Thank you to Daedalic Entertainment for providing a review copy for the Xbox One.
“Coming back to the family hotel after years, a young woman finds herself trapped with the ghosts from her past and an old cellular telephone as the only way to unveil a terrible truth.” If you were left intrigued by that synopsis, do not go into this game with the expectation that its going to be an action packed horror game. On top of that, don’t be alarmed by the name, the game doesn’t dive that deep into the theme suicide. It is mentioned a few times but the game focuses much more on the mystery around her disappearance. The Suicide of Rachel Foster is just a walking simulator, but that isn’t a bad thing because its a good walking simulator.
Walking simulators have always been a weird guilty pleasure of mine. Sure, the game-play loop of just walking may be incredibly repetitive but the strong narratives and interesting environments always come on top for me. Games like Life is Strange and Until Dawn nail this while also finding ways to keep the game-play interesting. The best way for me to describe The Suicide of Rachel Foster would be if Gone Home and Firewatch had a baby. Remember the walkie-talkie in Firewatch? The Suicide of Rachel Foster has a very similar mechanic, just this time it is with a cell phone. You can talk about objects you see in the hotel over this phone which is the main way the game tells its story. You can also interact with objects in-game by picking them up but they usually lack details and they never seem to have the same level of interactivity that a game like Resident Evil 7 does. There isn’t any point in general to interact with objects that don’t have a phone symbol next to them. There are a few tools that you get throughout your play-through including the phone, a map, a crank flashlight, and a few other objects that I won’t spoil.
The game starts off with the protagonist, Nicole, flipping through the pages of an old letter from her deceased mother. This letter gives backstory as to why Nicole is going back to the old family hotel and how Rachel Foster is connected to her. A major snowstorm ends up trapping you at the hotel, causing you to be stuck there. You receive a phone call from Irving, who says he is a FEMA agent. Even though you are “alone” in this giant hotel, you have Irving to keep you company over the phone. As your time in the hotel gets longer, things start to get creepier. I won’t go into detail due to spoilers but this game never turns into a horror game. However, things do get very creepy in a way that reminds me to how I felt when I explored the house in Gone Home. You may get anxious at times but don’t expect Jack Baker to start chasing you around the hotel. As you start to solve the mystery of Rachel’s death, more twists occur causing you to rethink everything you thought that you knew about the characters.
The initial art style definitely takes inspiration from Firewatch. Unfortunately, it is only the initial art syle. The Suicide of Rachel Foster uses a hideous depth of field blurring setting that can not be turned off. Its essentially causes stuff to completely blur in the background to make what is closer to you stay clear. The only game that I can think of that did something similar to this was Grounded. There is also major head bobbing that can not be turned off. I felt sick for the first half an hour of my play-through. I eventually got used to it but it is definitely something that brought the review score down. Animations are also fairly limited. When you do an important interaction, the game usually zooms the camera in really close outside of the first person perspective. You can see what Nicole is interacting with but you can never see more then her arms.
I am happy to say that I didn’t have that many glitches during my play-through. The only problem that I can remember was that my head would occasionally bob up and down really quick when squeezing through a small door/vent.
After about three hours with The Suicide of Rachel Foster, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Obviously keep in mind that I am someone who enjoys walking simulators, but it is one of the better ones that I have played. Of course it has its flaws, but the positives of the narrative outshine those. If you are someone who has enjoyed playing walking simulators in the past, then I recommend paying the $19.99. If you have never played a walking simulator before, maybe write this down on your wish-list and wait until it is on sale.
Final Score: 8/10