Content Warning: Discussion of suicide. If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster starts off like many other walking simulators. You are one person, arriving at a location, and all you can do is explore the area. You play as Nicole, a grown woman who after 10 years is returning to her family’s hotel in the middle of the mountains to get it ready for sale as part of her mother’s will. You quickly learn that 10 years ago, Nicole’s father had an affair with a 16 year old girl, Rachel Foster. Nicole and her mother take everything they had, and left, never to talk to her father again. Once returning to the hotel, Nicole gets locked in
to the historically haunted hotel due to a major snowstorm in the area only to have company with Irving, a new FEMA agent on the other line of one of those bulky portable phones that first
showed up in the late 80s – early 90s. It is 1993 after all, and cell phones aren’t a thing yet. The suspense begins to ramp up as Nicole soon begins to delve into her past with Rachel and her family as what seemed like a blatant suicide may have not been as it seemed.
As mentioned above, this game is very akin to a “walking simulator” but that is not a bad thing. I felt on edge for most of the game because of the well realized atmosphere. Noises like wind rustling trees, shutters falling off the hotel occasionally, and the long dimly lit hallways make the game feel much more mysterious. Also doesn’t help that the only real preserved part of the hotel is Nicole’s old bedroom that has been untouched since her and her mother left. Additionally, like
an old hotel, the floors creak, and do they love to creak when you’re not walking around or where you feel safe. Numerous times I felt like I was not alone in the hotel and was waiting to be grabbed or have something jump out at me. One-O-One games, the developer, also liked to throw curveballs that is explained away as “it’s just an old hotel that had no upkeep” even though every experience felt much more supernatural than just that.
The game is broken up into “Days”, with each day having Nicole go look at a particular part of the hotel or having to go fix another issue. On one day, the lights go out and you have to explore the hotel by the light of a polaroid flash to find the electrical room, another day Nicole wakes up in a different part of the hotel with no memory of how she got there. All of these mysterious occurrences with the guise of an overarching mystery create the setting that you are not alone in this abandoned hotel. Around every turn I was overly cautious, expecting to see a footstep, a hand, something that gave the hint of someone else being present and chasing after Nicole.
Let’s touch on the story. Your only company is Irving through your portable landline phone that also has a creepy jingle to it whenever it rings. The story is told through conversations with Irving who quickly becomes Nicole’s friend and confidant, as well as Nicole’s inner monologue as she retells the events that happened 10 years ago. Numerous times you, the player, can choose what Nicole says to Irving which helps or hurts that relationship grow. You need to pay attention though; all choices are on a timer and the choice highlight is what’s picked when time runs out. These player choices help you learn more about either Nicole’s backstory, the history of the hotel, or just to give Irving a cold shoulder. I’m not sure if these choices lead to alternate endings, but I do know they exist based upon the choices you make later on in the game.
I want to again touch on how dark this game gets. If you’ve been affected by the effects of Suicide or adultery in your life, this game may not be the game for you. It does not hold back any punches. Once Nicole and Irving get close, Nicole does not hold back her feelings. Once the mystery unravels, Nicole’s true emotions show. For instance, did she actually play a part in the suicide attempt? Were other forces at play? Did her dad go crazy after she and her mom left him? Who else in the small town did the suicide affect? What happens when you are alone with your thoughts, and you are still haunted by the past? All of these emotions are explored during the 2.5 to 3 hour experience, all while you begin to sympathize and empathize with Nicole as she herself begins to feel the stresses of what feels like a haunted hotel.
As you are exploring, you get some tools to use occasionally such as a polaroid camera, a flashlight you have to keep pulling the right trigger to power, and a screwdriver. You also learn about secret corridors in the hotel that act as quick routes to get around behind the walls. When you perform certain actions, like opening one of these secret corridors, a cutscene plays to show
that action. These cutscenes don’t really take away from the experience but they do start to chip away at you especially in the tense moments. Other than that, this game runs very smoothly. I encountered some glitches but they always happened after I shut the console down in a standby state. A quick relaunch of the game fixed any audio errors or issues with interacting with objects.
But, as an achievement hunter, there was one very egregious error. No achievements popped. After some quick googling, it turns out this is a known issue since the launch of the game back in early September. Developers have been contacted and have not responded to any requests either on their discord server, Twitter, or bug submissions. The trophies on PlayStation and achievements on Steam work. But, nothing popped on Xbox, and google searches have found that there is no current word about a patch to fix achievements. If you care about achievements, please hold off until a fix is finally implemented.
But please, do not let this issue take away from your experience. I do want to give warning about the ending so spoilers ahead. At the end of the game, you have a choice which may play out very differently based on what you choose. One of the choices does lead to the death of the character by carbon monoxide poisoning in a started car as she thinks back on her past. This came out of left field and made me feel emotions I never experienced before. I cannot imagine what others who have gone through suicide attempts will go through if they come across this event naturally, and I want you, the reader, to be as informed as possible before making your purchasing decision.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is a very real story that feels fleshed out, but also isn’t for everyone. The 2.5-3 hour story makes this feel like a complete cinematic experience that you’d find on the big screen. The twists and turns feel earned, and you can get a complete experience in one sitting if you have the heart for it. As the player, you will feel stressed, you will feel anxious, and you will sympathize by the end of the experience. Don’t let the occasional issues pull you out. I truly cherish my time with this game, as it taught me about a part of life that I am lucky enough to never had to experience, and I look forward to playing this again once achievements are patched to work.