A group of horny young adults, an isolated campsite in the forest, the threat of unknown danger, and the constant desire to break off into small groups rather than stick together. Could you think of a more perfect setup for developer Supermassive Games and their next slasher-inspired, branching-narrative horror game?
Ever since 2015 with the release of the beloved Until Dawn, Supermassive has been chasing similar highs, releasing an anthology of frightening games of varying quality where a cast of youths with too much free time are marched into a thematically different slaughterhouse whilst they try to survive, figure out the mystery, and still find time to banter about relationships and other coming-of-age tropes. Their survival or lack thereof depends entirely on the decisions and reactions of the player, who may complete the game(s) with everybody surviving or not many at all. It’s silly, it’s deliberately campy, and whilst it’s easy to make fun of, it’s also a formula that’s capable of being ridiculous fun.
Going hands-on with a demo of The Quarry and things feel instantly familiar as a fan of Until Dawn. Nine camp counsellors find themselves stationed at Hackett’s Quarry where rumours of a hag get shared across the bonfire and in passing conversation. The locals, including the man whose property you’re staying in, appear peculiar at best and sinister at worst. The youths not only find themselves battling these potential real-world threats, but they also appear to be getting stalked by something even worse in the forest, all whilst still maintaining the standard level of silly teen drama.
The cast is all motion-captured and so you’ll hear the voices of and see the likeness of actors including David Arquette, Siobhan Williams, Lin Shaye, Lance Henriksen, Grace Zabriskie, Ted Raimi, Ariel Winter, Ethan Suplee, Miles Robbins, Halston Sage, Zach Tinker, Brenda Song, Skyler Gisondo, Evan Evagora, and Justice Smith. It’s a decent lineup and if you’re familiar with the actors themselves, you’re likely to see their quirks and subtleties come across through that motion capture technology, making for a lifelike depiction, in some ways. The problem with Supermassive’s motion capture is that it can instil an uncomfortable uncanny valley effect as things look near to real but never perfect.
“It’s silly, it’s deliberately campy, and whilst it’s easy to make fun of, it’s also a formula that’s capable of being ridiculous fun.”
The voice performances are good, but much like the motion capture, something frequently feels off. This may have even been my biggest gripe with The Quarry’s demo. Despite good performances, the way the voice lines were stitched together and the cuts between cameras was just unnatural. One particular segment of the demo had the counsellors chatting over a bonfire with music playing, and the frequent cuts between perspectives kept altering the background sounds, amplifying and reducing the music volume. It all just feels a little rough and disjointed, with not much time until release for those issues to be rectified.
The characters themselves aren’t terribly written but they are undoubtedly filled with tropes including the bossy, no-nonsense intellectual girl, the cheerleader type who’s able to use her sexuality and confidence to mess with people, and the quiet type who clearly has some insecurities to overcome. Some tropes are subverted, one character who would initially appear to be the default jock actually showcases a lot more goofiness and sensitivity than would be expected. It’s hard to appropriately judge these characters due to the limited time we got in the game’s demo, but it should be made clear that any tropes found here aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the slasher genre is absolutely brimming with tropes and if we didn’t adhere to at least some of them, the game and Supermassive’s past work would all suffer. It’s almost somewhat lucky that the slasher genre is kind of known for C-grade movies, because that same lack of polish, campy writing, and the trope-heavy narrative feels strangely nostalgic and passable.
Gameplay for The Quarry is fairly basic with choices made in pivotal moments helping to shape the game and its ending. In the demo, we got to see some core choices highlighted as you made them, showing how these would have bigger impacts than other smaller choices further into the game. Walking around and looking for clues may also prove to be important as tarot cards take on the role of totems from Until Dawn with some cryptic messaging possibly showing future events and cluing you into how to avoid or pursue them. Quick-time events return too and so you’ll want to make sure you’re quick with your fingers in those pivotal moments.
A scene throughout the demo had one character holding their breath to try and not make any sounds, and it was up to the player to choose when to begin breathing again. This moment built a lot of tension as you attempt to remain as quiet as possible for as long as possible whilst battling against the possibility of waiting too long and loudly gasping for air. It’s reminiscent of a mechanic from Until Dawn but evolved, which is similar to a lot of the ideas I saw presented here.
As for the horror and narrative of the game, it may be too early to say. It’s genuinely hard to get invested in these characters after playing for only 40-minutes whilst jumping between different perspectives. The typical horror pacing is also completely thrown off as we see a slice of the game that begins in the second act and finishes in the third. The slow build is skipped right over, but I can still see the bones of a decently tense experience.
I won’t go into spoiler territory as to what the threat(s) of this game may be, but the same ideology of your characters being hunted with the threat of death is still certainly present. At this point, my overall thoughts on The Quarry are still up in the air. I’m tentatively hopeful for the final product and I certainly intend to play through the full experience when I’m able. It won’t be too long to wait either, with The Quarry releasing on June 10, 2022 across PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. You can find more info on the game’s official website.