A star-studded cast can't save The Quarry from bland horror game mistakes
Inverse Score: 6/10
I shot and killed Travis in cold blood, but a few hours later in The Quarry — a playable horror movie from Supermassive Games — there he was again, seemingly no worse for the wear.
In a previous playthrough, he’d been a trusted ally, but the branching narrative sometimes leads in more violent directions. Callous as it sounds, I had moved on from the murder without remorse. (A night spent being hunted in the woods will do that to a person.) Imagine my annoyance to see Travis alive and well.
A game built on the message that your choices matter, The Quarry does very little to prove this design principle in execution. It’s a grand attempt at recapturing the magic of the developer’s cult 2015 hit Until Dawn, but rather than demonstrate growth for Supermassive, The Quarry makes it feel like the studio is trapped in the past. In this case, it’s an overemphasis on pulpy B-horror movies from the ‘80s.
The premise is basic enough: A group of nine teenage camp counselors must survive one last night in Hackett's Quarry before the season wraps up, except they’re hunted by bloodied locals and more supernatural forces. The plot is pretty basic, but the vast array of branching storylines are performed by recognizable actors. The ensemble cast includes David Arquette, Siobhan Williams, Ariel Winter, Brenda Song, Justice Smith, and more. At times, it’s easy to forget that this is technically a video game.
Fans of Supermassive’s previous games will be familiar with The Quarry’s core gameplay mechanics. Exploration is clunky at best, but the studio prioritizes cinematic storytelling over gameplay. Split-second reactions are tested through a slew of quick-time events and opportunities to interrupt key moments.
The most integral mechanic in these playable horror movies is the branching narrative paths, how critical decisions trigger drastically different story outcomes. Until Dawn aptly called their choice system “The Butterfly Effect.” In The Quarry, a dialogue box ominously saying ”PATH CHOSEN” will pop up once you have made your fateful choice.
In The Quarry, choices feel meaningful, but only if you play only once.
For a game that invests so much in the promise of 186 endings, there is not much differentiation between them. Playing through the story four times was not an easy or exciting task, as there’s no simple way to retrace the game's narrative in order to see what could have happened if you had made a different choice. Chapter select forces you to erase any part of your save that comes after the section you want to replay, meaning you can’t replay Chapter 5 and then decide to replay Chapter 9.
To see how different paths affect the end of the story, the best bet is to start a new game and sit through the 10-hour narrative. Cutscenes are also unskippable. By my last playthrough, I could recite jokes along with the actors. There’s that little variation in the dialogue.
I know what you did last summer
In almost every way, The Quarry feels like a near carbon copy of Until Dawn reskinned with new plot hooks and upgraded visuals. The general story beats, creature designs, and the overall B horror movie vibes are the same — but this also means The Quarry has all the same flaws.
Pacing issues abound. Of the 10 chapters, the first two and a half are spent on character building. That’s a feature-length film of cliched interactions with writing so unoriginal that it just feels tired. The rays of light in all this darkness are the standout performances of Kaitlyn (Brenda Song) and Dylan (Miles Robbins). Song and Robbins give a balanced mix of depth and believable humor that makes later chapters bearable as the two characters are paired together. When Kaitlyn suggests they both sing the camp song and discovers Dylan doesn't know it she looks at him and says “You had two months and you couldn't learn the words?” Song’s deadpan delivery as the two characters prepare for a monster attack made me genuinely burst out laughing, a rare occurrence in The Quarry.
Large portions of chapters feel inconsequential and pad the runtime. Two uninteresting counselors who spend the night hashing out if they are dating or not are so boring that my favorite playthrough was the one where I killed them both as early as possible, which effectively cut out the filler altogether.
The way that The Quarry mistreats its antagonists is a total disappointment, specifically the character of Eliza. Her characterization is riddled with problematic stereotypes that, however much they resonate with the retro horror aesthetic, feel cringe by today’s standards.
The core issue in The Quarry is how it handles scale.
During my many hours with the game, I kept finding myself thinking about Supermassive’s Dark Pictures Anthology, specifically the latest entry House of Ashes. After Until Dawn, Supermassive sought to capture the same feeling of a playable horror movie, but without Sony money. This led to three annual releases (with more on the way) that iterated on this core idea. The large cast of Until Dawn was cut to five playable characters and the length of each experience similarly was cut in half. Each Dark Pictures game takes roughly five hours to beat.
In cutting back the scale, Supermassive created lean products that continue to emulate specific horror genres. House of Ashes is tangible proof that the company has refined its brand of horror games into a great product.
The Quarry is an attempt at a horror amusement park, pulling influences from numerous movies across the entire genre. But what happens when some rides in the proverbial amusement park are clunkers? In struggling to recreate Until Dawn, Supermassive fails to learn from its newer lessons discovered by making more focused games.
The Quarry will release for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, and PC on June 10, 2022. Inverse reviewed the game on PC.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.