Dragon’s Dogma 2 – Our Accessibility Test

Lecture intro

The beginning of this year has been rich in new game releases, and Dragon’s Dogma 2 adds to it with an RPG that’s innovative in many ways. It’s hard to resist!

TypeAction
PublisherCapcom
DeveloperCapcom
Release dateFebruary 3, 2024
Rating16 years and over

Fans of this game franchise have had to wait for twelve years since Dragon’s Dogma was first released in 2012 on PS3 and Xbox 360 to get the second release. A version, Dark Arisen, was released in 2016,  mainly for PC ports and offering only a few new features.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is an open-world adventure game set in a medieval fantasy world inhabited by mages, warriors, goblins and dragons. There are also more creative creatures, like the playable feline Beastren people in Dragon’s Dogma 2.

You’ll embody the Arisen, a unique and central character in this world, and shape it through your quest to find your lost humanity, which the Dragon stole by eating your heart. This quest will be complicated by some powerful people greedily lusting after power, wishing to usurp the Arisen’s special status.

Dragon’s Dogma 2, therefore, takes up the main aspects of action-oriented role-playing games. Your character develops over time. You’ll need to collect equipment, grow in experience and improve your skills. You’ll have to choose one vocation among mage, fighter, archer, and thief. Other vocations will become available later on. Be careful because this choice will be decisive. A fighter won’t even know how to use a bow, and a mage will be very squishy. It’s not the same playstyle at all. Players will also need to explore a vast world and face hordes of enemies along the way. It has everything we love!

However, this game has some very specific elements. First, it has pawns. The Arisen’s influence extends beyond this world, and champions come from other worlds, incarnate in this one, and support you in your quest. However, these champions are not other players. They’re Non-Player Characters (NPCs) directed by AI. The main advantage is that it creates a balanced group with complementary skills and specializations. With three of these pawns by your side, including one as customizable as your own character, there’s no shortage of possible combinations.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 requires this level of character management complexity in all aspects of the game. The goal is to give you total independence, and it’s definitely been achieved for those who want that. The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to you to explore them. Want a healing potion? Alright, dozens of ingredient combinations create the same end product, and it’s up to you to find them through trial and error. Do you prefer direct healing? What cures poisoning? What cures petrification? And that’s just one aspect of the gameplay

Don’t expect a straightforward adventure. It’s a big world out there, and it’s filled with people who all have problems to solve. Requests rain down from all sides since you’re a chosen one, after all. And that’s not to mention that even more possibilities await you if curiosity pushes you to go off the beaten path and explore. Has an NPC you met on a street corner hinted at the existence of a dark cave to the north? Go check it out and find the den of a hidden epic monster!

In spirit, this game is closer to a very open Starfield than a very structured God of War.

An open game offers many game mechanics, each of which presents a possible pitfall when it comes to accessibility. So, when we’re talking about a VERY open game, we can expect to juggle with some problems. We’ll go over it all in detail, but here’s a spoiler alert! Juggling is not Dragon’s Dogma 2’s forte!

Lecture intro

What if I have a physical disability?

4,5/10

 

So, an “adventure game” is a game with very many actions, and Dragon’s Dogma 2 is no exception. We tested it on the console, and we found out that all the keys are used, and each is used for several actions.

In other words, concerning user comfort, you immediately see how you need to adapt. The first piece of good news is that you can remap every action, but… with big constraints. You can make several profiles, such as one profile for battle and another for exploration, and move from one to the other profile in-game, if necessary.

On the other hand, the game requires you to perform key combos, which concern frequent actions like quick healing or lantern lighting. In both cases, it’s L1 + “key.” You can change both by remapping them, but it always has to be a combination.

As Ivar told us, it’s easier to use the inventory (via the “start” key) than the quick heal combo (L1 + up arrow button). Time then freezes, and you can leisurely choose which potion is best suited to the situation at hand while restarting the game with a simple touch. But Bibi reminded us that this kind of thing is not explained in-game. It’s up to you to find out.

This means lots of key operations and compulsory combos, which can’t be assigned to a single key.

Concerning key manipulations, another complication comes from the need to hold down keys. It happens often and sometimes to confirm simple actions.

Some actions can be switched on or off. That means that you press the key once, and it maintains the action as if you were holding the key down. Press it a second time to deactivate the action.

That’s the case for sprinting, fortunately! There’s little fast travel, so you’ll be walking all the time. However, sprinting consumes stamina, and you have little at first. So you’ll spend your time sprinting, running out of stamina, and then sprinting again. As your character levels up, you’ll gain more with each level, and then stamina’s no longer a problem, but in the early stages, it’s pretty annoying.

