I had no choice…or maybe I had too many?
When The Quarry came out last June I had just finished my first re-play of Until Dawn. As you probably know if you already follow me, I had a blast playing Until Dawn, and knowing that a “spiritual sequel” was about to come out filled me with high expectations.
As soon as The Quarry came out, I began to watch tons and tons of spoiler-free reactions and to gather as many information as possible. I still didn’t buy it because I already have a quite loaded videogames backlog, and I used the steep price tag on launch day as an excuse to wait. But when my girlfriend gifted it to me, I had no more choice.
Impressive advances in technology
Of course, The Quarry is a game that is supposed to run on a new generation console such as a PS5: my good old PS4 is no match for sure, but it still was enough to capture the huge improvements in the cinematic sequences and in the animation with respect to the older titles.
It used a few tricks such as simplification of the number of primitives to allow a smooth execution on older consoles (PS4 and Xbox series S), but I didn’t really noticed until I watched this video. I guess it says a lot about how good the game was. Yes, I am a computer scientist with a curriculum in 3D graphics, I can’t help to notice this kind of things.
Aside from a few strange effect on one character’s face, the characters looked way more realistic than they did in Until Dawn. The micro-expressions on each of the characters’ face, the skin material and lighting effects gave an even bigger impression of reality. Given how many known faces there are, some of them a staple in the horror/slasher genre (David Arquette, Ted Raimi), and some other with a more comedic background (Ariel Winters, Brenda Song, Justice Smith) at times it felt like watching a movie rather than playing a game.
This is actually a point that I see as a proof of how serious the gaming universe is beginning to be considered as a storytelling device. With a very few exceptions, the characters in Until Dawn were modelled after not-very-famous actor, especially for someone living in Europe. The fact that major names were contacted, and that they said yes is encouraging, if you ask me.
Even though it’s something I tend to notice quite often, the advances in CGI and character realism weren’t the things I put my biggest expectations on. The game promised to allow for something like 186 different endings, which sounds very hard to manage both memory-wise and story-wise.
Also, remembering how the differences between possible outcomes in Until Dawn reduced pretty much to who was going to survive the night, I was eager to see how did they stretch the concept of survival horror to account for so many branching paths. Truth is, it’s still a matter of who survives and who doesn’t, but this time everything is much more complicated. In the good meaning of the term, of course.
For starters, even though the amount of playable characters stay the same, there are many other non playable characters involved in the story. Even though you can’t directly control them, their fate is influenced by the choices made during the night. Moreover, the impact of many of the choices don’t becomes clear until very far away in the story.
If you have already played the game in death rewind mode and you tried to prevent a specific character from dying at a certain point in time, you know very well what I’m talking about: the decision that could save this character in chapter 10 (the final one) was made in chapter 1. My impression, after playing it twice, is that a perfect ending where everyone is saved is much harder to obtain because of the number of decisions you have to make and because how trivial they seem in the first place.
This increase in difficulty doesn’t reflect on the game mechanic itself: if we only consider the quick-time events, The Quarry is actually much easier than Until Dawn. The quick-time events depend on the gamepad stick rather than the buttons, and it’s very hard to miss them unless you really want to.
I suppose this was a choice of design by the game developers, as it allows the player to focus on the uncertainty and perceived weight to the choices one can make, much more than a quick-time event could ever make. But it’s also true that it takes away a good chance of the definition of game, making The Quarry lean more towards the “interactive movie” realm.
When it comes to the story being told, and consequently to the kind of menace you’re facing, I have to say that I preferred the one in Until Dawn. The story behind the sanatorium and the mine felt scarier, also because the sense of unknown menace was built up in a different way. There was a sense of mystery and suspense in the early chapter of Until Dawn, while in The Quarry it’s clear that everything happening before chapter 4 is just story set up.
Also, as someone who didn’t know the legend about the wendigo, I found it scarier and much more instructive. The Quarry, on the other hand, is based on a much more known figure and it didn’t teach me any new North American legend. But the way it was re-told and blended with other tropes still made it impossible to put the gamepad down.
Aside from being more numerous than they were in Until Dawn, the characters are much better. Not only in the CG sense of the word (as I said before, they are without a doubt), but also better people. At least, the majority of the has a few redeemable quality. Let’s say I didn’t get to halfway through the game planning to having them all killed.
There are a few or them which are still totally annoying (they’re all teenagers, after all, and I’m getting older and grumpier no matter how many games I play), but none of them ever gave me the bad vibes I got from the protagonists of Until Dawn.
As opposed to the therapist in Until Dawn, who didn’t play an active role in the game story, the guide you encounter at the end of each chapter of The Quarry is quite an important character in the story, even though the reason why she’s helping you isn’t clear since the beginning. What is fascinating is that her attitude towards you depends heavily on the choices you make within the game, and only progressing through the story will reveal everything.
Playing The Quarry was a blast. Especially after trying one title from the Dark Pictures anthology and being slightly disappointed in it (though I might have picked the worst of the bunch according to many online comments. That might explain why it came away for almost free).
It revamped my never extinguished love for campy (pun not intended) teenage horror stories and entertained me with its ~10 hours gameplay. I’m surprised I managed to write so much about it without (hopefully) giving too much away.
If you have played the game, or plan to, please let me know in the comments. I feel I could go on forever.
*Since, as you‘ will see‘ve seen, I can’t possibly shut up about my new gaming obsession, I also have published an article on Medium about it. Hope you enjoy