When it comes to the walking simulator genre the pinnacle for me would be Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch. Both have a great level of intrigue and mystery that made me want to play more, even when the gameplay sometimes dragged. As I was reaching the end of The Suicide of Rachel Foster, I was ready to place that just below them. A few issues aside,I was really enjoying my time with it and was ready to give it a glowing review. Then the game broke.
Now, a major issue with the game is that it doesn’t save that frequently. Basically the game is played out over multiple days and the game saves at the start of each of these days (which I only figured out after a Google search). It’s not a design decision that made me want to throw my controller with rage, but it was a needless one, especially when some days can take a while to complete if you become lost or unsure how to progress the story (which did happen a few times).
Due to the fact that I’m an adult with responsibilities, I had to quit the game midway through the final day and return to it later. “Fine”, I thought to myself, I now know where to go so aside from the unskippable dialogue I should return to where I was in about ten minutes. I reloaded the game and was in a completely different area to where I should be. Very strange. I walked around a bit and retraced my steps to where I should be for the story to continue, but nothing happened. By pressing the triangle button you bring up a map and at the bottom it says “Things to do”. This was blank. So after about twenty minutes of aimlessly wandering trying to trigger something, I gave up and succumb to the fact that the game had completely blocked my progress. It’s a short game, around 3-4 hours if you know what to do, so you could run through it all again rather quickly, but this whole situation has left such a bad taste in mouth I just want to delete the whole thing from my hard drive. I was really fascinated with where the story was going too. Top tip: Don’t quit out of Day 9 if you don’t want to risk this happening to you.
Up to that point though, the game was great. Set in a secluded hotel that is cut off from everything due to a snowstorm, you’re the daughter of the former proprietor who has since passed away and are just there to gather some things and look at how rundown the building is. The snowstorm has put a stop to that however, as you’re now stranded for days until the snow subsides. Your only friend is Irving from FEMA who communicates with you thanks to an old fashioned cell phone, what with the game being set in the 90’s, there’s plenty of old tech to investigate.
Don’t expect any great revelations with the gameplay, it is very much one of those games. Investigate everything, including stuff you wonder why they spent time modelling it (a sponge? Really?), all the while talking to your friend over the phone. It’s a game that definitely wears its inspirations on its sleeve. Having a friend on the phone constantly brings back memories of Firewatch and being stuck in an abandoned, spooky hotel during a snowstorm is clearly a nod to The Shining. If that wasn’t obvious from the start, it will be when you check out the top floor and see the diamond carpet laid out in front of you. The only thing missing would be the creepy twins and blood elevator.
While I try and remain spoiler free during reviews, obviously with a name like “The Suicide of Rachel Foster” people with mental health issues may be more wary about what the game contains. The next paragraph contains some mild spoilers for the themes that some people may what to know about.
Potential Spoilers / Triggers
While staying in the hotel more and more mysteries are uncovered about the death of Rachel Foster. In regards to the content of the game, there is a disclaimer at the start talking about the contents, but it really doesn’t get too deep into what that is (I’m guessing because spoilers). While the “Suicide” of the title is no doubt worrisome to people who may suffer from those thoughts, that’s the part of the game with the least time lingered on it. What the advertising of the game fails to say, is that the Rachel Foster in the title is just 16 years old and was involved in a relationship with the adult father of the protagonist, all while your character Nicole was just a child. There are hints at an unhealthy obsession with Rachel from the father including possible kidnapping and maybe murder. Those last two are pure conjecture on my part, again the game broke, so the final revelation never occurred for me, but the game does let your mind run rampant about what may have happened, particularly those with the most active of imaginations.
With a game breaking issue it really has put me in a difficult place when it comes to a recommendation. The story has intrigue, the characters are well acting and written, it looks quite nice and the whole presentation is top notch. But it broke. So if I ever talk about this game in the future that will always be my prevailing thought. It’s a real shame.