Settings can be different depending on use, for example, for the camera, aiming or throwing.

Let’s review joystick setup to reduce key manipulations to a bare minimum. You’ll have very few things to manage in the beginning, and yet you’ll need the joystick a lot. You’ll need it, as usual, to move, point the camera and aim, but also for other more tiring activities such as handling ballistic weapons or cable car cranks. And that, as BibiMaster said, is much more tiring for hand muscles! For cable cars, your pawns can do it for you, but

 especially in terms of help with joysticks, this game provides the bare minimum. For people who have involuntary movements, you can’t adjust dead zones or automatically aim. An aiming option exists, but neither Ivar nor the team’s testers found it very helpful.

If you lack strength, you can compensate by using aim sensitivity, throwing, or lines of sight, but all these situations use the “camera” joystick, the one on the left.

For moving, which uses the right joystick, there isn’t any sensitivity setting, and since it’s often a good idea to position yourself well in battle and for the many trips on foot, joystick use can annoy and tire you. There’s “camera tracking,” but it’s to keep the camera behind the character, especially when you’re on a slope. So, there isn’t any camera lock on enemies, requiring you to manually re-aim every time the camera moves.

Here’s a little trick from Ivar’s experience: avoid melee combat and use an archer or mage! By using “auto-shoot,” i.e. shooting without aiming, the game targets the nearest opponent. So, it saves you from needing to aim. On the other hand, you won’t hit critical weak points on creatures without manually aiming.

In addition, ranged vocations are less exposed to damage. That said, Ivar found a downside to this technique: “Even if you stay well behind your melee pawns, enemies come looking for you.”

Another point about moving around is that you have to be careful where you step! In addition to taking fall damage, Michel, in the team, was traumatized by scaffolding. During our test, he got stuck between a rock and a scaffold with no way to get out. The only solution was to go to the last manual backup, not the automatic backup, which brought us back to the same place. So, we had to go back to the very beginning of the game and do everything all over again.

Note that you can deactivate handset vibrations. This can often be an important way to reduce muscle fatigue.

So, in Dragon’s Dogma 2, there are many keys, with combinations for essential actions that cannot be avoided through key remapping, frequent long keyholds, often a lot of key smashing during long fights, and very active use of joysticks. It’s a physically demanding game!

Therefore, there’s little help to alleviate this aspect, and the solution will certainly involve the use of pawns. These AI-directed characters accompany you everywhere, and if you opt for a ranged vocation for the reasons mentioned above, they’ll be your bodyguards. Melee pawns will shield you, and you can call on them for help with a command key if the enemy gets too close.

If you need to take a break, remember that opening the inventory freezes the fight. Resting a little during intense fights can be useful.

On the other hand, if, like Nico told us, you want to rely on stealth to avoid tiring fights … forget about it right now!! Your pawns talk all the time and rush at the enemy as soon as they see the slightest movement. They’re real berserkers!

An important point for PC players is that it’s possible to play in windowed mode to allow the use of third-party software. Ivar tested it with PlayAbility, software that allows you to use facial movements to replace keys. It works well, and the game doesn’t freeze.

So you can see how Dragon’s Dogma 2 is particularly physically demanding without offering much support to compensate for this. While third-party PC software may compensate for this shortcoming, this game shouldn’t be recommended to players with physical or coordination problems.

Lecture intro

What if I’m visually impaired?

3,5/10

 

And on a visual level? Hmm… it’s not much better, unfortunately. As we mentioned in the introduction, Dragon’s Dogma 2 aims to immerse you in a rich world by letting you discover and test ways to get around. All right! We like that, at least, as long as there are enough ways to manage the degree of “fend for yourself” in settings.

And for this game, that’s not really the case. Dragon’s Dogma 2 is beautiful graphically. It’s very rich in detail with a large display range. What’s more, its artistic direction aims to look as natural as possible.

Therefore, there aren’t any special visual markers, such as thicker lines, to make visual elements stand out. As we mentioned, there aren’t many settings to compensate for this lack of contrast. First, there isn’t any filter to manage color perception. Whether for the world or the interface, there isn’t any high contrast or color-blind filter.

Since natural contrast is low, even for the interface, you struggle to see the thin green ally health bars. They’re difficult to perceive in the forest, for example, yet you spend a lot of time there.

