If you’re a fan of interactive horror games, you might have noticed that a couple of weeks ago, a game called The Quarry released. Developed by Supermassive Games who are the team behind Until Dawn, and The Dark Pictures Anthology, The Quarry focuses on a group of camp councillers who have to survive a night at an abandoned quarry, after all of the kids have left summer camp for the year.
If you look through all of Supermassive Games’ previous releases, starting with Until Dawn and then working through all of the Dark Pictures Anthology titles, every time the studio’s released a new game, they seem to have made an effort to improve what they offer in terms of accessibility, and with that in mind I was very curious to check out The Quarry, and see if the game stands up to their previous work in terms of accessibility, and if there weas anything new on offer that might be interesting to disabled players.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to be talking about The Quarry. We’re going to talk about what accessibility settings the game has, we’re going to talk about where it could have been improved in certain areas to make it more accessible to disabled players, and we’re going to talk about the ways that it stacks up when compared to other Supermassive Games titles.
Starting with the accessibility settings that are offered outside of The Quarry’s dedicated accessibility menu, players have a few separate sliders for changing the game’s brightness, but they’re all a little confusingly presented. Rather than a single brightness setting, there’s one slider for UI brightness, one for max display brightness, and one for HDR Max Brightness.
While the UI Brightness slider has a noticeable impact, the Max Display Brightness and Max HDR Brightness settings both have a much more negligible impact on overall brightness. This is disappointing, as several sections of The Quarry are VERY visually dark, and for players with poor eyesight it’s very difficult to use brightness settings here to help improve visibility of the darkest scenes.
In terms of audio settings, The Quarry allows players to alter the volume mix of music, sound effects, and dialogue independently of each other, which is always appreciated as a baseline level of accessibility support.
While there’s no way to preview your changes inside the menu itself, The Quarry does feature some pretty robust accessibility settings options regarding subtitles.
Subtitle size can be increased a couple of times from its default size, with the largest size being pretty decently large on screen.
Players can also add a background behind subtitles to improve legibility, with options of either semi transparent black, or solid black or yellow backgrounds.
New lines of dialogue in the subtitles can be separated out from each other, either by starting each new line with a hyphen, or by including speaker name tags to make it more clear who is speaking at any given time.
Additionally, in-game text can be changed to the font Open Dyslexic, which is designed to be more easy to read for Dyslexic players, but this can only be changed for in-game subtitles, and not text in menus, meaning that while navigating menus players will still need to read a stylised pixel font. This isn’t a huge issue, but is an area that we would like to see improved in future.
Lastly for subtitles, you can also change the colour of subtitle text, so that each character who speaks has a unique text colour associated with them.
While the options for subtitles are generally solid, they unfortunately don’t always line up perfectly with their audio counterparts, which can limit their usefulness if you’re a disabled player who uses subtitles alongside spoken dialogue to maintain focus. Some subtitles will appear upto a couple of seconds before or after their spoken counterpart dialogue.
Additionally, if you forget how to do any of the game’s main mechanics, either due to memory issues, lack of focus, or just due to a gap of time spent not playing the game, dedicated tutorials allow for revisiting explanations of mechanics, explained using colourful and engaging narrated cartoons.
With those settings explained, let’s get to the dedicated accessibility menu, which largely, but not entirely, focuses on reducing gameplay execution barriers to completing the game.
Quick Time Events in The Quarry can be changed from their default, where a specific button or stick direction needs to be input quickly to progress. One option allows players to progress by pressing any analogue stick or D-Pad direction within the given time limit, or to set quick time events to automatically complete, for players who may struggle to quickly process a requested direction, and accurately input that direction without hitting any other buttons in the process.
Additionally, for players who struggle with short time limits for quick time events, narrative choices, or interruption prompts, the default timer in game can be increased to medium, long, or max time allowance. If the max time allowance for interruptions is not long enough for a player, there is also the option for these prompts to be automatically completed.
While I appreciate these increased time options, and am glad they can be independently set for each of the three interaction types, it’s a shame that there’s is no option for players to turn the timer off entirely, without automatically completing the prompts, to allow the player to respond themselves whenever they happen to be ready.
For players who struggle with button mashing, in-game moments that would usually require mashing can be changed to either a button hold, a single tap of the requested button rather than mashing, or be set to auto complete.
Don’t breathe moments, which require a sense of rhythmic timing, and the ability to respond reliably at the right time, can be set to auto complete, but don’t have any options to simply increase the range of time that counts as a success.
For combat encounters, or other moments where the player needs to aim at a target, there are options to either switch on a degree of aim assist, to help guide your reticle slightly toward the target, or an option to automatically succeed these prompts.
The accessibility settings menu contains options to apply filters for three of the most common types of colorblindness.
Now, the last thing I want to talk about regarding The Quarry is not strictly an accessibility feature, but is a mode the game offers which may allow players whose disabilities entirely prevent them from playing to still control the outcome of a custom version of The Quarry’s story.
The Quarry contains a mode called Movie Mode, designed to allow for watching the game’s story play out as a non-interactive movie rather than an interactive video game.
While the first two options this mode provides are static, a playthrough where everyone survives, or one where everyone dies, the third option allows a player to customise the personality of each character, and how they would respond to certain situations. With this set up, players can experience the story of The Quarry, customised to the choices they would like to see play out, without requiring any inputs once the story begins.
The only negative of note with this mode that needs to be said is that, if no controller inputs are detected for a long enough time, your controller will automatically disconnect, and the narrative will pause, so you will need to either be able to turn the controller back on every so often, or need to occasionally press a button or move a control stick to keep the controller from disconnecting.
While I do have a couple of small complaints, and things that I would like to have seen done differently in terms of Accessibility in The Quarry, overall it’s very difficult to come up with anything that I really want to complain about. When the biggest complaints I have are the fact that I can’t preview settings changes while still in the menu, and the option for Open Dyslexic only applies to subtitles and not the in menu text, those are really small complaints to have in the grand scheme of things, and if that’s the most I have to say negative about your accessibility, you’ve done a pretty good job.
While movie mode in The Quarry is clearly not intended to be an accessibility offering, the potential of using it that way is really interesting. I’ve watched playthroughs of games on YouTube before where I wasn’t technically skilled enough with my hands to be able to play through them, and I still wanted to know what was going to happen, but I didn’t have any control over narrative moments, and the idea of a game offering a mode where I don’t have to engage with gameplay, where some of that can be automated, but I still have the option to make narrative choices and experience a custom playthrough that feels like my own, is a really interesting idea to have on the table.
While I would never want something like Movie Mode in The Quarry to be a replacement for an offering of robust accessibility settings, I think that offering it alongside robust accessibility settings is a really interesting proposition. There are going to be some players who will turn on every possible accessibility setting, and still find your game difficult to play, and if this as a last ditch effort still allows them to have a custom experience with your game, that could be a really potentially interesting future for accessibility.