The Suicide of Rachel Foster deals with some heavy themes that require sensitivity on the part of the developer. Suicide and rape aren’t themes you toss around at the dinner table at your grandparents’ house. Not every story that deals with themes like these needs to be revolutionary, but they do need to be revelatory.
The developers at ONE-O-ONE Games have crafted a game that is bold and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Even so, there are a few points during the game that offer some frustration. So is The Suicide of Rachel Foster just another walking simulator or does it have something fresh to offer?
The story of The Suicide of Rachel Foster centers primarily around Nicole, a woman whose relationship with her father molds much of who she is. Her father was a horrible person in many ways, some of which you’ll learn about as the narrative unfolds. Nicole has inherited a hotel from her father and decided to find a buyer.
She finds herself stuck on the property, alone, due to a blizzard. She has the support of her FEMA agent, Irving, with whom she communicates via an old phone. This is the stage for the narrative to unfold.
I’ll dive into a few of the themes and characters without diving too much into the details of the narrative. As mentioned before, The Suicide of Rachel Foster handles several themes that most creatives shy away from. I would say that the game does a decent job of presenting and dealing with them. It doesn’t make light of the molestation that happens and sets up an antagonist that is downright evil.
Nicole comes across as a bit too gullible throughout the story, which is explained as a product of her childhood traumas. My problem with her gullibility is the way in which she is presented, which is smart, astute, and capable. It’s almost as if the writers decided where the story would go without taking Nicole’s character into account. As the central character, this just doesn’t work.
Irving is cheerful and does his best to assist Nicole whenever he can, even if he can’t be there in person. He’s a bit naive and becomes quite the likable character for Nicole to bounce her sarcasm off of as they converse.
If those sound like characters you’d like to explore, then this game will be worth your time. Not every narrative thread is earned by the end of the game, which is one of my biggest gripes with the narrative. There are too many shocking revelations in the story. This isn’t a negative for some narratives, but this isn’t that long of an experience; a longer game would have had the time to properly set the stage for the ending.
Back and Forth
You could categorize this game as a walking simulator, as you’ll spend a long time walking in the sizable hotel. Since the game’s narrative is primarily told through a cell phone, it requires Nicole to pick up the phone to chat. This means you’ll spend a long time pacing or standing still while the dialogue exchanges happen.
A better-designed game would have you do something while these conversations take place. Although the dialogue is mostly engaging, I found myself walking around aimlessly in order to feel like I was participating somehow. It would have been nice to have most of these moments be shorter or more involved.
There is some interaction with in-game objects; you can pick them up and observe them or complete some puzzles. But there are many items that have no purpose, and it feels kind of arbitrary which items get this treatment. Packs of cigarettes can be picked up throughout the entire game but add nothing to the narrative.
Your main means of guidance are the notes Nicole scribbles on her map of the hotel. They are mostly clear, but you’ll run into some confusion about what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go. The map is split into floors, which each have their own page, with important locations marked by name.
The problem is that it’s difficult to know which floor you’re on because the map will not mark where you’re currently standing. You’ll have to figure out your location based on markers that aren’t clear. I spent most of my time lost while navigating the hotel.
That being said, the environment is interesting and fleshed-out really well. The hotel feels like a real location with a decent amount of things to look at. I just wish the map did a good job of getting me to the right places.
Silence and Sarcasm
Both central characters’ voice actors put out performances that transcend the lines they are given. The actors are the highlight of this game. They have fantastic chemistry, similar to what is provided in Firewatch. The constant sarcasm is the highlight of conversations for me. There’s plenty of playful banter, but also appropriate moments of seriousness.
Music is sparse but comes in at the right times to punctuate moments of revelation. Silence speaks just as loud and is necessary to build the sense of solitude that Nicole feels. The sound design is nothing to scoff at since it does its job of feeling realistic and grounded.
I enjoyed my time with The Suicide of Rachel Foster less often than I would have liked. There were too many times where the game’s design got in the way of the story it was trying to tell. If you can put up with some of those obstacles, you should be able to enjoy this game. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible to recommend this game.
This review of The Suicide of Rachel Foster is based on the PlayStation 4 version. A review code was provided by the publisher.
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