The name of the game might give away that this isn’t exactly a happy-go-lucky adventure. But The Suicide of Rachel Foster might not tell the story you’d expect, either.
From One-O-One Games and Daedalic Entertainment, The Suicide of Rachel Foster very much takes a leaf out of the book of What Remains of Edith Finch. Where Edith returns to her family’s home to discover the secrets that lurk there, the protagonist of The Suicide of Rachel Foster returns to an abandoned hotel once run by her parents.
That protagonist is Nicole, and it’s been ten years since she’s stepped foot in the hotel. She swore she’d never go back there, but after both her parents died, she’s forced to return one last time to arrange the sale of it with the family lawyer. She expects to be in and out in a matter of minutes once the paperwork has been sorted, but the weather has other ideas. As a bad storm rolls in, she finds herself holed up in the hotel for days, left with nothing to do but remember events she’d rather forget.
You see, Nicole and her mum fled the hotel when she was just a teenager, after finding out about her father’s affair with a sixteen-year-old girl. A sixteen-year-old girl who was pregnant, and who was found to have committed suicide. You guessed it; she’s the Rachel Foster in the game’s title. And I’m not spoiling anything about the game by giving you that much information; you’ll get the same from simply reading the game’s description on Steam. The twists and turns the story takes, though? They’re for you to find out.
If you’ve played Edith Finch or Gone Home or other games of that ilk, you’ll have an idea about what to expect from The Suicide of Rachel Foster. It’s a first-person exploration game that, as Nicole, sees you poking around all corners of this creaky, abandoned hotel. While it’s not strictly a horror game, there are numerous moments that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. The concept of being alone in a hotel is scary enough (we’ve got The Shining to thank for that), but the game excellently plays with your expectations and suspense in a way that means you’re never quite sure what lurks around the next corner.
Hell, there’s even a carpet ripped straight out Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel. All we needed was Danny Torrance to appear on his trike, or a freaky pair of twins.
In terms of its technical feats, The Suicide of Rachel Foster looks fantastic and, providing your PC is up to the challenge, it runs well too. However, my Ryzen-powered PC wouldn’t even launch the game, despite more-or-less meeting Steam’s listed minimum requirements. Running on a much beefier RTX 2070, it held a steady 60fps at 1440p, which is more than enough to appreciate just how nice the game’s environments look. There was a bit of screen-tearing at times, but not enough to detract from the enjoyment of the game. I would say, however, if your PC doesn’t come near Steam’s ‘recommended’ specs (6th gen i5, GTX 1060 or above), I’d hold off on playing until it comes to console.
Set in the early 1990s, The Suicide of Rachel Foster is filled with nostalgic reminders of the past; chunky CRT televisions, telephone booths, 1980s cars and a huge brick-like mobile phone. That phone plays a big part of the narrative; Nicole may be alone in the hotel, but she’s accompanied by a voice on the other end of the phone. A man called Irving, who says he’s a FEMA agent, stays in contact with Nicole during the course of the storm to ensure she’s safe. At least, that’s what he says. And being the only person to keep Nicole company, she’s in no position to doubt him – even when he appears to know a little too much about her and the hotel. Hmm.
You’ll likely complete The Suicide of Rachel Foster in around three hours. It’s not the longest game, then, but it’s one that will likely keep you gripped for its entire run time. I played it in one sitting, unable to tear myself away from the screen, keen to explore and uncover secrets with Nicole. The hotel is huge, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. You can’t venture into each and every one of the guest rooms, which is a bit of a shame, but with common areas, ballrooms, staff quarters and an eerie basement to wander around, it proves to be a fantastic setting.
It’s such a fantastic setting, in fact, that I can’t help but feel some of it was wasted. While the game does require you to venture into most parts of it – including a terrifying and claustrophobic crawl space – often these visits are fleeting. More exploration wouldn’t hurt, and while you can of course wander around of your own volition, the game’s structure prevents it being as smooth as it should be. Split into days, the game will occasionally cut once you’ve reached a particular checkpoint, and you’ll find yourself back in your bedroom the following morning. While manually returning to your room every night might be a little pointless and laborious, it would at least give the player reason to poke around themselves, and not just because Irving or Nicole has suggested we go look at something.
But that’s about the only complaint I can level at The Suicide of Rachel Foster. It’s no What Remains of Edith Finch, but it still does a stand-out job of assimilating the genre into its own adventure, without ever feeling trite. Like the best narrative adventures out there, its story manages to get your hooks in you early on, successfully begging you to continue. And while I wasn’t fully satisfied with how the story ended, it was the journey that got me there that mattered most.
Packed with droves of tension and atmosphere, The Suicide of Rachel Foster will keep you on your toes. Even when nothing awaits you around the next corner other than an empty corridor, you’ll find yourself constantly looking over your shoulder, expecting the worst at any moment. And with a twisting, gut-wrenching story spanning past and present, it’ll keep you glued to your screen until the credits roll.