Over the past several years, Supermassive Games have made a name for themselves in the horror scene by appealing to gamers who enjoy shlocky scares and campy frights. The British studio set a high bar with 2015’s teen slashfest Until Dawn and has somehow managed to churn out a steady stream of similar B-movie-style titles at an impressive rate, typically at least one annually. Not only did they complete the first season of The Dark Pictures Anthology this year, 2022 also saw the team partner with publisher 2K for a tasty one-off that harkens back to the tongue-in-cheek vibe of Until Dawn: the werewolf-themed The Quarry.
Each of Supermassive’s games can be said to be filled with loving camp, but The Quarry takes this idea literally, setting its proceedings in the Hackett’s Quarry summer camp, deep in the woods of upstate New York. With the last day of camp concluded and all the children safely bundled off on their buses home, the erstwhile group of twenty-something-year-old counselors pack their bags and prepare to leave. With the site and the surrounding forest now cleared out, camp owner Chris appears strangely eager to get these last few stragglers out as soon as possible. Of course, things don’t go to plan, and a sabotaged vehicle leaves the group stranded, forced into one last overnight before repairs can be made. Unbeknownst to them, strange and sinister things are beginning to stir in the darkest depths of the woods.
Just like most of Supermassive’s previous offerings, The Quarry is essentially a cinematic interactive movie. The lion’s share of it plays out in dialogue scenes that let you choose from a handful of responses to direct how the characters interact and how the scene continues. This lends itself well to role-playing each of the protagonists – particularly in a genre game like this that lovingly embraces clichéd character tropes.
There are seven camp counselors you’ll control at various times (unless any of them meet an untimely demise, in which case the story continues on without them), as well as two other people introduced in the prologue who factor into the narrative later on. You’re certainly free to play Jacob and Emma as the quintessential jock and mean girl they appear to be, or you can turn the tables and explore a deeper side to them (within the constraints allowed by the game’s dialogue system, of course). Will you push for Nick and Abi’s obvious attraction to blossom into something more, or are there just too many bumps in the road for these shy kids?
There are lots of little interpersonal nuances like these to explore, and they go a long way toward helping you become acquainted with the large cast in fairly short order. Unfortunately, this also front-loads the experience with a lot of teen drama that skews the pacing and delays what we’re really here for: the arrival of the big bad wolf. Still, there’s a variety of personalities to connect with, and every player is sure to have their favorite (for me, it was the relatively drama-free Dylan, though bad-ass Kaitlyn, who knows her way around a shotgun, had her moments, too).
It all coalesces in a collection of characters that may be Supermassive’s best cast since Until Dawn, and I found myself genuinely concerned for everyone’s survival and cheering when I helped one or another through a potentially lethal situation. As is tradition in these sorts of games, the threat of character deaths is a constant companion and becomes part of your personal version of the narrative. Even the whole cast being killed off is one of many legitimate ways the narrative could play out. (I’m proud to say I only lost one person to the hazards of Hackett’s Quarry, and that one only due to a single unlucky choice.) Dialogue selections and random decision moments swing the pendulum of life and death as much as the game’s action set pieces do.
Fortunately, failing won’t ever be a matter of sloppy game controls or cheap hazards. Quick Time Event button presses are pretty much a staple of the subgenre now, and The Quarry offers them up in spades. While they certainly include a fair share of “push the button to avoid tripping over an exposed tree root, you big goof!” moments, certain points in the game build towards far grander action sequences that are bombastic and satisfying to complete successfully.
One such example sees a couple of counselors trapped in a scrapyard, when suddenly and unexpectedly they are besieged by a horde of deadly lycans. It’s a segment several minutes in duration, during which the camera dramatically swooshes back and forth between the two protagonists in slow-motion zooms as they both fight for their lives and make spur-of-the-moment decisions that can either save or doom the other. It doesn’t hurt that the scene is supported by an energetic and scream-laden heavy metal track.
In fact, The Quarry really steps up its game in terms of music overall. The werewolf attack lies at one end of the spectrum in getting the blood pumping when it needs to, but the score hits it out of the park right from the word go in a far more surprising way. When the studio logos fade, the camera takes flight through the midnight woods while the opening credits roll to Ariana Grande’s smooth and smoky “Moonlight.” It’s wholly unexpected for a horror game and lends an immediate air of class that just sears itself into your memory.
