Gameplay might be the primary focus of most games, but gaming is also a platform that is able to tell stories in unique ways thanks to the levels of interactivity it provides.
In recent years, games such as What Remains of Edith Finch, Life is Strange and The Static Speaks My Name have popularized point-and-click games where the focus is on environmental exploration in order to unravel an intricate narrative. The Suicide of Rachel Foster continues this trend, using it to tell a story that touches many sensitive topics.
The developer, One-O-One Games, offers a list of resources for anyone who might be struggling with mental health issues and needs somebody to talk to.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is a first-person game with psychological horror themes and lots of exploration. Nicole, the protagonist, returns to an empty hotel called The Timberland, intending to stay for only a short period of time. However, she finds herself trapped in it for days after a ferocious snowstorm hits. In this hotel, she discovers dark secrets about her family’s past.
Although the entire game takes place in a single location, the setting never feels stale or too small because of how intricately designed the hotel is. It has multiple floors and winding hallways that can be labyrinthine at times.
The rattling windows, unreliable lights and secret nooks give the hotel character, making it feel old and creepy. Consequently, exploring the numerous hallways can be a tense experience. It is clear that the developers took great care with the details when designing the hotel.
The creepy feeling is amplified by the sound design which features creaking wood, whistling wind and the occasional sound of something moving in the distance. It is sure to have players wondering whether the story is about to branch into supernatural horror or whether the hotel is truly haunted with ghosts.
In many ways, the hotel reflects many of themes of The Suicide of Rachel Foster. It appears initially as a grand and beautiful hotel but, upon further inspection, the dilapidation, mold and decay within becomes apparent.
In much the same way, during her stay in The Timberland, Nicole uncovers dark secrets in her family and learns that things are not as they seem.
The characters of The Suicide of Rachel Foster are the driving force behind the narrative. Although Nicole spends her nine days in The Timberland alone, it never truly feels that way because of the host of characters that surround without being physically present.
For example, Irving is a FEMA agent that keeps in contact with Nicole through a walkie-talkie device. He comes to be her only connection to the outside world, and is always ready to help Nicole no matter how snappy she gets with him at times.
Another notable character is the titular Rachel Foster. She is a minor who is believed to have committed suicide following an affair between her and Nicole’s father, Leonard. Although she is dead, she remains an unseen presence throughout gameplay and lingers as a painful memory in Nicole’s mind.
Gameplay primarily involves navigating the hotel and finding clues that get Nicole closer to the truth. Several items in the environment are interactable and all come together to make the hotel feel as though it has a rich history behind it.
Although exploration is fun, it is not always obvious what the next objective is despite the hints on the map. Furthermore, there are several portions of the game which solely consist of dialogue between Nicole and Irving.
While these moments are important as they provide plot information, they bring gameplay to a grinding halt and can be boring at times.
With a total playtime of around four hours, the game could be described as too short. However, I feel as though this is the perfect length, as it allows for the entire story to be experienced in one impactful sitting. Any longer, and it might have overstayed its welcome.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is ultimately a game which draws from films such as The Shining and games such as Gone Home to tell a story with an ending that is likely as divisive as it is unexpected. While it may appeal to a niche audience, it does what it sets out to do beautifully.