Until sunrise has been hanging over Supermassive Games since its surprisingly excellent debut in 2015. Every game since then has not only been much smaller in scale, but not nearly as good, of the forgettable hidden agenda to the most recent dark photos entry. the quarry is positioned as the studio’s first true spiritual successor Until sunrise, given its wider reach and horror angle. But while it’s Supermassive’s best and most polished game in seven years, it’s also disappointingly old as it does little to break away from what almost all of the studio’s other games have done over and over again.
The arrangement is the most famous part and the all-too-familiar weave that binds them all together. the quarryThe many cutscenes are packed with dialogue choices and fast-paced events, and alternate between short sections where the player walks through an area picking up clues, collectibles, or random trinkets. Writing the experience this way adds interactivity to a game with lots of cutscenes and makes the genre more attuned to the medium it’s in.
However, the quarry doesn’t do much new in this worn-out space. And while there is value to be gained from these choices, it is almost only these kinds of choices again. Quick-time events are almost always incredibly easy (and mysteriously there are no harder difficulty settings this time around) and aren’t an intriguing primary way to get involved in the action-oriented sections. There seem to be fewer this time around too, so a lot of the more frenetic scenes play out strangely without much input. It’s almost as if Supermassive knew that quick-time events were tired and took a few out, but didn’t bring anything else in their wake.
Quick-time events are just a portion of the branches, while deliberate dialogue choices make up the vast majority of the rest. Some of these lead to interesting dilemmas that pressure the player to make an immediate decision that could have serious consequences later on. The best of these fit nicely into the horror genre and also have obvious stakes and results; it’s just up to the player to weigh these stressfully in the moment.
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The worst of these are arbitrary, overly punitive, or anticlimactic. There are multiple paths that have no obvious pros or cons, meaning that a single, seemingly innocuous decision could lead to someone being inevitably gutted. Survival is not always based on intuition and attentiveness, but is often based on clairvoyance or luck. Having poorly predicted results is frustrating, as it seems like the game has to play cheap to kill characters. Horror movies are always filled with quick, horrific deaths, but it’s annoying to lose someone unexpectedly in a video game like this, because the dishonest tricks are more frustrating when there’s interactivity (and the inherent attachments) involved.
Interactivity, or the lack of it, is the bigger overall problem with general philosophy regarding choices, as they are presented unimaginatively and restrictively, questioning the game’s over-reliance on quick-time events and dialogue choices. Relegating most of the in-game decisions to these slightly interactive bits is dated and not nearly as inventive or exciting as it once was. Supermassive has made sure of that, as this is the sixth game of its kind released by the developer since 2015 (with the seventh due out later this year). Until sunrise was a great first step in that direction, but if you don’t go past that and flood the market with games like that almost every year, it just hurts that same market.
Putting a bigger chunk of these decisions on the line more directly would be a better way to move the genre forward and would defeat the current technique of constant choice screens and quick-time events. For example, instead of choosing to hide or run, players should be able to just run to the closet if they want to hide and sprint out the door if they want to escape.
The parts where players directly control a character are still laughably limited, as they usually don’t have a noticeable impact on what’s happening and are almost always quite linear. These sections may put the player’s memory or skills to the test or have timers prompting them to do their business quickly, further adding to the tension, but they don’t and suffer. The game’s movie mode, cutscenes only, is almost better in this regard, as removing choices completely takes away the archaic ways it presents choices.
the quarry is a roller coaster in the way it usually sticks players to binary picks, but that comparison of theme park rides is also an apt description of the story that often fluctuates between its highs and lows. It’s the premise of a summer camp with a dark secret, one that comes into direct contact with the camp’s diverse group of nine “teenage” counselors. None of them are walking clichés and while there are too many to meaningfully research, most give solid performances and are attractive in their own way. Zach Tinker’s Jacob and Brenda Song’s Kaitlyn are the two highlights, as his positive frat bro charisma is charming, while her tough attitude and sense of humor make her more of a balanced character for most scenarios.
They’re also among the best animated of the bunch, which doesn’t come naturally to the rest of the cast. Most of them move convincingly, surpassing anything else Supermassive has done so far. There are subtle facial movements and mannerisms that bring them more to life and more nuanced gestures make the story more immersive. The jokes are funnier because of this approach and the dramatic scenes are more, well, dramatic.
When all aligned, it’s impressive and could even rival other high-budget games, but it also looks odd at times or is otherwise hilarious. the quarry has a problem with mouths, as some are too large or oddly shaped, while others grind oddly and show too many teeth. Sometimes characters also animate their faces, but they don’t move their heads in a realistic way. And almost anything that probably wouldn’t be dumped so easily, like when someone falls or gets thrown, is scrupulously terrible because of the weightlessness of the bodies.
Along with a handful of visual bugs, these eerie issues crop up regularly enough and undermine the realism Supermassive is clearly going for. Well-captured performances can improve a game’s story, but janky animation can undo or diminish many of those improvements, even if they’re decent as they are here most of the time. Everything in the quarry is exponentially better than anything seen in the Dark Pictures Anthology – a low bar that shouldn’t be hard to remove – but it still lacks shine in some key areas.
Some of the game’s other narrative flaws can also be attributed to various technical quirks and bizarre choices. Frequent loading screens often interrupt the flow and energy of a scene; one of which is so bad it completely ruins a smart transition. It’s just as shocking as the many sections that are too short or the sections that jump between two different characters before they’ve even done anything. the quarry borrows so much from cinema, but many of its substandard editing techniques erode the pace of a great horror film.
The pace in the first half is on the slower side, but it mainly serves as a setup for the stronger second half of the game. The central mystery it introduces is slowly brought out and explored more in the last few acts and, just like House of As, offers a fresh take on something ripped straight from popular horror fiction, even if the game itself has no fears and spooky scenes. Certain reveals and backstories come together nicely, but the large selection means not everyone takes advantage of those qualities and gets a fitting ending or a substantial role near the finale. Like most of the game, the story is full of ups and downs; in this case there are just more ups.
the quarry might have been a great game if it had been released in 2017 or 2018 when these kinds of games were more new. But in 2022, after multiple titles that watered down this subsection of the genre, stagnated in it and were generally awful to mediocre, this latest game is in a less favorable position. It still has a fun enough story with likable characters and quite a bit of mystery, but the ways it tells that story are limited by the restrictive, all-too-familiar choice systems and inconsistent animation. Supermassive Games may one day surpass its magnum opus, but until it finds a more innovative way to tell its stories, it seems like the studio is stuck in a quarry of unrealized potential.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 6.5 equates to “Decent.” It does not reach its full potential and is an everyday experience.