Full Moon Fever | Elements Of Fiction That Made "The Quarry" A Howling Good Time


With recent posts about Pantsing through Elden Ring or why the giraffe scene in The Last Of Us, it's no secret that video games are one of my favorite hobbies outside of writing.


And my absolute favorites to play are choice-based narratives.


It may be the Plantser in me, but I love the choose-your-own-adventure style of these games. Branching storylines and the use of the Butterfly Effect never ceases to pull me in. Although the choices you make as a player do not always make a significant impact, knowing that one poor decision made in the opening chapter can possibly have a drastic impact several hours into the game makes it so compelling. No two playthroughs are the same experience, and I'll often play these games a second time or hop over to YouTube and watch another person's playthrough to see other outcomes.


One title that has been a longstanding favorite of mine is Until Dawn. I was hooked on it when it first came out. Even thought it has its flaws, it's still a great tribute to horror flicks and cliches and just fun to play.


In the years after the success of Until Dawn, Supermassive Games released several more choose-your-own adventure games. These include The Inpatient that serves as a prequel to Until Dawn, Hidden Agenda, which introduced an intriguing element of competitive play, and The Dark Pictures Anthology, which is a collection of shorter horror experiences maintaining the same style as Until Dawn. As of this post, there are three installments with the fourth and final releasing this coming fall. Each of these games are okay, but it sometimes felt like something was missing from each of them.

When I learned about The Quarry, the latest release from Supermassive Games, it piqued my interest—even more so when it was being called the spiritual successor to Until Dawn.


I dodged spoilers for a solid month before finally firing up the PS4 and sinking my teeth into The Quarry.


And let me tell you, I had an absolute blast with it.


Many of the qualities that made Until Dawn so fun but were either missing or not as strong in the subsequent games resurfaced in The Quarry.


In fact, much to my surprise, I actually liked it more than Until Dawn.


I've written several posts about video games and what they can teach audiences about storytelling, and The Quarry is no exception. The reasons it not only gained my favor with the swiftness of a QTE but surpassed Until Dawn as my favorite horror game comes down to the way multiple elements of fiction were not only included but improved upon.


There are going to be significant spoilers for both Until Dawn and The Quarry from here on out. This is also not a review of either game, but rather an examination of how these elements of storytelling come into play.


There are two main factors that The Quarry improved on from Until Dawn, and it's time to explore both.


Wrangling Subplots

Both Until Dawn and The Quarry feature teens being stranded somewhere in the wilderness for a night of terrors. The first takes place at a ski lodge, while the other is set at a summer camp where the teens were counselors. In both, there is a mystery afoot, and the characters are not only running from their deaths but trying to figure out what is after them.


With Until Dawn, though, there is a bounty of red herrings.


I love the way Until Dawn throws so many horror tropes at you. It's designed to be a B-rated slasher flick you get to direct as the player, and it doesn't shy away from that whatsoever.


At the same time, it's almost a little heavy-handed in doing so.


Throughout the first half of the story, several enemies are introduced. Following a seance, a ghost-like figure starts to follow Chris and Ashley. Emily encounters the Flamethrower Guy (who doesn't have an actual name that I know of) who players are initially led to believe is a threat. And among all of this is the Psycho perusing Chris, Ashley, and Sam at various points.


The chaos enables the player to share in the characters' confusion as they not only evade these perils but try to figure out what is behind them. The problem is, it can feel a tad convoluted. You've got Thing A, Thing B, Thing C and so on.


Additionally, most of it ends up irrelevant when it is revealed that Josh is the Psycho and much of what the gang was up against was special effects. From the ghost to Josh's being sliced in half by a Saw-inspired contraption, it was all just Josh's misguided efforts to avenge his deceased sisters, whose deaths were believed to be the result of a prank gone wrong.


Not long after, the Flamethrower Guy is proven to be trying to help the teens, disproving another presumed threat, leaving only the wendigos, the real danger.

Though seen here and there, it's only around the midpoint that we start to really see what the characters of Until Dawn are up against.


Having all of these ongoing threads can sometimes weave together a multifaceted narrative, but it can also leave your readers feeling like they are being pulled in too many directions.


