a book or film.
You can buy The Suicide of Rachel Foster on Steam here.