The Quarry Review: "Spooky, Scary, Silly Fun"
A group of teenagers spend the Summer working as camp counsellors at a Summer camp in the woods, on their last night they make some incredibly poor decisions and things go from bad to worse very quickly. Sound familiar? Like the most cliched premise for a horror film? You’re absolutely right it is, and this is just the first of many classic horror tropes that The Quarry absolutely revels in.
Carving A Legacy
The Quarry is a brand new horror game from Supermassive Games. Supermassive has been at the forefront of cinematic horror games over the last few years, using cutting-edge graphics and realistic recreations of actors to bring their characters to life.
Until Dawn was their breakout success, and since then they have been telling even more spooky tales with the Dark Anthologies. With The Quarry, Supermassive is returning to the teen-slasher vibes of Until Dawn. A gang of impressionable youths is stuck in a horrific situation, and it is your job as the player to make decisions and control their actions. If you’re successful, they might even live to see the morning.
The Quarry has a lot of parallels with Until Dawn, beyond the basic gameplay and genre. Both games have a very similar structure, multiple chapters in which you jump from playing one character to the next, and in between chapters there is a fourth-wall-breaking framing device in which a character addresses the player directly, giving clues for what could be ahead. There are enough similarities to call The Quarry somewhat of a spiritual sequel to Until Dawn.
Another similarity they share is the setup. Without spoiling anything (nothing in this review will show or mention anything beyond the first chapter), The Quarry likes to keep you guessing about what kind of calamity is coming. You know you’re playing a horror game, but Supermassive will be damned if they let you know early on what exactly you should be afraid of. The intro has a creepy cop, weird goings-on in the woods, a potential ghost/witch, and some hunters who don’t seem like they are hunting for animals. Which one of these is the danger you need to fear? You will have to play on to find out.
The Quarry takes the formula and moves it forward, with some expanded mechanics that bring a bit more game into this video game. You have the mechanics you expect, exploring areas and choosing dialogue options. There will be snap decisions to make, and quick-time events to test your reflexes.
As well as those, in The Quarry, you have moments where you will have to hold your breath. Something mean is menacing you and you will need to play dead until it goes away. Your breath isn’t going to last, and it is up to you to choose when to breathe and when to run for cover. The right moment isn’t always going to be clear, sometimes you just have to hope for the best. There is also combat in the game, or at least you occasionally get to point and shoot some shotguns. Like with most things in the game, this is more about your choices than anything; who do you shoot, where do you shoot, or choosing not to shoot at all.
Choose Your Fate
Your reactions and decision-making skills will be tested, but there isn’t much of a skill barrier to the game. The barrier to entry has not been raised much for folks who enjoy games like this, Telltale games, or Life is Strange. Still, the game does not want to leave any players out and includes a list of accessibility options to tweak the game to your liking. QTEs, button-mashing sequences, and times when you have to hold your breath can be altered to make them easier, or to succeed automatically. If you want to play this game purely to make the decisions and not worry about failing a skill check that ruins your playthrough, you can use these options to tailor your game.
Giving players options is a clear priority of this game, as we can see from the accessibility menu. If someone wants to experience The Quarry as a film, they can do that. You can remove basically all skill checks and simply decide what characters say and do without fear of failing. We can go even further with Movie Mode, a way to make the game essentially play itself.
You have a few options; Everybody Lives will play out the events in such a way that all of your camp counsellors will survive the night. Everybody Dies, goes in the opposite direction, and lets you see the outcome of making all the worst decisions. There is an option called Gorefest for the slasher fans who like their horror movies particularly juicy.
Then you have the Director’s Chair. With this mode, you can decide how the characters will act by choosing their personal qualities. The four categories are what will the character do when under pressure, how will they conduct themselves in conversations, what will they do in fight or flight situations, and how will they act while looking around and investigating. You can choose who will be a mess and who will be a hero. They can all be on top of their game, or they can all be floundering idiots, it is entirely up to you.
