|Synopsis: The Suicide of Rachel Foster is an intense first person investigation, where melancholy and nostalgia meld into a thrilling ghost tale. This is a truly immersive gameplay experience that has a multilayered narrative, an ending influenced by player choice and binaural audio to keep anyone on the edge of their seats. This unique and atmospheric first-person thriller tells the story of Nicole, a young woman driven by her mother’s dying wish to uncover her family’s dark past. As she unravels the secrets behind the suicide of teenage girl Rachel, she is snowed in on a lonely mountain and explores the abandoned family hotel. Knowing her own father had a role to play in the downfall of Rachel, Nicole relies on the support of a young FEMA agent to unearth the truth once and for all.|
The Suicide of Rachel Foster recently released for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. I was fortunate enough to get a copy from Daedalic and recently featured the came on my Twitch channel
From the first few moments, it’s clear that this is a walking simulator. I expected some horror elements and some hefty subject matter as well. The game provides a content warning (as it should) early on to alert players to potentially triggering plot elements. I would like to provide the same warning here. This review will get into things like child abuse/neglect, suicide, murder, and mental abuse.
The protagonist, Nicole, finds herself at The Timberline hotel. She grew up there, and her parents ran the place for a while. Tragedy struck when Rachel Foster, who was involved in an affair with Nicole’s father Leonard, killed herself. Or so the story goes.
As the game goes on, Nicole finds various clues that lead her to unearth the truth of Rachel’s death. Darkness seems to lurk around every corner of The Timberline, ready to reach out and grab you at any moment. The darkness, thankfully, is fairly restrained and there are no real jump-scares, or actual monsters lurking in the hotel. What Rachel does find are memories that are hard to live with, and secrets her parents hid from her all her life.
As I mentioned, Rachel Foster is a walking sim, and the structure of each day in Nicole’s life at the hotel is straightforward. She wakes up, she inspects a new elements of Rachel’s story, and then the day ends. I found myself spending a lot of time trying to navigate the hotel. The map does not indicate where you are located, which slowed me down a lot. I wished there was an indicator of my current location. This slowed me down, but it also forced me to investigate closely and really take in the whole of the setting. There was a lot of care given to small details that make The Timberline feel like a real place.
Though there are no weapons in the game, Nicole occasionally finds an item that helps her investigation. Most of these are lights, and one is a parabolic microphone. One of the days in the hotel is dedicated to using the mic to locate a strange noise Nicole is hearing. I had a lot of difficulty with this particular mechanic. It wasn’t abundantly clear how it worked. I have seen other players struggle similarly, and some more guidance for this particular element would have been good. Elements like this may be especially hard to navigate for anyone with a hearing impairment.
Overall the world is fun to explore, and there is a lot to see, one may even argue too much. Some of the visual and audio pieces included seem geared toward making the player believe there are ghosts, or something else living in the walls of The Timberline. That storyline never really goes anywhere though and is a perfect segue to my main interest with this game.
SPOILER WARNING! Please proceed past this point only if you want spoilers for the ending of the game!
At the heart, Rachel Foster is a very sad story about a 16-year-old who was abused, raped, and murdered. For over 10 years, no one knows the truth of her death, and accept the lie of her suicide. The truth is that Nicole’s mother murdered her out of jealousy, and covered it up by dumping the body in a nearby river. In a further twist, Nicole is only brought to the hotel as a final request from her mother. So, instead of simply opening up about the horrific crime she committed, she manipulates her daughter into reliving her trauma and visiting the scene of the murder. Thanks Mom!
This game is full of people with suspect motives. No one ever really comes across as truly trustworthy, or even sane. There are even several hints to the fact that Nicole could be hallucinating, or hearing things that aren’t there. This is never fully explored, but it seems likely that some memories of her time in The Timberline are resurfacing and causing her to imagine things. It’s just as likely that there is actually someone else in the hotel doing things without her notice, but neither storyline gets closure.
Several times throughout the game, I thought I had solved the case and each time new information made me questions everything. I like a story that can keep me guessing like this, so kudos to the writers for that. I did leave the game feeling slightly frustrated at the abundance of loose ends, but some stories aren’t meant to be tied up neatly.
Perhaps the most frustrating this about this game is the ending. After learning the truth, Nicole sets up to kill herself in the garage by suffocating in her car. The player can choose whether or not she dies. Aside from this being a distressing choice for the player, it’s really sad to see Nicole reach this point. She was in no way at fault for the crimes committed by her parents and yet she ultimately feels unable to cope with them. Her mother drew her to a place full of darkness, rather than admit to what she did. In a way her mother’s final act was to kill her own daughter.
While I had some frustrating moments while playing Rachel Foster, overall I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a slightly spooky walking sim. It’s great for anyone who enjoys horror but closes their eyes when things get too scary. The Timberline is a beautiful place to explore, and even though it has a dark story to tell it also feels welcoming. A lot of love went into the design and creation of the world, and you can really feel that as you play.