I love narrative horror games, especially the elements of the investigation. There is something about walking through a house, picking up objects that may be banal or may hold a deep secret, and taking the time to inspect it all just in case. Published by Daedalic Entertainment and developed by ONE-O-ONE GAMES, in The Suicide of Rachel Foster you do just that, leaving you in a large empty space with mysteries to solve.
In The Suicide of Rachel Foster, a narrative-horror game, you play as Nicole coming back to her family hotel, the Timberline after 10 years away. Strong-willed and set on not being in the hotel longer than she has to, she is fulfilling her mother’s last wish of selling the Timberline and giving the money to the family of Rachel Foster, a teen who committed suicide after getting involved with Nicole’s father. As the weather gets continually worse, she finds herself trapped in the hotel with the ghosts from her past and the voice of FEMA agent Irving on an old cell phone as the only way to unveil a terrible truth and make it through her stay.
From the demo at PAX West 2019, it was clear that this adventure is a long one. The Suicide of Rachel Foster is your standard investigative horror adventure, but the setting of Nicole’s family hotel was the standout part of the demo and the main reason I decided to play the game on the show floor. In a trailer that opens of up with the quintessential Stephen King shot of a car driving down a winding mountain road, the homage and inspiration of Stanley Kubrik’s 1980 adaptation of Kings The Shining is uncanny. While I initially saw The Suicide of Rachel Foster as a way to lift the material without the burden of being an adaptation, getting my hands on the demo showed that it was more than that.
The inspiration of the Overlook Hotel is ever-present, from the lobby to the pattern of the carpet, and the snowstorm. All of the characteristics of the Overlook are present in the Timberline, including its identity as its own character in the story. The Suicide of Rachel Foster drops you into The Shining but takes you on a unique journey that is detached from King’s narrative. Truthfully, I’m unsure if the Timberline’s design would have had the same effect on my playthrough of the demo if it wasn’t for the fear of the Overlook that I have carried with me since the first time I watched Kubrick’s horror masterpiece.
While the Timberline itself is disorienting, with hallways leading to rooms leading back to hallways like a maze, the fear of what may lurk in the hotel is what kept me going. Offering up puzzles and situations that need your undivided attention, this narrative-horror game is likely to require many hours of play to completion, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The map UI is interesting and only helpful in adding a sense of disorientation and scale to the size of the hotel. I found it hard to use and in the end, opted for exploring the Timberline alone without its help.
In order to not give too much a way, I will only talk about one moment in the demo that sat with me after I walked away from the Daedalic booth at PAX West. After you complete the first task, finding the keys to your father’s old room, the snowstorm begins to roll in. As the sound intensifies from the outside, the hotel begins to rattle ever so slightly. What may seem like ambient noise to some, to me, a horror fan who views the Overlook hotel as a living character in the film that The Suicide of Rachel Foster borrows from, the sound design makes Nicole’s hotel come alive. It felt like the Timberline was breathing, moving, coming alive, and my fear level went up. Nothing was happening, but the possibility of something happening drove up the tension.
As for gameplay, the free navigation of the entire Timberline is wonderful and necessary to build out the size and weight of the hotel as a character. As you move through the hotel you also follow the main storyline, while trying to unveil its mysteries along the way by interacting with the environment. The addition of Irving as a guide of sorts, reachable by the 1993 cell phone, is nice. That said, it feels like another choice built on a love of The Shining, offering up players a version of Halloran. You also have options when engaging in dialogue which is neat, although I didn’t do much of that in the demo. I was too lost walking through the hotel and completely immersed in reading everything I could.
There is a lot I didn’t see in the demo, but the investigation mechanics, the Timberline, and the premise of the story are enough for me to add The Suicide of Rachel Foster to my Steam watchlist.
The Suicide of Rachel Foster is coming to PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation4 sometime in 2019.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.