As we mentioned, the graphics menu is very basic. Apart from adjusting motion blur or brightness, there isn’t much else for settings on the console. Settings are a little more advanced on PCs, which offer more fine-tuning, but adjustments to graphic quality remain marginal; they’re not impactful aids dedicated to visual impairment.

Some interface elements are nevertheless useful, such as constantly displaying keys and their use. However, the interface is white-colored with no opacity or thickness. The viewfinder, contextual aids, and information on available actions, all of these essential game elements, become unreadable as soon as the environment gets a little too bright. Certain elements, such as poisoned, drenched, or burned states, are very small.

Opponents’ health bars are sparkly purple, so there’s a little more contrast, even if this contrast is often lost in the game’s graphical richness. Everything related to quest tracking, including mini-map icons, is yellow, so they’re less prone to color perception issues. However, you can’t adjust the size of anything, so the mini-map, which quickly gets overloaded with icons, is often unreadable.

Easily being able to spot resources and chests is essential in a game where gathering is vital in creating potions and equipment. Chests aren’t visually highlighted, and resources to be gathered shine only slightly. Since you have to pick them up often, you end up by recognizing them, but if you have trouble seeing them, that can present another issue. A green plant in the middle of a green forest can be hard to see, and yet, it’s the indispensable basis for healing potions. So, plants’ slight shimmer won’t help you if your eyesight is impaired, and since there aren’t any sound cues, like a sound when passing near a collectible object, you could miss a lot of materials.

Let’s stay focused on the interface by reviewing subtitles. The game is in English or Japanese only, and the subtitles are activated by default. However, these are white, and you can’t change their size. There isn’t any zoom option, either. The dark subtitle background option is so trivial that it won’t help you much, especially since it only applies to active discussions. There isn’t any background behind the NPC’s subtitles, whose text is displayed above their heads. So, just like the rest of the interface, it could rapidly bother you, even if you have only a slight visual impairment.

Speaking of text, note that the menu interface works like overlapping pages to create sub-menus. Since the depth of a sub-menu can quickly reach three or four levels, the most useful text is found in the right-hand third of the screen. Instructions should remain legible in a classic font, but without any zoom, the overlay effect can be disturbing.

Now, we arrive at the main gameplay element: battle. It’s a big part of the game since there are many battles. In the beginning, there are goblin camps every ten meters. Without auto-relock, you have to constantly judge the distance between your position, that of highly mobile enemies and that of your pawns, which are just as mobile. That’s a lot of information to take into account before positioning yourself correctly to attack.

First of all, you don’t know where your enemies are. Their position isn’t displayed on a compass or the mini-map. There isn’t any alert system either, nor a positional arrow to indicate their location. Your only source of information comes from what you can see.

Therefore, you can’t tell when a fight’s about to break out. Your pawns rush the enemy, and enemies often blend into the background without any interface element to help identify them. In short, stealth isn’t an option. Fights begin without any control, and the only indication that a battle is about to happen is that the music becomes epic. Even so, the only thing that gives you a few seconds of forewarning is limited to what you can see. So, fights are going to be very difficult to manage if you have limited vision.

Finally, the three-dimensional nature of the environment means that there will necessarily be high places. There’s nothing to prevent falls, which can cause damage. There aren’t any specific sounds to indicate collisions, but your character does stop running. So, despite this last positive point, it will be impossible for a visually impaired player to find the right direction and collect resources. The game is, therefore, inaccessible to them.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 has too few visual aids for a visually impaired person to fully enjoy the game. We, therefore, advise against it if this is your case.

 

Lecture intro

What if I have hearing loss?

6 / 10

 

When playing with a certain amount of hearing loss, you’ll mainly focus on visual information so as not to miss anything and reinforce what is perceived. And it starts, of course, with all the verbal exchanges, especially in an adventure game where the story is important. So if it’s in English or Japanese, and you don’t speak those languages, you’ll be even more dependent on subtitles!

Regarding this point, as we mentioned in the previous chapter, subtitles are present by default. So that’s great, but that’s, unfortunately, the only positive point at this level. The writing is medium-sized and in a classic font, so that’s okay, but from the very first cutscene, you quickly understand that there isn’t any shaded subtitle background and that the speaker remains out of sight. In addition, not everything is included in subtitles, such as surrounding characters’ reactions. There isn’t any audio description, either.

So we rushed to the settings to change all that because it’s essential. Our disappointment was great. When you see that, apart from language choice and deactivating subtitles, the only option available is “subtitle shading,” it’s hard to hold back an “Excuse me?!” once you activate it. In terms of shading, there’s a slight darkening in a gradient towards the bottom edge of the screen. In other words, the first line of subtitles is barely affected at all, and the effect is really subtle.

