The Quarry is all about “camp.”
That’s not just because the new horror game tells the story of eight ill-fated summer camp counselors whose last night of teen fun descends into a creature-feature fight for survival. As with Supermassive Games’ 2015 hit, Until Dawn, The Quarry also leans into the delightful campiness of every genre trope you get to play around with in its choice-based narrative sandbox.
Over the course of its roughly 10-12 hour playthrough, you take turns inhabiting each of the archetypal teen movie characters (you’ve got your jock, your popular girl, your sensible “final girl”, your trove of nerdy outcasts, etc.) and must figure out how the many B-horror plotlines fit together. The gang of doomed-yet-horny teens not only stumble upon some haunted woods cursed by the ghost of a vengeful fortune teller, but also find themselves being hunted by what appears to be a hoard of violent cryptids and a blood-thirsty recluse family straight out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
It’s essentially Cabin in the Woods: The Game, with only slightly fewer meta layers than that winkingly self-aware smorgasbord of teen horror movie tropes.
Unlike more standard branching narrative titles, Supermassive Games doesn’t give you a series of tough moral decisions that change the story’s outcome. It turns the narrative itself into a puzzle you must solve in real-time in order to choose a path for each character (whether that means sweet survival or a gruesome death is your preference).
The use of tropes in The Quarry isn’t a product of laziness, either.
Your knowledge of horror movie tropes and storytelling structure is one of your best weapons for piecing together that puzzle-box narrative. Those familiar with the typical rules for fighting off certain supernatural monsters or surviving a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style situation can use that to inform their split-second decisions. At the same time, tropes exist to be subverted, so anticipating narrative beats and twists is just as essential for making the right calculus.
It also helps to follow the breadcrumb trail of hints in the game’s carefully worded descriptions of clues and pieces of evidence you find — along with the fortune teller’s cryptic glimpses into the potential outcome from a pivotal choice. All of it taps into the same type of joy Reddit theorists get from predicting shows like Lost, Game of Thrones, and Westworld.
Despite the story’s relative superficiality, The Quarry‘s gameplay is surprisingly more cerebral than “deeper” narrative games like The Last of Us. At the very least, it demands a different kind of intelligence than the usual video game skill of learning how to murder more efficiently.
Credit: Supermassive Games
The Quarry is also the most honed iteration of Supermassive Games’ unique model for interactive storytelling. By de-emphasizing reflex-based gameplay, making quick-time events (QTEs) more forgiving, removing timers from most decisions, and giving you three extra lives for character death do-overs, it’s by far the studio’s most accessible title.
That focus on accessibility capitalizes on the game’s greatest potential, which is to bridge the gap between niche gaming audiences and mainstream moviegoers. That’s even more true when you pair experienced and inexperienced players together in the couch co-op mode, which allows you and up to seven friends to switch off between characters.
True to its camp spirit, The Quarry never takes itself too seriously despite the ever-mounting life-or-death stakes. No matter how dire a situation gets, the script always finds time to crack a few jokes. Meanwhile, our emotional investment in the characters’ relationships and personal dramas never amounts to more than a summer fling.
You shouldn’t take the narrative’s themes too seriously, either, if you want to enjoy the abundance of heart-pounding yet lighthearted thrills this game has to offer.
I’m so glad glossy, dumb, story-focused games like The Quarry continue to exist.
A Hollywood summer blockbuster at heart, the game serves as a popcorn-fueled rollercoaster of mindless entertainment. Just like that popcorn you feverishly shove into your mouth, The Quarry‘s story is also a load of empty calories that won’t leave you feeling full after you binge it. You shouldn’t think about this game for a second longer than the gratification of playing it lasts, since its multitude of endings all but insist that it’s just not that deep.
And yet, I’m so glad glossy, dumb, story-focused games like The Quarry continue to exist.
Big-budget, narrative-focused video games are increasingly hard to come by these days, as many in the industry continue to double down on the profitability of free-to-play online multiplayers like Fortnite and Overwatch. After the implosion of Telltale Games, story-loving players were left with few options for narrative as the main gameplay mechanic. But with The Quarry, Supermassive only refined its innovations to interactive storytelling first established in Until Dawn and then re-iterated upon in the Dark Pictures Anthology series.
Sure, you could dismiss The Quarry as little more than a long cutscene with QTEs and no other conventional video game mechanics — as some critics already have. But you’d be missing the point entirely of what makes Supermassive Games so uniquely valuable to the video game landscape. It invites, attracts, and challenges a vastly underserved audience far more interested in flexing their deductive reasoning and strategic decision-making than any twitch-based reflexes.
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Sadly, while The Quarry perfects Supermassive Games’ storytelling on a technical and mechanical level, the plot never comes close to reaching the electrifying twists of Until Dawn. In fact, I’d put the narrative below even the intriguing (if still flawed) House of Ashes from the Dark Pictures Anthology. It’s more rote and predictable than Until Dawn, while also bearing that game’s biggest flaw: Relying on horror genre tropes that appropriate other marginalized racial and ethnic groups. Last time around, it was Native American folklore, and this time, the “gypsy” slur (and accompanying offensive stereotypes) are used with little regard for the loaded genocidal history behind it.
Credit: Supermassive Games
More so than in Until Dawn, The Quarry‘s narrative even teases an underlying moral question about said tropes through the slightest suggestion of colonization as a theme. But it’s confusingly half-baked at best, and points players toward pretty disquieting moral conclusions at worst. If anything, The Quarry goads you into seeing your final choices as a moral stance, only to bait-and-switch every player into the same nihilistic ending regardless. On paper, that could’ve been another interesting subversion of more conventional branching narrative games. But in practice, it just leaves you with a murky sense of consequence and dissatisfying narrative arcs.
Ultimately, The Quarry is a far better journey than it is a story.
It’s easy, however, to get swept up in the chemistry and charm of the actors, which includes recognizable mo-capped Hollywood faces like David Arquette from Scream and Ariel Winter from Modern Family. The plot may not be much to write home about, but at least the dialogue flows with a natural ease that’s still a total rarity in games.
At the end of the day, The Quarry is mindless fun for gamers seeking a different kind of mindlessness than your usual combat-heavy AAA title can offer. Despite its flaws, it’s another vote of confidence for Supermassive Games’ overall vision, and a worthy evolution in the studio’s singular style of storytelling.