When Until Dawn released back in 2015, it brought with it a brand new genre of horror narrative adventure. Sure, The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange had their own spin on this before, but Until Dawn really tested its players with a simple hook that’s been with us since the early days of horror on the big screen – would you survive in a horror movie?
Following Until Dawn’s success, there have been a number of different games under the Dark Pictures moniker, starting with Man of Medan and with The Devil in Me releasing later this year.
The Quarry then nestles somewhere in the middle of all this, delivering a standalone adventure not tied to The Dark Pictures Anthology and attempting to lean much heavier into what made Until Dawn great. And at times this game absolutely lives up to that.
The Quarry has a great bunch of characters; a bucket-full of sexually charged, cringe-inducing teens that actually have some great chemistry together. There are some genuine laugh out loud moments here, which is surprising given some of the lame jokes.
One late on that had me chuckling involves a sign for “Cave In ahead” where a character retorts and asks where the adjacent “Cave Out” is. If you’re not a fan of dad jokes then you may not have the same enthusiasm as me for the humour!
Whether it be the wisecracking Kaitlyn or broody, silent Chris, each character brings something new and different to the table, regardless of comedic preference. Seeing these guys and gals interact together is surprisingly enjoyable and most (not you Emma) have likable personas. However, the game is also its own worst enemy at times.
The story takes a long time to get going and it’s unfortunately a tad predictable too. A prologue sets things into motion, with two teens – Laura and Max – on their way to Hacker’s Quarry Summer Camp. Unfortunately they seem to hit someone (or something) and career off the road. One thing leads to another and the two find themselves thrown into a nightmare about to consume our unaware campers who follow.
2 weeks pass and on the last night of camp, one of the counsellors, Jacob, decides to disable their van in the hopes of staying an extra night. He’s completely infatuated with Emma and desperate not to end their relationship, which she’s nonchalantly shrugged off as a summer fling.
When the camp owner, Chris Hackett, finds out about the broken van, he urges the campers to stay inside and lock the doors until morning. He takes off, worried, leaving the kids befuddled. So naturally, these kids do the exact opposite and decide to have a big party outside.
Unfortunately, it’s hunting season… but are the kids the hunted here or simply a pawn in a more dangerous game they’re currently unaware of?
This question ultimately forms the crux of the plot, with the opening 3 chapters (of a possible 10) slowly getting to know the different mechanics of the game and fleshing out the characters. Honestly, not a lot happens here. And it’s not too much of a spoiler to tell you your choices in the opening don’t mean a whole lot outside of one QTE.
Of course, some will bemoan how laborious these chapters are, but to be honest the counsellors are likable enough that it never really feels like too much of a drag to sit through. On repeat playthroughs though? Yeah it is a tad annoying, especially as there’s no option to skip bits of dialogue.
Across the game, your perspective shifts between the different characters as you’re encouraged to make important narrative and social dialogue choices that will alter the events of the story. The little expository bits of text telling you how a character feels is largely inconsequential though, and compared to Until Dawn and even Man of Medan, don’t really feature too heavily into the story progression.
While playing it certainly feels like your choices are meaningful but looking at walkthroughs and replaying sections after completion, it soon becomes apparent that about 85% of the choices here are completely inconsequential.
Chase sequences are particularly egregious with a choice of running or hiding. In reality, these either shorten or lengthen the amount of time you’re running away from the threats lurking in the woods.
QTEs & Choices
To be fair, those in the final few chapters do have a massive impact on the fate of characters, but as long as you pass the QTEs and don’t intentionally fail them, you’re unlikely to have too many problems here.
Not only are these choices one-note, the game has a horrid way of railroading you into the same choice regardless of what you choose to do. I know this has been an issue in the previous games too, but here it’s particularly problematic.
For example, in one chapter you have the option of either keeping or giving your gun away to another character. Regardless of what you choose, you’ll still have a gun for that portion of the story. These sort of choices plague The Quarry and while you won’t recognize these too much in the moment, during a second or third playthrough, they’re much more noticeable.
It’s a shame too because there’s actually some really nice inclusions in the story and a couple of plot twists you may not see coming.
A big revelation about the hunters (I’m being careful not to spoil anything here) in an early chapter while controlling Jacob completely changes the dynamic of how you approach scenarios late on.
Gameplay & Collectibles
Between long cutscenes there are numerous segments where you control a character and explore the environment. Dotted around these are a litany of clues, bits of evidence, history and tarot cards to collect. You won’t be able to grab everything in one round either; some of the clues are hidden behind big choices in the story.
The latter – tarot cards – essentially serve as the old fortune cards and tablets of old, which can be looked at in more detail between the chapters. The rest of the evidence and history works to flesh out the backstory of the narrative, which is neatly tied together and presented in podcast form through the end credits.
As for the tarot cards, between each chapter you’ll be whisked away to a strange fortune teller (whose name I’m not about to reveal here). She’ll instil words of wisdom and give you the choice of checking the fortune (or not) for one of the cards you’ve collected that chapter.
This gives away a possible important event in the narrative, one you can choose to actively aim toward or avoid. However, unlike The Curator in the Dark Pictures Anthology, the fortune teller doesn’t have the same gravitas and doesn’t comment too much on your events. She does, however, play some part of the story but I shall say no more here!
Graphics & Presentation
Just like in the other games, the usual QTEs pop up, with analog flicks, a much more streamlined “hold breath” segment (holding down a button rather than keeping the controller dead-still) or bashing a button frantically. There are also a couple of moments that require you to precision shoot, but the system is pretty much identical to House of Ashes.
Graphically, the game looks fantastic. The lighting effects and environments are absolutely gorgeous while the characters are beautifully animated. However, on that same subject there’s still the annoying upper-lip problem that all these games have been plagued with, and it’s particularly problematic for the female characters. Emma and Laura have this issue a lot and it’s definitely distracting from their dialogue.
As a bit of a nitpick, the camera during interior tight spaces is pretty horrible. Sometimes the camera will zoom in super close to your character and other times the fixed perspectives make it difficult to shine your torch on specific areas. The rest of The Quarry’s presentation is fantastic though. The musical cutaways, a couple of neat montages and the creepy and fitting sound effects are great.
In many ways, The Quarry is just as good as Until Dawn, which is a solid 8/10 in this reviewer’s eyes. However, the lack of narrative depth and meaningful choices, the annoying graphical glitches mentioned and a surprising lack of ways to kill characters until late on, hold this back from being an outstanding offering in this genre.
And just like Emma and Jacob’s relationship, this one’s much more likely to be a one-time fling than a meaningful relationship you’ll stick with for the long run.
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Verdict - 7/10