Our worries were quickly confirmed when we saw that this already minimal option was only active during direct conversations. That is when you’re in front of an NPC in a one-on-one discussion. However, a lot of information comes from NPCs around you, and their subtitles are displayed over their heads in fine print without any shading, even if you activate this option.

In other words, if you can’t see your pawns, you won’t see their subtitles, either, and if you have several pawns, you’ll have to rotate the screen to be able to read an entire conversation, for example. If you’re hard of hearing and can’t understand the original audio version, you’ll have no way of knowing that an off-camera NPC is explaining the location of a cave where the treasure you’re looking for is hidden. You’ll have to transform into a weather vane and spin around constantly to make sure you don’t miss anything! That is if the background environment is dark enough to read the subtitles.

This is a game in which your team includes several allies who can be other players’ pawns, whether the other players are friends or not. However, this is purely a single-player game. These allies are directed by AI, and there isn’t any cooperative play, so if your hearing allows you to perceive sounds, you won’t have any problems related to communication between players.

The audio sources menu is quite comprehensive, and there are plenty of audio sources available, but this setting is by origin, not by importance.

For example, NPCs, pawns, and enemies are all very talkative. It’s, therefore, tempting to silence some of them, but they provide useful information as well as random chit-chat. So it’s hard to say, “Come on, pawns only say ‘blah, blah, blah,’ so I’ll turn off their chatter to better hear only enemies.” Sometimes, pawns provide important information, such as, “Hey, I know this area; there’s a safe over there!” So, it’s impossible to permanently muzzle them, and we have to keep all three sound sources active. We would have preferred a “background conversation/game information” setting.

In terms of gameplay, your main difficulty will be managing enemies. As we explained above, there’s very little information about when a fight breaks out. Only the music changes when a battle starts, so if you can’t hear it, you won’t necessarily see that an out-of-sight pawn jumped straight into a goblin camp or pulled a troll. So you’ll always need to keep an eye on your three pawns!

There isn’t any enemy tracking system once in combat. Again, the only possible solution is to have eyes on the back of your head, especially since enemies tend to jump on you, literally, from far away. Ranged enemies will also be a pain because it takes some time to spot them.

We didn’t identify any solely sound-based gameplay elements. However, some game phases might be a slog for you because of the difficulty in obtaining the necessary information.

 

Lecture intro

What if I have a cognitive disability?

4 / 10

 

Let’s now turn to the cognitive aspect of Dragon’s Dogma 2. So, let’s get straight to the point: this is a game with audio in English or Japanese. If you can’t speak either [this article was originally written in French], it means that you’ll need to rely only on text, and there isn’t any screen reader! It would, therefore, be difficult for someone who isn’t comfortable with reading to play. Subtitles, especially those from NPCs and cutscenes, don’t appear for long. In direct conversations, you choose when to move on to the next text.

That being said, let’s take a look at how much support you get in-game and how many analytical and concentration skills you’ll need. It’s an RPG adventure game, so we know that this game type can be difficult for people with cognitive impairments. These types of games have several mechanics that often overlap and include character and resource management.

That’s exactly the case in Dragon’s Dogma 2. In fact, you’ll have to manage those at every level!

It’s a role-playing game, so you’ll have to manage your character. It has a vocation, skills, and leveling up: it’s a classic. Few games guide you in these choices, even if we’ve already encountered a few that go as far as automating them. In games where adventure takes the lead, the RPG part is more “cosmetic” to vary its play style a little.

As for this game, resourcefulness is key. Possibilities are endless, and nothing is automated to let you experiment. You’ll find all the explanations in the main menu, then “quests,” then in the “tutorial logbook” menu, arranged by themes under “battle,” “exploration,” and finally on pages by subject. So, there are four levels of submenus with every possibility of getting lost along the way. Pages are illustrated with an image, but most of the information is provided in writing.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 has no difficulty settings, and we felt that from the first goblin!! Everyone fell into that trap. Your ability to manage enemies will depend on your equipment and sometimes having a weapon adapted to the enemy you’re facing. This is common in many RPGs, but it has a strong impact in Dragon’s Dogma 2.

