The Quarry – What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
From the moment Until Dawn was released in 2015, developer Supermassive Games established themselves as true aficionados of the horror genre. Over the last few years, The Dark Pictures Anthology has allowed them to branch out and explore different ways of delivering that true horror experience. But their latest game, The Quarry, is no Dark Pictures installment. The Quarry has the developers going right back to where it all started, delivering a spiritual successor to Until Dawn that brings back that teen slasher vibe that we’ve all been missing. A secluded house, in some secluded woods, and a whole lot of things that go bump in the night – and I’m not just talking about our teen protagonists.
It’s clear from the get-go that The Quarry is a love letter to classic horror – the menu has a retro 80’s/90’s aesthetic with a grainy monitor and a VHS ready to roll setting the scene for what’s to come. The game is set in the present day, which the story itself soon makes clear with references to true crime podcasts and social media followers, but it takes a lot of cues from the past. Even the setting, a traditional American summer camp, feels like it harkens back to simpler, less technologically-driven times – a nostalgic feel with the conveniences and lifelines of modern day. Not phone signal, of course. Where would be the fun in the camp counselors of Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp being able to simply call for help? No – that’s not in the spirit of the classic horror film, and this game is all about those classic horror tropes, both to its benefit and detriment.
In a narrative-driven game like this it would be cruel to spoil too much of the story, but the basic premise is familiar. A group of teens due to leave their summer camp behind are instead stranded for an extra night when their car won’t start. Given no other choice, their camp leader, Chris Hackett (David Arquette), tells them to lock themselves in the lodge and let “no one in, no one out”, and insists he’ll be back in the morning. Despite receiving this super reasonable advice from the person with the most knowledge of the area, the teens decide that they’re going to celebrate their last night with a campfire in the woods instead, because of course they do, and it’s there that things start going awry. What ensues is a whole lot of personal drama, relationship drama, ‘there’s something in the woods that’s definitely hunting us’ drama, and just general violence and tension that means nobody is guaranteed to make it out alive – depending on the choices you make to guide the story, of course.
Though they are in a lot of ways still based on tropes and caricatures, the protagonists of The Quarry did feel more savvy than those from Until Dawn, and I think a lot of that is due to the casting. Everyone will have their own favourite characters – some will be beloved because they’re kind, or clever, or just downright badass, and some will draw attention because they’re kind of assholes but it’s a horror thing and even though they’re terrible you never quite want them to die particularly gruesome deaths. The cast is stacked, but there are some who really shine – Justice Smith as Ryan, the true-crime podcast enthusiast with an air of cool mystery, Miles Robbins as Dylan, the camp’s wise-cracking announcement and radio pro, and Brenda Song as Kaitlyn, who is competent, calm, and appropriately confident, are real standouts. A surprise favourite for me was Siobhan Williams’ Laura who is intimidatingly cool and a secret badass, and whose death I absolutely would not have coped with. There are nine camp counselors in total, and all of them can live or die depending on your actions, so getting attached to any of them can be pretty scary. Thankfully, on my playthrough I managed to keep all but one of them alive, but it was no easy feat.
It feels important to note that animation has now come far enough that characters bear a striking resemblance to the actors portraying them, but we are now venturing into uncanny valley territory, where they look too real but also disturbingly disjointed at the same time. I have never seen a human neck move the way some of the necks in this game move, and I never, ever want to. It adds to the creepiness of the game, I guess, but is also a reminder that maybe humanity should know its limits and accept that at a certain point we need to stop pushing for realism. I would like to stress that this mostly applies to the neck physics, and that everything else – the gory, gruesome deaths, the ambient wilderness shots, and the general environment, are all (sometimes strangely) stunning. Some of the gore is deeply disturbing, but objectively very impressive.
For the most part, being able to guide the characters’ conversations and relationships feels rewarding – at least in the moment. There are some clear pairings that the game wants you to explore, but you can nudge the nuances of their relationships a little to change their dynamic. There are others that you have a little more freedom with, and in some cases that freedom was a little unexpected. This is definitely a more diverse cast than previous Supermassive games have offered, and let’s just say on a personal and biased note that some of these counselors come with a chaotic queer energy that I deeply appreciated but wasn’t expecting from the marketing materials. As fun as it is to manipulate these relationships in the moment and change the course of a conversation, however, these decisions don’t feel like they have a huge impact on the direction of the story overall beyond a few differences in throwaway comments or responses. It’s possible that’s just the way my playthrough unfolded, but I’m not sure that given the way the story plays out, there would have been much of a change in the payoff for different choices.
