At times, The Quarry rivals the tension and terror of developer Supermassive Games’ first entry in the interactive drama genre, Until Dawn, one of my all-time favorite video games. Hell, The Quarry even surpasses Until Dawn for a stretch of time. However, the new horror game also feels fairly safe from a technical standpoint, as it does quite little to build upon what worked for its 2015 predecessor, or fix what didn’t.
The Quarry puts you in the shoes of a group of camp counselors who find themselves staying one extra night at their campsite after experiencing some car trouble. What they hoped would be one last night of fun turns into a nightmare, as an ominous, deadly presence makes itself known fairly quickly. It’s a familiar premise for horror fans, but the talented voice cast and the scenarios I encountered on my first playthrough kept me entertained/on the edge of my seat throughout its entirety.
Speaking of the cast, it’s excellent. While Until Dawn had a few familiar faces in its voice and motion capture crew (Peter Stormare, Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek, etc.) The Quarry doubles down on the big names. The counselors alone include Ariel Winter (Modern Family), Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu), Skyler Gisondo (The Santa Clarita Diet, The Righteous Gemstones), and Miles Robin (Halloween 2018). There are also horror icons like Lance Henriksen (Aliens, The Terminator), Lin Shaye (the Insidious films), Ted Raimi (The Evil Dead trilogy, Darkman, Candyman) and David Arquette (the Scream franchise). It’s a stacked cast, and while some of the bigger names are used sparingly – at least, they were in my playthrough – the majority of them get more than enough time to either endear themselves towards you, or make you want to avoid them like the plague. Dylan (Miles Robin) was the highlight of my initial run, giving off a similar vibe to Fran Kranz’ character from Cabin in the Woods.
Now, some of you may be wondering why I’m talking about my playthrough specifically, as if it won’t be the same as yours. Well, that’s because it probably won’t. The beauty of interactive dramas is that the choices you make throughout the game change how the story unfolds, especially when horror is involved; virtual lives sometimes depend on decisions that initially seem insignificant. That’s often the biggest strength of Until Dawn and The Quarry.
Unfortunately, that unique style of storytelling can also be a point of frustration. The Quarry saves whenever you make those life or death choices – some of which are decided hours before the effects can be understood – and if that choice ends up killing a character, they’re gone unless you’ve been save scumming (which isn’t easy to do on consoles). What was supposed to be a huge boon for The Quarry is a new mechanic, essentially three “lives” that can be spent to rewind time to the moment you made an error that sealed a counselor’s fate. It comes with the deluxe edition of the game, or can be unlocked after finishing your first playthrough. While that sounds like a great idea, its implementation is pretty terrible. Instead of just re-selecting the choice you made and undoing the death, you have to replay the game from that initial choice. That’s fine if you failed a quick-time event seconds earlier, but if you forgot to grab an important item six hours ago, that’s six hours you just lost. Making matters worse, the game neglects to warn you how far back you’re going, so it might be a nasty surprise for some. I was fast enough to quit, and therefore avoided losing over half of my playthrough, but still had to say goodbye to one of my favorite characters only mere minutes before the end of the game. Losing a character can already be a bummer, but gambling with going so far back makes it even worse in my opinion. I can’t be too annoyed by it though, as rewinding is completely optional. I might just turn it off on my next run.
The Quarry also retains some of the wonkier gameplay elements of Until Dawn too. Walking around and exploring feels stiff and loose at the same time, as I’d occasionally walk just out of reach or too far past what I wanted to interact with. There are also some dialogue choices that don’t lead to what I was thinking they would from what the prompts offered. None of these issues were too troublesome, but they were noticeable enough that I felt the need to at least mention them here. You’d think that after seven-plus years of experience in this field – with Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures Anthology – Supermassive would have been able to work out more of these kinks.
Luckily, most of my complaints about The Quarry are outweighed by how frightening it is. The prologue is easily the scariest chapter in any Supermassive game I’ve played to date, making me scream out loud and handful of times due to sheer shock. And even though my story never quite reached those heights again, there were plenty of harrowing chases, jump scares, and more than I few moments where I was holding my breath along with the character I was controlling. Supermassive may stumble with storytelling at times (looking at you, Dark Pictures: Little Hope) but the studio always delivers on freaking me the Hell out.
My overall experience with The Quarry was one of extremely effective scares and enjoyment. Despite the occasional technical frustration, I’d still highly recommend it to those who enjoyed Until Dawn or any of the Dark Pictures Anthology games. I was hoping after seven years that The Quarry would be the next big step for the interactive drama genre, but I’m also pretty content with more of the same when it’s this frightening.