The sheer amount of options for customising the game is pretty astounding. If I had to give the game a fault it would be that it doesn’t allow players to alter the game’s difficulty in the opposite direction. There are so many ways to make the game easier, more approachable, and make the route to your desired outcome clearer. However, there are no options to obscure those things.
There are pop-ups in the game that tell you when something significant just happened. Like in Telltale games, you will get the occasional “Dylan will remember that” or “Emma is disappointed in Abi”. Whenever you make a significant choice, you get a huge Path Chosen pop-up, so you know when you have done something that will have ramifications later. An option to remove those pop-ups, and allow people to play uninterrupted without regular reminders they are choosing set paths in a story, could add a lot to the mystery, especially for first-time players.
Our Unwitting Participants
A story, however it branches, is nothing without its characters. The cast of The Quarry is a very likeable bunch. They fill in a couple of the cliches you would expect of camp counsellors in a horror movie, but they aren’t quite as one-dimensional as that. We start with Max and Laura, a couple who are maybe the closest to their cliches but through adversity, they become quite capable in their own right.
Abi is the quiet, artsy girl and Nick is a bit of a stooge. Emma and Jacob seem like your typical prom king and queen, but they are much more nuanced characters than that. Emma turns out to be mature and introspective, and a very capable badass. Jacob, while he can be an immature, toxic idiot, is at least a very well written toxic, immature idiot, who has goodness in him and will hopefully grow into it.
Ryan is the brooding loner, who likes the paranormal and scaring the kids with spooky stories. Kaitlyn is the closest the group has to a leader. She is responsible and outgoing, if a bit brusk.
Dylan, however, ended up being my personal favourite character. He starts out chatty and annoying, a bit of a stereotype, but before long you find out he is technically gifted and quite the hero in his own right.
Of course, your versions of these characters may vary wildly based on your choices, but that is the beauty of the game. These characters are yours to shape and mould. Then you have the supporting cast, such as Chris Hackett, the camp leader played by David Arquette, the creepy cop played by Ted Raimi, or the hunter played by Lance Henriksen. They all do an amazing job, and along with the counsellors, elevate this schlocky horror romp to an awful lot of spooky, scary, silly fun.
The only thing that lets them down is technology, which is pretty typical for a horror story. In this case, I mean that the acting is wonderful but occasionally hampered by the odd glitch or the occasional dip into the uncanny valley. The vast majority of The Quarry looks seamless, which only highlights the odd moment where things don’t look quite right.
Technology isn’t flawless and it never will be. This game is on the cutting edge of graphical fidelity and you can only walk that edge for so long without the occasional stumble. None of these hitches affected the game negatively enough to properly hamper the overall experience.
The Sounds of the Summer
When you start up the game, you will be asked if you want to start in streamer mode, which the game asks because there is a lot of licenced music in the game. Music is a particular strength of the game, the score is understated but builds up when it needs to. The use of needle drops throughout the game is an inspired move. There are times when established songs are used to set the mood, or to completely contrast against it.
Lots of Summery bops belie the horror that is to come, while other songs are used to amplify or cut through the tension. The Quarry understands where to use its music, it reminded me instantly of the excellent 2014 thriller The Guest. If you know the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know the movie, go watch it, you won’t be disappointed. Look at that, a free bonus review in the middle of this one, you’re so welcome!
The End…. Or Is It? (Yes It Is)
The Quarry is pure slasher fun. It takes some of the most classic tropes of the genre and uses them more like playthings than instructions. The mystery of what is to come has so many twists and turns, that you will spend most of the game scratching your head trying to figure out what exactly is going on at Hackett’s Quarry. The characters are likeable and really well written, a combination of relatability, comedy and some good old fashioned terror. The game knows how far to push the narrative, it gets ridiculous without becoming stupid. Campy and silly, but always grounded in the classic horror story at the heart of the game.
The many options for how to experience the game, as well as the immeasurable replayability thanks to all of the various possible outcomes, make this a pretty incredible package for any horror fan. The Quarry is everything the vision of a Supermassive Games production can be; a loving rendition of a classic horror story told with reverence, levity, and many, many buckets of blood.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.