review by Dr Marker
I both hate this game and love it at the same time.
Allow me to elaborate.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is a thriller/horror mystery game/walking simulator that will be very familiar to people who have played titles like Gone Home and Firewatch, as such, my discussion of the mechanical side of things will be very brief since the majority of the interest in a game like this is inevitably the story, the characters and the setting.
On a technical level the game sadly has quite a few issues with graphics and performance, with textures being very blurred and muddy on any level below epic settings (and with the performance taking a significant hit on that setting, making the game feel painfully sluggish), on it’s own this would only be a minor issue if it weren’t for the fact that the map (which is very useful for navigating around the hotel during some of the puzzle segments within the game) is tied to the graphics settings, rendering it illegible on any setting other than epic (something which I find to be frankly unacceptable and is one of the main reasons I cannot recommend this game on a technical level).
Performance issues aside, the story places you in the shoes of Nicole, a woman who is called to inspect her family’s hotel in preparation for selling it after the passing of her mother (with the stipulation that all profits from the sale should go to the family of a young woman called Rachel Foster who committed suicide while engaged in an affair with her father at the age of 16, more on this in a bit), after some frustration at the solicitor who is meant to be overseeing this sale having not arrived due to delays caused by a major blizzard, Nicole is forced to stay at the hotel and revisit memories from her childhood, eventually delving deeper into the titular suicide and the events surrounding it.
From this point onwards it will be impossible to talk about this game in any real depth without going into spoiler territory, I do understand that for some people this can impact their ability to enjoy a game (especially one that is primarily narrative driven) and as such if this is an issue I would recommend either leaving the page (thank you for reading this far) or jumping to the TL;DR at the bottom.
I spent some time after I completed the game trying to think on exactly what I thought of the events I’d just witnessed and I came away with some very mixed feelings, the initial set up of your mother posthumously telling you in a letter that you’re a strong independent woman and that your father abandoned you and you don’t need him in your life (along with your insistence on using your mother’s surname as opposed to your father’s) and your character’s blunt, rude and abrasive attitude honestly had me fearing that I was in for an SJW cringe-fest in the same vein as Gone Home, where we would learn that fathers are evil and that men prey upon women etc.
They do mention the discomfort and outrage that is born out of a 40 year old man being romantically involved with a 16 year old girl but they don’t belabour the point and don’t paint it as a big evil, in fact, they paint your father in something of a sympathetic light, as a troubled, tragic person who genuinely did love and want to help Rachel and even your mother, who it is revealed murdered Rachel by beating her with a hockey stick (killing her and the child she was pregnant with) doesn’t get demonised in any notable capacity, the characters don’t dwell on how evil your mother is or why she did what she did but overall everything seems to have more of a focus on the tragedy of a person’s passing and how it affects everyone around them more than the standard ‘whodunnit’ that most murder mysteries opt for, there is an element of investigation and wanting to find answers but it’s more for a sense of closure than due to any batman-esque search for justice or retribution, they bring up the uncomfortable elements of the situation but they don’t comment on it which I honestly think is the best way they could have handled it.
I mentioned previously how aggressively unlikable the main character is, with her constant whining, complaining and being downright abusive to Irving, the FEMA agent helping you over the phone, and I ended day 1 (of 9) really hating her and wishing horrible things would happen to her, I found her initial stories about ghosts in the hotel to be eye rolling but over time as the events unfold, she learns more about her father and she opens up more to Irving (and by extension, you, the player) her attitude softens, the defences fall and she went from someone I was secretly hoping would freeze to death to someone who I genuinely felt some empathy for, someone who’s childhood memories were tainted by tragedy and had to put up a front to pretend they weren’t affected by them (or had just blocked them entirely), Irving (who is later revealed to be Rachel’s brother and has deliberately been trying to guide you towards investigating her death in order to get closure) even later points out this transition in character, that you’d gone from someone who was moaning about having to have beans for dinner to someone who was willing to go above and beyond in confronting the dark, uncomfortable things in their family history, regardless of how much they’d rather forget about it all, it was a moment that hit me as really well done and had the game had taken more time to flesh out the progression of the mystery until this point, I would be sitting here giving a glowing review of this game and saying that even despite the technical issues you should absolutely try it for the sheer experience it provides.
But to bring it back to the first thing I wrote in this review, I both hate and love this game, the story had some interesting ideas but it seemed so eager to rush me to the conclusion and hit me with the twist that the story advances at far too breakneck a pace for a lot of things to truly sink in or have the drama or impact they were intended to have, a notable repeat problem being that the daily transition is controlled by instant smash cuts to a black screen once you’ve finished a particular dialogue or reached a particular trigger, something that not only discourages you from exploring the hotel (which is very well designed but sadly underused) but also means that many elements of the story are brought up, resolved and never again mentioned in the space of a single day, something that can be condensed down to 10 minutes depending on how long you spend getting lost in the hotel (refer to my previous point about the map), outside of the letter at the beginning and a brief bit of foreshadowing that occurs when you wake up in a chapel after sleepwalking (something that never happens again and was seemingly just thrown in to allow for this group of revelations) your mother is barely brought up despite ultimately being the culprit behind the murder, something that made that revelation lack some impact because they didn’t invest anywhere near enough time in making her a character, we learn that she was a quiet woman, she liked to help at church and she was presumably unhappy with your father’s infidelity but beyond that….nothing, this was a game that didn’t just need longer in development to straighten out the performance but ultimately needed more time for it’s story to truly flourish.
The story did hit me with the somber tone and themes of loss, sadness and regret that it was trying to convey but at the same time I am also filled with sadness and regret at the knowledge that this could have been so much better, with more time this story could have done more than just positively catch me off guard, but, much like your character’s surprise suicide attempt at the end of the game, the rushed pacing made a lot of things that could have been great just feel hollow and like they came from out of nowhere.
Overall Score – 5/10
TL;DR: A deeply flawed but very fascinating tale, regretfully, too many missed opportunities to truly recommend.