It takes a good four or more hours for The Quarry to really take off. By the end it’s a blast, and exactly what I hoped the game would be – lots of screaming, lots of blood, and a general cavalcade of close escapes, near misses, and very definite deaths. But with an overblown cast spread across numerous narrative threads, it spends a long time trying to achieve, and then maintain, any decent sense of momentum. For the longest time, whenever it feels like things are about to get going, the story jumps between characters and beats, resetting the pace and leaving tension as a fleeting feeling that rarely settles.
Platform(s): PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One
Release date: June 10, 2022
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: 2K Games
The basic setup is classic horror movie fare: there’s a bunch of kids having one last night at a summer camp but [spooky voice] there’s something else in the woods [spooky voice ends] and, as the night wears on, the death count starts to rise. I’m going to avoid spoilers completely here, which might make things weirdly vague, but let’s just say there’s some sort of threat out there and that threat really wants to make things dead in as many pieces as possible.
The early parts largely set up how everything works as you meet the cast of teens you’ll be trying to save/kill. This feels like even more of an interactive movie than previous Supermassive games like Until Dawn or the Dark Pictures anthology, with long cinematic scenes where you largely steer between choices as you get to know your victims. That might be choosing what you say or do, with both dialogue and actions getting selected on the fly as things play out. The gameplay also involves exploration – mixing third-person wandering with prompt matching action where you copy on-screen buttons to dodge or attack and so on.
The further you get in the more the gameplay takes over, but for most of the first half of my roughly eight and a half-hour playtime, I largely steered people through conversations. Which was okay because there’s a good cast here and I happily watched it all play out – establishing characters and backstories, while shadows out of view and shady-looking locals muttering cryptically built a sense of impending danger. There are a couple of really great stand-out performances, although I can’t really say who because it will definitely spoil things at the start if you know who ends up taking centre stage at the end. Countering that, though, there are a couple of high profile castings who barely appear, with either seconds of screen time or a scant handful of lines, which is a bit of a shame considering the talent involved.
A tangled web
When things do properly start – and by start, I mean screaming and death – they also sort of… don’t. If the first 2-3 hours are enjoyable world-building, and the last couple hours are a fun and gory conclusion, the 2-3 hours in the middle just sort of treads water between all the moving parts that have yet to coalesce; jumping back and forth between things so much it barely advances anything despite almost everyone being covered from head to foot in blood. Once this blood has been spilled you’d expect things to start hacking along at a decent clip but there are so many people in play, spread so far and wide in different locations, that jumping between everything constantly kills the pace. Just as you get a taste of excitement it cuts away to someone else and spends a few minutes setting things up to remind you where they were or what they were doing.
There’s basically too many characters. The end of the game shows you nearly 20 people that can live and die depending on your choices. Not all of them are playbable, but it’s still a big roster – almost twice the size of Until Dawn. As a result the middle just spends too much time spinning plates, when everyone knows the fun part is watching them fall. The story has great potential but gets held back by that extensive cast all needing to be kept roughly on the same page. The internal logic of the story only holds up if the player knows no more than the in-game people, so no one person can get too far ahead. It’s telling that, as the ending really kicks off, several of my survivors were literally shut away in rooms or sealed locations and taken off the board, while others pretty much seemed to survive on a coin toss in the final minutes.
That final hour or so feels like the game feeds whoever’s left into a grinder and lets you sort through the paste. While playing you’re constantly threatened with the dread message ‘path chosen’ as you make decisions, pick up items and sometimes just say things. Every time it happens it sows a little worry seed about how it’s going to come back and bite you in the ass and, when it reaps, all these teased consequences start paying off – that character that just survived ends up being the only thing that saves someone else later; some bit of tat you took or left seals another’s fate, and so on. For the most part, it feels fair… ish. If bad things did happen it felt like it was on me, or at least I could see the path that led to the result; while the button matching stuff is clearly enough telegraphed, with some safety buffer slow-mo so that you rarely feel caught out.
It’s worth noting here that I played the version of the game with the Death Rewind system that gives you three lives – a feature that lets you replay up to three deaths to avoid them. It’s unlocked by finishing the game or buying the Deluxe Edition, but feels like quite a fundamental element to hand out to some players and not others. I enjoyed the inclusion as it lets you have fun with gory deaths but also keep the characters you like.
Quickest finger wins
Although, that said, I lost two characters by the end and I will absolutely climb on a hill called bullshit and take a seat forever. One person died, having not been seen for 20 minutes, when I told another character I was currently controlling to run. This option actually translates into ‘push a button that’s just come out of nowhere and then run’. That button then directly caused the other completely unrelated person in a completely different area to die. The other death occurred when someone I hadn’t seen for so long I’d completely forgotten about them reappeared – they popped up, got to make a single A/B decision, and one option straight up instakills them.
While it’s slow to start, or pick up pace, by the time The Quarry ended I had enjoyed its inconsistent journey. There are some good sections and great moments, and there’s a nice collectible element where interlinked clues expand and fill out the backstory if you find related items, and I enjoyed trying to second guess what was going on. But I did spend most of my time playing waiting for things to get properly going only for it to end almost as soon as it did. There’s a decent stab here at a slasher movie-style Horny Teen Murder Simulator but one that feels unbalanced by the size of its cast. Less people might have actually allowed the final act, where all the best stuff happens, to open more but as it stands there’s a lot more setup than there is payoff.
3 out of 5
A fun but poorly paced horror adventure that’s both slow to start and over too fast