I don't think it's much of a secret that I like Supermassive Games and their recent output of horror titles. After Alessio and Date reviewed Until Dawn and Man of Medan, I took up the reins and reviewed Little Hope and House of Ashes. In a move akin to going from TV to cinema, Supermassive Games have brought us a spiritual sequel to Until Dawn. Published by 2K, we now have The Quarry. How does this return to the big screen feel after three The Dark Pictures Anthology titles, with a fourth likely to drop this year?
Let me start with a few niggles before I get into the game, how I feel about it and how I feel about Supermassive Games' progression. I use an ultrawide monitor, and with how gaming has developed, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect big-budget "AAA" games to support such setups. I've been accepting of it, to an extent, with previous titles, but this felt a little too far. I've had to play the entire game through a letterbox (2560x1065) - something you'll see in the gameplay footage I've included with this review.
I get that this is through cinematic design for traditional screens; the top and bottom letterboxing disappears on menus and particular tutorials. However, I'm confident I would have found myself more immersed with more on-screen. Out of spite, I'm removing the top and bottom bars from my screenshots. That'll show them.
Another slight niggle is technical issues. There aren't many, but I've had audio lines clip into each other a few times, or a character talk over themselves for maybe or two words. Very minor in the grand scheme of things but noticeable when it happens. I'll get my gripe over movement out of the way now too. The more I play games by Supermassive, the more I'm adamant they need a jog option. Or at least a fast walk, one that works since the regular walk here is akin to a dying turtle, with the quick walk being a tired turtle.
The need for quicker movement has become more evident now that Supermassive has started to include larger areas to walk around in their titles. House of Ashes began this, and The Quarry (while not a The Dark Pictures title) has expanded upon it. It's great that these more open and exploratory areas exist, too, they can both help set or accentuate the mood, and it works fantastically. As we're likely to see more of this happening in their future titles, putting people off by sluggish tank-like movement isn't ideal, especially as games like these make multiple playthroughs nigh-essential.
This section has gotten a little positive, so let's get back into niggles. The previous three games have drilled into me that I should explore to find pictures that will reveal a possible future should you fail a quick time event - more on these later. The Quarry has decided to change this entirely by putting tarot cards inside cutscenes and small camera changes, ones that if you don't press a button quick enough when they are visible, you miss the card. It is a non-essential QTE but irritating in that it allows you to miss dialogue options with a strange old lady (acting as this game's curator) and miss out on viewing one of the potential future options. The annoying cow also whines at me when I don't have any of her tarot cards. STOP HIDING THEM IN CUTSCENES THEN, BITCH.
That out of the way, I can't help but enjoy The Quarry. The longer length of this game allows for far more buildup than you've found in the previous three titles from Supermassive Games. Character development is fleshed out, with some characters even being pretty likeable. Some are a little too stereotypical, but the added story helps. I will admit that the prologue, focusing on just two characters, had me very intrigued at the start. It goes against the whole movie-night idea that Supermassive is sticking to, but I think they could do a fantastic job with a smaller cast.
Several horror stalwarts feature as part of the cast in The Quarry. David Arquette, Lance Henriksen, and Ted Raimi are all big names in the genre and give strong performances. A strong cast of actors for all roles supports these; each brought into the game as Supermassive has proven themselves capable of repeatedly doing. There are a few issues here and there: lips can go wonky, faces can look off, and eyes never meet. Still, I'd argue that Supermassive are the closest games get to managing that film-like look. We're still stuck in the uncanny valley, but we're getting there.
Supermassive Games have put the longer runtime to good use for the primary cast and for throwing in several red herrings, but this has come with a drawback. In previous titles, I've complained that some decisions seem to have an almost, if not wholly, imperceptible impact on the future. It's hard not to think this again, with the added issue that you've no clue how far back a decision was and how it's linked. If you have a character die, you have three lives that you can use to be taken back to the event that sealed that character's fate. You don't know that this can be up to an hour earlier, and it may not even be a decision but a puzzle.
These lives are a welcome system, one that I appreciate, but one that could give you a little more information when you use it. I don't appreciate two polar-opposite choices also resulting in the same outcome, something else that happened, though it's hard to know if the result was pre-determined by a previous decision, meaning it didn't matter what I chose. Still, the branching narrative on offer is widely branching, even more so with around a dozen characters' lives and deaths being down to your decisions.
Throughout the game, you'll control eight core characters. The interesting thing comes with characters you interact with through the story and how the story links to the narrator you speak to in between chapters. So, there is that. Exactly how everything links together turn out to be very interesting. That's another thing where Supermassive Games have improved, simply telling the story they want to tell but keep you thinking. Fortunately, while twists happen here in The Quarry, none are the same as those found in Man of Medan or Little Hope.
Also, like previous titles, Supermassive leans into its strengths. The use of light is fantastic, and I have to reiterate what I've said before; Supermassive Games are arguably the best developer in the world at lighting and using it to set the atmosphere. I am surprised you don't get to use torches much, letting you use the boost brought into House of Ashes more here, with forests and a camp being perfect environments for this. I have to admit, though, what I do get to use of it, I am finding movement and control more clunky as time goes on. It's possibly also linked to my irritation with the character's sloth-like speed.
I keep bringing up the speed, but I've got little else to complain about, so I'll stop. I like how The Quarry integrates a number of the collectibles into the end, with a particular section of these collectibles called "evidence". Take that as you will; I'm not going to tell you more. How others are linked to each other to give you more detail of the story and everything around it is also a positive move.
Finally, this may be because I overlooked it, but I enjoy how Supermassive Games have removed those bloody counters that show each character's personality. Your actions determine how these characters act towards each other as the game develops. That's all we need to know. We don't need to know that Laura has suddenly gained more fondness for milk, and Travis likes Prawn Cocktail crisps more than Salt & Vinegar now.
I have a problem with writing reviews of games like this. First, it's hard because there's only so much I can talk about without spoiling the story. The fact that I've told you there isn't a bullshit twist is already a spoiler in itself. As for visuals, well, they haven't changed much. The quality is improving slowly, and I've talked about the strange eyes and lips that appear now and then. The last thing I can talk about is music, with The Quarry having a great soundtrack, one with licensed songs - something the more budget-friendly The Dark Pictures Anthology avoids.
All in all, I like The Quarry and heartily recommend it. It's a Supermassive Games game with a more comparable budget and scale to Until Dawn's but benefitting from what they have learned from games like the excellent House of Ashes. With a strong cast of characters, a strong story with more time to flesh itself out, an excellent atmosphere, and everything else you expect from the company. Even the issues don't hold this back from being great, so if you like this game style, you'll like this.
PC version reviewed—copy provided by the publisher.
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