This is one of the reasons The Quarry felt more cohesive to me.


While you still have the human hunter character (or family, in this case), the only other danger going on is the werewolves, and they are introduced much sooner than the wendigos were in Until Dawn.


In The Quarry, these creatures were alluded to in the first scenes as Mr. H implores the counselors to remain indoors at night. Even though it's said to be due to the immediate start of hunting season, the full moon imagery early on indicates there's something more. Traditionally, werewolves are associated with full moons, so it was a reasonable inference to make and not something that would catch most people off-guard.


The Hag of Hackett's Quarry is also brought up by characters but treated more as a local myth than something to worry about, instead of the Psycho or ghosts in Until Dawn.


Once the truth starts to come out, we see how everything is interconnected, again much sooner than in Until Dawn.


With Until Dawn, it takes finding a bunch of clues to put the pieces together and realize that Hannah became one of the wendigos after consuming human flesh in the mines.


Meanwhile, the revelation that many of the Hacketts are werewolves comes around the midpoint of the game when Laura turns up alive and Kaylee Hackett is found dead in a pool.


Later, we learn how the family was cursed in the first place—and it actually ties into the Hag of Hackett's Quarry. Players are unknowingly introduced to this in the prologue of the game if they find clues like the poster for the travelling circus or the cage belonging to Silas the Dog-Boy.


The central mysteries of The Quarry feel more cohesive to me than those of Until Dawn. Limiting the number of questions made it easier to engage with the story.

In writing for any media, be it a video game, a play, or a novel, you often want to keep your audience guessing. Sprinkling breadcrumbs as you lead them to the truth at the heart of the story. It's no fun if there is nothing to untangle for ourselves or when we are not given room to make predictions.


But you also want to make sure you're not leading them down too many trails of breadcrumbs that leave them lost and overwhelmed as they try to make sense of things.


By keeping the primary focus to one supernatural being for the majority of the game, without dividing the attention between a number of false leads, The Quarry succeeded in pulling me in.


Characters

Following the tradition of slasher horror flicks, The Quarry and Until Dawn center around teenagers played by twenty- and thirty-somethings stranded in the woods. As the player, it's up to you to keep them alive.

Ensuring their survival might be what constitutes a win or a failure for some gamers, but it's often more effective when the characters are people we actually want to keep alive not just because the game tells us we should.


Characters can make or break a reader's enjoyment of a book, and the same can also be said for video games. We want to connect with these people. We want them to have some redeeming qualities or relatability.

In Until Dawn, the characters aren't exactly the best people on the planet, and that's what makes their survival an objective for players but not a desired goal.

The game opens with the characters vacationing at the ski lodge owned by Josh's family, where most of the group is setting up to prank Hannah. The scheme appears led by Emily after discovering Hannah's crush on her boyfriend, Mike. I like to believe that Sam's calling out to Hannah in the prologue was in the hope of warning her friend of the prank, as Sam seems unsure about going forward with it and isn't there when it happens. But everyone else involved is on board until it goes horribly wrong.

It becomes hard to empathize with them after that.

Hannah eventually flees the cabin, followed by her sister, Beth, and they ultimately fall off a cliff after being perused by an unknown creature.


On the anniversary of their disappearance and presumed deaths, the teens meet up at the cabin again. Right from the get-go, things are kind of awkward. Mike and Emily split up at some point, and are now with Jess and Matt, respectively. As if they have learned nothing from last year's incident, they start pranking each other. Constantly.


Not to mention that the characters are often bickering and talking about one another behind their backs.

Truth be told, they're not exactly likeable characters. Sam is fine, but she's absent for a lot of the game. Mike starts out as a jerk but he can start to come around depending on player choices; it's really his redemption arc that makes him my favorite character. For everyone else, though, what they go through on the mountain somehow feels karmic.


I've seen YouTubers cheer when the option to shoot Emily comes up and gleefully have Mike pull the trigger.


In a game about surviving the night, it's not ideal to have your audience rejoicing when they have the opportunity to kill off a character.


