There's something special about the way Supermassive Games build its worlds. Taking the fantastical and adding grounded actions and characters, they take the unreal and make it real. The Quarry is an extension of this that succeeds in so many of the ways that The Dark Pictures Anthology fails. It's not only the natural conclusion of Until Dawn but one of the best attempts the studio has ever made.
To talk too much about the story of a game like this would spoil so much of the appeal. You are left constantly wondering what is next and what creature has been stalking you for the last half hour.
To put it simply: The Quarry has you play as nine student counsellors at Hacket's Quarry, a secluded camp where kids come for the summer to do activities and learn new skills.
A Devious Start
On the very last day, one of the students hatches a devious plan to sabotage the car, keeping you there for just one more day. In order to chase a romance that appears to be ending, you plan to have some drinks, eat some snacks, and celebrate the end of your summer.
As you may expect, this plan doesn't come to fruition, as horrifying creatures stalk the forest and figures watch you from a distance. The Quarry is both an homage to great horror and a rejection of its tropes. It lines you up for characters and situations you expect, then flips this on its head.
Well, the game lets you flip it on its head. If you feel the urge, you could always fail every QTE, split everyone up, and kill the lot as fast as possible. If you've played Until Dawn or The Dark Pictures Anthology, you have a rough idea of how the game operates. You are inundated with choices, QTEs, and prompts to fail. With 18 different endings, your ability to choose your own story is clear.
Feeling the Connection
I’ve always had a bit of an issue when playing games by Supermassive. I try to take the optimum path, saving everyone and getting out alive. The Quarry is the first time I’ve been able to fully connect with my choices. Instead of feeling that pang of guilt when something happened, I was able to just let the story take me with it. I’m glad I went with it.
This is probably partly down to its characterization. Where House of Ashes allowed you to change stats and even the minds of its characters, The Quarry is aware it is there for just one night. Characters change, but they still have development to do over the rest of their lives - regardless of how long they actually last.
The cast works together well and every new pairing gives the opportunity for a new dynamic. This being said, not all characters feel quite as three dimensional. The Quarry often tries to grab a look and aesthetic, then changes the outcome somewhat. Ryan is a loner who dresses in black but has a surprisingly kind temperament under it all. Abi is creative and reflective but also kind of fun. These aren't the end of their character arcs, just a springboard into new situations.
There's a deep empathy for its characters at the root of The Quarry that really shines through as you play. Bad people aren't innately bad, they do bad things for the right reasons. Even the world's worst moments are down to survival, inaction, or stupidity. Frankly, this is much more terrifying than the mindless violence of its peers. The Quarry is so spooky because its settings are fantastical, yet the scariest part is how our environment and conditions turn us into monsters.
Not all monsters are quite as well told, unfortunately. Trying to avoid heavy spoilers here, there are two major sides to the forces at work in The Quarry. One is haunted by the ghosts of their previous wrongdoings, left hollow and harmed by mistakes. The other is just sort of there. They are overloaded in mysticism and spirituality without ever really seeing the nuanced treatment the rest of the cast enjoys. In a way, their reduced screentime makes sense, but it's a shame they aren't given time to fully develop.
The Quarry does this a little too much to ignore. Tons of detail is put into specific places and genuine charm is infused into every pour, yet something is typically let slide in response. The graphics, for the most part, look decent but drop noticeably when water is involved. The character you play as at any time is given nuance and understanding and, sometimes, the person you speak to isn't.
In this sense, you are the focal point for the entire story. The world of The Quarry centres around you and your actions but you can't help but ask "what happens when I'm not looking?" For the most part, it manages to blend these two worlds well, giving clues and evidence that highlight certain contradictions and explain them. When it doesn't do so, it generally understands what makes that mystery click.
The tarot system explains this rather well. As you explore the game, you find tarot cards that you can use at intervals in the story to reveal snippets of future decisions. If you are perceptive, it may help you avoid a grizzly fate. That being said, you can choose to skip it entirely and go in blind.
Illusion of Choice
As you may have guessed, one of The Quarry's biggest assets is its approach to choice. The couch co-op mode returns again, letting you and a handful of your friends control certain characters. You can choose to save your buddies or leave them to die, only fending for yourself. Although a playthrough may only take ten hours, there's so much to uncover in The Quarry that you may just want another turn.
Much more than any of Supermassive Games' previous releases, I wanted to see every little detail. It does this by drip-feeding pieces of information and letting you really digest the story in front of you. It gives you the information you need to make decisions but doesn't explain the gravity of it until the end.
In this sense, you are put into the shoes of the camp counsellors incredibly well. Booting it up, I often felt unwelcome, someone exploring a land I shouldn't. I knew that my decisions had impacts I couldn't fathom, and the often horrible implications of your decisions are surprisingly fascinating.
It only encourages you to continue to explore through the "paths system". Fashioned on old-school VCR tapes, you can watch your previous decisions and some of their implications. They also go forward to the next major choice, allowing you to see where your decisions have led you. This is an excellent incentive to keep searching around and great for a second playthrough.