Speaking of credits, The Quarry comes bolstered by some impressive star power. Long-time horror fans will geek out over prominent appearances by Lance Henriksen, Ted Raimi, and David Arquette, while younger players may recognize the likes of Brenda Song, Ariel Winter, and Skyler Gisondo. Then there’s Lin Shaye, Ethan Suplee, Halston Sage … the list goes on and on. The material is hardly Shakespeare, but there’s an art to hammy horror acting, and the cast nails it with ease (minus Justice Smith’s character of Ryan, who comes off far too wooden and stoic for my money). The various actors are enjoyable in their roles, whether they’re skinny-dipping in a midnight lake filled with bodies tied to submerged chains, or being covered in putrid-smelling werewolf viscera.
The photorealistic character models are better than ever here, and the rest of the game looks no less impressive. True, the setting can often be boiled down to “the woods at night,” but The Quarry easily lives up to the graphical pedigree from the developer’s previous efforts. The action scenes in particular benefit from fluid animation and slick camerawork, and simplified QTE inputs mean you can actually focus a bit more on the on-screen eye candy.
When it comes to gameplay, one certainly can’t accuse Supermassive of reinventing the wheel. If you’ve played a previous game of theirs, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. As one scene gives way to the next, control switches between each of the surviving protagonists, who navigate through the 3D environments on their way to the next objective. While doing so you should keep an eye out for items or other clues that may just come in handy in a future situation or fill in a bit of lore. Taking on the role of narrator-slash-omniscient-guide this time is the fortune teller, a character with an intense mien who will grant you glimpses into the future if you find her tarot cards scattered around the game world. You’ll only get one such hint per chapter, though, even if you find multiple cards.
There are some slight tweaks to the developer’s familiar formula, generally for the better. Menu options have been implemented to adjust or even disable settings to your liking, such as the time limits that in other games forced quick decision-making. The intricate relationship system between characters that previously changed how they felt about each other as the result of your choices has been largely removed, getting rid of the ever-present “so-and-so will remember that” pop-up. Others will still react to your decisions, but this seems more focused on large-scale decisions now. Allowing for this level of customization and streamlining is a welcome evolution, whether for casual players or those looking to experience the game multiple times with unique stipulations.
With everything The Quarry does right, it does have the odd issue as a horror game specifically. There are a handful of times that the writing feels stilted and off, although this is often smoothed over by other humorous or witty exchanges. Moreover, for a ten-hour game, the build-up is just a bit too long-winded, making replays for different outcomes a tenuous proposal. Perhaps its biggest issue, however, is a decrease in tension from time to time, despite the key components being in place: a dark forest with a supernatural foe, a backwoods family of hunters out for blood, a sheriff who doesn’t particularly care for strangers in his neck of the woods. There are plenty of moments of peril that deliver good amounts of suspense and scares, but the sections in between weren’t as successful at keeping me on the edge of my seat.
Back on the plus side, extra game modes allow for a variety of ways to experience The Quarry, with setups for online co-op play or a party mode to enjoy it with a bunch of friends. For those that like the burden of choice lifted off them, there are special game modes that play out even more cinematically than the default game, with all decisions and dialogue choices already made based on a set of parameters selected at the outset. There is also over an hour’s worth of bonus audio content in the form of an in-character supernatural podcast to listen to from the main menu, further tying into some of the game’s lore.
If nothing else, Supermassive Games is dedicated to its established formula, making small tweaks and improvements from iteration to iteration but not fixing what ain’t broke. This means the decision to pick up The Quarry is ultimately going to be an easy one for any existing fan of the studio. As I fit squarely in that category, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, and I especially appreciated the quality-of-life changes and enjoyable cast of characters. Though it doesn’t consistently capitalize on its scares the way I wish it had, it’s certainly a good time overall that I encourage all fans of horror-themed interactive fiction to treat themselves to.
Though the slower-burn build-up to its werewolf-themed horror makes it equal parts bark and bite, Supermassive’s The Quarry is a welcome spiritual successor for anyone who enjoyed the campy slasher fun of Until Dawn.
- Characters are easy to become invested in
- Impressive Hollywood cast of actors perform their roles well
- Smartly chosen musical selections
- Enhanced quality-of-life changes, bonus content, and extra game modes
- Uneven pacing keeps the wolf at bay for far too long
- Not nearly as scary it could be
Pascal played The Quarry on PC using a review code provided by the game’s publisher.