The Quarry gang isn't perfect, either. After all, the whole reason they ended up stuck at the camp an extra night is because Jacob sabotages the van so he can have a little more time with Emma and try to work things out with her. But for the most part, they're more endearing. I genuinely wanted to keep everyone alive, not just because it would grant me a trophy for doing so.


They feel more fleshed out. We learn a little about who they are outside of camp. Emma has a vlog or YouTube channel she films content for throughout the game. Laura wants to be a veterinarian. Ryan wants to go to school for animation but mentions fears about leaving his sister behind because of issues within his family.


Because these characters have depth, it's easy for players to become attached to them and want to get them out alive. They become less of a trope the way Until Dawn has Jess in the dumb blonde role and Chris fulfilling the nerd archetype and feel like genuine, multifaceted people.

Nick was my favorite, hands down.

I am an unashamed sucker for cinnamon roll characters, and the way Nick's gentle demeanor was eroded by the werewolf curse taking over his body did a terrific job of showing just how intimidating and fearsome the transformation was. Nick himself was lost to the curse, consumed by this horrid beast.


Even though there are plenty of disagreements and drama to be had in The Quarry, the characters put these things aside in order to band together for their own sake.


Meanwhile, Emily will intentionally try to trip Ashley as they're running into the ski lodge in the final chapter of Until Dawn. The petty squabbles and bickering endure even when there are much bigger things at stake.


The Quarry gang was just more fun to spend the night with—even though that night is spent in the company of werewolves.


What Until Dawn Did Better: The Fallout

The Quarry does have its flaws. There are plotholes like the camp being open for two months, which means there would have been a full moon and thus a werewolf rampage while the kids were there. The glitches and lagging I could mostly overlook until they cost me a character's life in the final chapter.


But there is one thing I feel Until Dawn handled better from a storytelling perspective: closure.


The epilogue of The Quarry consists of a montage showing the survivors and bodies of the characters who didn't make it out alive a little note about how they fared. This might include how they died or whether or not they are still infected.


Nick In The Epilogue

And it's all set to "Daydream Believer" by The Monkees. The juxtaposition between peppy 60s pop and bloody, decapitated bodies had me in hysterics.


Since the epilogue not only covers the main characters' fates, but those of the Hacketts, there is a lot to cover, and that unfortunately limits the information we get.


I wish we had seen more of the shifts the characters' relationships or their grappling with the horrors they have just endured.


This is one thing I think Until Dawn did better. The survivors of the ski lodge are picked up and brought into questioning by what I presume to be police officers. In these clips, they'll talk about what happened.

Mike On Jessica's Death

For example, depending on the player's choices, Emily might lash out against Matt and show no concern for him or ask if he's been found safe and demonstrate remorse for the way they were fighting that night.


The montage at the end of The Quarry lacks this closure. There is a lot that these characters have to reckon with, especially those who were or remain cursed depending on the scenario. To hear them talk about what it is like to be a werewolf or what they wish they had done differently would have been interesting, especially where dynamics are concerned.


Nick is one of the characters who is guaranteed to be bitten no matter what you do. This sweet guy becomes increasingly aggressive as he begins to transform into a literal monster. I would have loved to hear him reflect on his guilt if he killed Abi or Jacob, or fears his budding romance with Abi might have been ruined because he cannot imagine her forgiving him after everything he did as a werewolf. As heartbreaking as either would have been, it would have brought more closure.


Additionally, Jacob is never called out for his part in all of this even though it was literally his fault that he and the other camp counselors ended up dealing with werewolves all night.


Holding Jacob accountable through reflections on his actions could have been a poignant moment demonstrating character growth in a way beyond the scene of him crying alone in the woods. Granted, there could be a scene I haven't gotten yet that covers this in greater detail, but I wish those loose ends had been tied up more.

There is a reason The Quarry is regarded as a spiritual successor to Until Dawn. The similarities between them are hard to miss, from the stylistic to the feel of the experience. I played it twice in the week I downloaded it, and not just because I hadn't managed to successfully have everyone make it to sunrise. I genuinely, wholeheartedly enjoyed it.


Overall, The Quarry is another fantastic tribute to horror films that takes what made Until Dawn good and made it GREAT. It's not perfect but, then again, that's what makes it a howling good time.




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