It’ll also be important to choose your allied pawns carefully. You’ll need a balanced team to be more effective, and the complexity of the main character’s development is doubled since your main pawn must also level up its abilities and equipment. Finally, we quickly realized that strategy is important. An enemy hit at a critical point with the right weapon while standing at the right spot can down it in two or three hits. Whereas, if you shoot straight in front of you with a basic weapon, you’ll need to hit it dozens of times.

Joel and Steven had frustrating experiences because they have difficulty concentrating or taking the time to analyze, and so had an unfortunate tendency to run straight into a fight. Players with problems concentrating or who are very impulsive will, therefore, have great difficulty.

Add to all this complexity other aspects requiring management, such as enemies and the fact that the environment can also poison, burn or drench you, which are only treatable using the right potion. Nico could drink his hard-earned healing potions all day, but he only temporarily regained health without removing the poisoned status that continued to inflict damage.

Another aspect of management involves weight. Characters can only carry a limited amount of weight, so if you carry too much, you’ll exhaust yourself. It’s up to you to distribute objects among your pawns. Want another layer? Time. Your ingredients will change over time. If you collect meat while hunting, for example, it’ll rot after a while. And rotten meat poisons you unless it’s cooked, and then it’ll give you bonuses.

Want one last layer to manage? Crafting! And it’s not the easiest thing. You’ll find lots of resources, such as plants, stones, and metals, and combining them will give you different products. One plant combined with mushrooms will create a stamina potion, while the same plant with flowers will create a healing potion. Dozens of combinations are possible and will give you this basic potion.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is, therefore, a very complex game. This is so because of the many layers of management and the fact that you have to discover things for yourself. If you’re missing information, you’ll only find instructions in written form buried in the fourth submenu.

As we mentioned above, fights are tactical. In close combat, your character will attack the nearest enemy if you’re in the right position. Ranged shots are automatic and will aim at the target, but in both cases, this automated aspect is not enough to get by. You’re going to need a strategy that takes your allies into account.

With three pawns and sometimes NPC allies, when you come across a camp of goblins, the fight quickly becomes confusing. At one point, we had an escort when we met goblins, and there were more than ten characters on-screen, all fighting with fireballs, arrows, and melee attacks.

If it all becomes too confusing, just open the inventory: this pauses the fight while you take a breather!

Now, let’s address in-game support, that is, knowing what you should do first. As for the rest, you’re on your own. In fact, you’re going to have a lot of quests. No sooner do you enter a village than NPCs throw themselves at you to tell you about their misfortunes and ask you for help. These quests are added to your quest log in chronological order without any priority. You can follow the one that appears as a yellow icon on your mini-map. This will be the only indication of what you have to do.

Listen to your pawns because they’ll often give you tips on what’s around and sometimes serve as a “GPS.” If they know your current quest, they’ll show you which road to take to get there, and then, all you have to do is follow them. However, most of the time, you’ll just have to look around for yourself!

Finally, let’s mention the backup system, which may be quite problematic for some. The game auto-saves often, but this is just an automatic backup, which is only useful in the very short term, for example, if you die. In fact, the “real” backup is made when you rest at a camp or inn. If you leave the game without resting at an inn or if you get stuck behind scaffolding, for example, then you’ll resurrect at the last inn, and if that was 10 hours ago, well then, you’ve lost all that time!

As you can see, this is a complex game requiring a lot of management skills, even in its original language version. It emphasizes players’ resourcefulness in understanding the game without any guidance. Not many people with cognitive disabilities will easily be able to find their way around. In any case, this was the general feeling among our team of testers.

 

Lecture intro

    What We Think

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a good game in many respects, but the facts are clear when it comes to accessibility. It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, for many players with disabilities to play.

Our initial concern at launch, when we didn’t see an accessibility tab under settings, was quickly confirmed, and we imagine that this was a fundamental design decision. What’s special about this game is that it offers players total independence. In fact, this is true at every level: in character development, in the way you approach your adventure, in exploring and so on. The game doesn’t direct you, but lets you get carried away by your adventure.

However, the freedom to discover the world the way it is doesn’t have to mean having a lack of settings. The consequence is that if you aren’t able to approach this world exactly as intended, you remain locked out.

When you see the accessibility work that’s been carried out on Street Fighter 6, we suspect that this lack of accessibility doesn’t reflect Capcom’s fundamental policy but rather a specific identity for Dragon’s Dogma 2. So we’ll have to wait for their next title to be released without being able to take advantage of this one!

Review Scores

4.5
  • moteur - 4
  • visuel - 4
  • auditif - 6
  • cognitif - 4

We'd love to hear what you think! What difficulties have you encountered with this or other games?