When it comes to actual, big, game-changing choices, you can choose to receive guidance in the form of tarot cards that can be found at various points throughout each chapter. Presenting the cards you have found to Eliza, a mysterious woman who acts as a guide of sorts for your journey, prompts her to offer to show you the potential future a card might unveil. These prophecies can sometimes be helpful, but they can also be extremely misleading, and if interpreted wrongly, can lead to the untimely death of one of your heroes. It’s a little frustrating that it isn’t easier to know which of these you should take as advice and which you should take as warnings, but it could be argued that needing to interpret them is part of the fun. What I found to be less fun was that no matter how many of these tarot cards you find per chapter (the most I found at once was four), Eliza will only show you one of them as an actual vision, with the others remaining as vague descriptions. It feels like it punishes thoroughness and discovery, and left me with a bad taste in my mouth, just as the ambiguity of the tarot visions themselves did.
The Quarry does feature a mechanic that allows you to undo some of those decisions that might lead to gruesome deaths, but only under certain circumstances. It’s called ‘Death Rewind’, and it lets you undo up to three character deaths throughout your story, with a use of it taking you back to the moment that led to their ultimate demise. Obviously, this is a very useful mechanic – but you can only use it if you’ve a) purchased the Deluxe Edition of the game or b) already played through the game once, and it can also only be used in single player mode, so if you’re playing with your friends, even for the second time? Too bad. As much as I understand that it would introduce logistic difficulties, I wish it was available in co-op mode, and for first-time players (who are surely the most likely to make mistakes) without paying extra.
With that said, it’s definitely clear that the game has been designed with casual players or newcomers to games in mind. The controls have been simplified as much as possible – one button will pick up items you might find in the world, and the character will automatically examine them. Quick-time-events, though often crucial to the survival of your teens, no longer require familiarity with the controller you’re using, and instead simply rely on a directional push of either of the joysticks. You could use a controller you’d never held before in your life and understand what the game was asking you to do. Shooting mechanics are a little trickier, but still ultimately simple, and it all feels like a very welcome change. Being scared to join your group of friends in a co-op playthrough because they’re using a Playstation controller and you’re used to Xbox is a thing of the past.
The Quarry knows its audience, and Supermassive Games have clearly learned that their particular brand of spook is appealing to more than just gamers. Along with simplified controls, The Quarry offers a dedicated ‘Movie Mode’ that allows you to watch the story play out with some direction but without requiring any actual input. You can choose to see a version where everyone lives, or everyone dies, or you can sit in the ‘Director’s Chair’ and choose how your characters will react when faced with certain situations. Watching the game in Movie Mode can be fun with friends, of course, but it can also be a way to see how making different decisions could save your characters in a single player playthrough without worrying about going back and forth through the game and relying on trial and error.
Simplified controls and Movie Mode aside, there is still some concern with accessibility in The Quarry. The game does offer dedicated accessibility options that allow players to turn off quick-time events, extend the length of time allowed for making decisions, auto-complete button mashing sequences, or apply aim assist – which is great! But these are only available during a single-player playthrough. That means that people who want to use these options won’t be able to use the game’s dedicated mode to play with their friends in couch co-op, which still bars them from the action. So unless you’re okay with button mashing or quick reactions, you’re on your own. It’s something, but it feels like a bit of an oversight.
The Quarry is at its strongest when it can be enjoyed with friends, and it’s clear that it has been designed that way – so it’s a shame that some of its most interesting and important features need to be enjoyed alone. More online modes are on their way in the next month or so that allow up to 7 friends to make decisions to shape a story together, which will open the door to more players, but obviously those weren’t available at the time of review so I can’t comment.
There’s a lot to love in this game, especially for fans of the horror genre. The Quarry leans into classic horror tropes and cliches in a lot of the right ways, and although there’s less mystery to be had than previous Supermassive Games offerings, they’ve really refined the atmosphere here to create a tension that’s equally terrifying and exciting. Where Until Dawn relied on jump scares and blindsiding the player, The Quarry respects that you might have it figured out – but knows that only makes it more exhilarating. I felt equal parts empowered and afraid playing this game, and in a strange way, I trusted it. Its excellence is let down a little by an ending that feels like it comes a little too abruptly, leaving me wanting more closure on the fate of the protagonists and the weight of my choices, and by a tarot system that feels like it devalues exploration – but fans of the genre won’t mind those things too much. It’s still a tense and gruesome ride that gets the heart racing, and a great reminder of why Supermassive Games have earned a reputation as some of the best in the business.
Player 2 reviewed The Quarry on PC using a code kindly provided by 2K Australia. The full game will release in Australia on June 10th.