Dishonored is the latest game from Arkane Studios, and I had a blast playing it. However, I finished my play through with a profound feeling of disappointment—not because it was a bad game, but simply because it fell just shy of being completely accessible for all players with physical disabilities.
It is impossible to communicate how much I enjoyed playing this game. Dishonored gives the player choices in a way unlike any other first person adventure game on the market. For any given situation there are dozens of ways of overcoming obstacles. This, and the ability to switch between techniques fluidly, means that there should always be an accessible path no matter what a player’s disability.
Also, a big plus is the fact that this game features a completely comprehensive subtitle system. Previous games that rely heavily on stealth have been inaccessible to gamers with hearing disabilities, since in most stealth games the player must be able to hear the guards becoming alert to the player’s actions. This is not a problem in Dishonored, since there is an option that allows everything—even non-verbal sounds such as laughter—to be subtitled. The result is, even though Dishonored uses sound to communicate important information (like its predecessors in the stealth genre), it does not rely solely on sound because of the subtitles system and the graphical representation for an enemy’s alertness level. This means that players with hearing disabilities should have no major issues with Dishonored.
Similarly, players with sight disabilities should not find any hidden barriers in Dishonored, since its art style overstates everything. Whale oil canisters are huge, glowing tubes that power everything, and the guards are hulking characters who are extremely visible even at great distances. As a result, everything major should be visible to the sight impaired. The only part where color seems to matter is in the distinction between rats. There are white rats and brown rats. And depending on what bone charms the player has, some rats may treat you as friends, while others try to eat you. But since this is only one facet of a game that offers so much choice, it shouldn’t necessarily affect a colorblind gamer’s enjoyment of the game, especially since the contrast between the two colors is high.
The only unfortunate thing about Dishonored is that it has limited controller customization, and no matter which of the four preset controller layouts is used, a player will always have to rely on the shoulder buttons and triggers to execute attacks and spells. As a result, I found myself repeatedly dying because I could not wrap my hands around the controller in such a way as to make attacking multiple enemies at once effective. Also, PS3 players may want to be wary of this game in general, since the PS3 controller does not sit flat on a table or lap tray without running the risk of pressing the triggers accidentally.
But because Dishonored offers so many pathways around the enemies and allows players to take their time and plan their moves, even a poor controller layout cannot make Dishonored less than Thoroughly Accessible. In general, I would highly recommend Dishonored. It features a great story and the kind of gameplay that rewards thinking outside the box and experimenting with different techniques. As a result, no matter what a player’s disability, all that is needed to enjoy this game is a little imagination and perseverance.
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Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Barrier Free
Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Auditory Rating: Barrier Free
Released For: XBox 360, PS3, PC
ESRB Rating: M
GameInformer Score: 8.75
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