The Quarry Review – Until Dawn follow-up brings more supernatural scares

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Horror
 
Rating: R18+
 
Release Date: 9 June 2022
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


 

Positives


-Stunning character models and lighting
-Cheesy supernatural horror played (relatively) straight and well executed
-Some surprisingly brutal kills
-Mechanics feel more refined from Supermassive's older work

Negatives


-Sometimes vague choices result in disappointingly unexpected outcomes, which the Life system helps alleviate somewhat
-Very familiar monsters, not just in pop culture, but in Supermassive's prior work
-Lighter on scares than Until Dawn, which may make it a little less fun for parties


Posted June 10, 2022 by

 
Full Article
 
 

The Quarry is Supermassive Games’ first ‘proper’ follow-up to their 2015 cinematic-horror surprise hit Until Dawn. Since then, the developer has dipped their toes into all kinds of waters, from VR shoot-em-ups with Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, a mild horror spin-off in The Inpatient, a narrative decided by phone voting in Hidden Agenda, and the more familiar horror anthology Dark Pictures games, of which there are three (soon to be four). That’s quite a lot of output over the last six years, yet The Quarry feels like a full-fledged spiritual sequel to Until Dawn that’s been in the works since its release, refining mechanics and ideas from that game, while also playing very much in the same narrative space.

The premise this time around revolves around a group of teenage camp counsellors, about to leave Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp after the campers have all gone home, but forced to spend just one more night at the lodge, due to some romantic hijinks playing out among them. Unfortunately, despite warnings from the Camp’s owner, they end up partying in the surrounding woods and river, becoming the target of both the mysterious monsters which live there, but also a group of hunters who appear to have declared open season on everything in Hackett’s Quarry. The cast is filled with known Hollywood talent, from horror-stalwarts David Arquette, Lin Shaye, Lance Henriksen and Ted Raimi, to Twin Peaks‘ Grace Zabrinskie and younger, well known actors like Ariel Winter, Halston Sage, Justice Smith and Evan Evagora. In particular, Miles Robbins and Brenda Song impress, as they’re paired up in one of the more enjoyable character partnerships in the game.

The story, while still as trope-filled as Until Dawn, doesn’t play with its genre in as much of a self-aware way, instead playing the supernatural horror story relatively straight. It feels like a modern update to 80’s and 90’s creature features, with plenty of indie songs playing out over teen drama and long wisftul looks at the scenery, and constant use of phones for both character-building and more practical purposes (like flashlights). There’s not as many jump scares as Until Dawn, which is good in a way, but also means that The Quarry feels less playful, and a little less fun to scream over if you’re on the couch playing with a group of mates (which is supported much better this time around with a pass-the-controller couch co-op mode). And while I don’t want to give away the supernatural foe the teens face in The Quarry, I have to say that Supermassive’s spin on these creatures is very much in line with basically every other monster they’ve thrown at us – from the wendigos in Until Dawn to the pseudo-vampires in House of Ashes – tall, lanky, toothy and slimy. Most horror fans will have a good idea about more or less what’s going on by the end of the prologue, or certainly by the end of the first chapter, and the game does feel saggy around the middle as separated characters each learn and re-learn information, and concepts get explained and re-explained over and over again.

Presented very much like a long-form horror movie, you’re given control of a certain character at the start of each ‘scene’ within the game’s 10 chapters, where you’ll mainly be making decisions as to how they act towards their fellow counsellors, as well as the choices they make in order to survive. The narrative branches in certain ways, and much like Until Dawn, sometimes significantly so but often more just in minor changes to scenes, or certain scenes not occurring at all, or being a lot emptier, if the characters involved have met grisly demises. And there are some brutal kills in this game, that can come suddenly if you’re not paying attention. Choices are reduced to simple binary decisions, while action Quick-Time events are well-signalled with clear icons, making them easier to beat and making most of the game’s challenge come from making sure you make the right choices.

The cinematic presentation of The Quarry makes all of this a lot more fun as well, with excellent character models which look all the better with some amazing lighting work during key moments of the story. At its best, The Quarry looks almost just as good as any recent horror film, and you’ll genuinely get invested in controlling the outcome both thanks to the performances as well as the technical wizardly on display.

The narrative’s logic tends to swing between ‘movie logic’, where well-meaning decisions bring good karma for your characters, and ‘realistic logic’ where dumb-but-valiant decisions will swiftly get them killed, and it can be frustrating when you fail to predict which side the pendulum is going to swing to on each choice. The consequences are alleviated somewhat with the addition of a ‘Life’ system, as you’re given three extra lives at the start of the game, shared among the entire cast. Basically, if you mess up a decision bad enough it kills a character, you’re allowed a mulligan on that choice three times, which is very welcome, especially in the final chapters.

There is some exploration allowed as well, as there are limited areas around Hackett’s Quarry you’re briefly allowed to roam to find clues as well as potentially vital items to pick-up. While the lighting in cutscenes and key moments is excellent, in exploration you’ll often find yourself without a source of light and navigating complete darkness, even with HDR and brightness turned up it’s simply too dark to see what’s going on at times. Important items and decisions are helpfully tracked in a ‘Paths’ menu, which show the cause-and-effect of certain moments in the game. One of the neater inclusions is the Tarot system, as you find ghostly Tarot cards around camp which are analysed by a mysterious woman between chapters of the game. Speaking directly to the player, she provides insight into future moments while providing some gentle guidance, which while trying not to give too much away, results in one of the cooler reveals and subversions in The Quarry. You’ll also find special items known as ‘Evidence’ around the camp, which you’re told are of extreme importance, as they could absolve the counsellors of any guilt in the gruesome events of the night.

However, I have to say the outcome of the collected Evidence is fairly underwhelming, taking the form of an extended (and unskippable) podcast that’s not quite as cute as it seems to think it is, and the endings too feel slightly undercooked, essentially boiling down to montages explaining in text the ultimate fate of each of the characters. There’s replay value in seeing how many you can get to survive, but if you’re generally on-the-ball you’ll manage to get the main characters through, although it seems tougher to ensure the survival of some of the minor ones.

Overall, The Quarry is more or less the follow-up to Until Dawn I was expecting. It’s not as scary or fun as that game, even when playing with others, but it is mechanically much improved on Supermassive’s Dark Pictures Anthology and features some good performances. It’s played straighter than perhaps I’d like, especially given the spooky subject matter, and sags in the middle, but there are some interesting reveals that play a little with your expectations. Whether it’s worth playing through multiple times is up to how much you care about changing the destiny of some of the more ill-fated minor characters, but as long as you look after the main group you’ve got a pretty good shot at seeing most of what the story has to offer your first time through. At about twice the length of the recent Dark Pictures games, The Quarry does feel a little more fleshed-out, and the thrills and chills of  Hackett’s Quarry make it a trip worth checking out for horror aficionados.


Adam Ghiggino

 
Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.