If you’re a fan of interactive horror games, you’re probably aware of Supermassive Games, the studio behind the development of Until Dawn, The Quarry, and The Dark Pictures Anthology, a collection of games focused on making narrative choices and reacting to sudden gameplay prompts, in order to survive various horror movie scenarios, each focused on a new cast of original characters.
The latest title in The Dark Pictures Anthology, The Devil in Me, released a few weeks ago in mid October, and follows the story of a film crew creating a documentary centred on the story of Henry H. Holmes, a real world person often credited with being America’s first serial killer, although accounts of the scope and manner of his killings may have been exaggerated by historical tabloid accounts.
Holmes is suggested by The Devil in Me to have created an elaborate murder mansion in the late 1800’s, with shifting walls and rooms designed almost like traps from the movie Saw, to put those trapped inside into positions where they must be willing to kill, or endure extreme pain, to survive.
The story follows a documentary crew visiting a recreation of this alledged murder house, owned by a private collector, but quickly shifts into the crew having to survive the night, as the house is proven to contain true death traps of its own.
While The Devil in Me does contain some accessibility settings support, and offers settings somewhat comparable to other Dark Pictures Anthology titles, I was still a little disappointed playing through the game when it comes to its level of accessibility support.
Supermassive Games’ most recent interactive horror game, The Quarry, released back in the summer of 2022, and featured a series of accessibility settings which had not previously been seen in The Dark Pictures Anthology releases, or other titles from Supermassive Games.
The Devil in Me, while comparable to other titles in The Dark Pictures Anthology, feels like a step backwards in accessibility when compared to The Quarry, in ways that feel important to address.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to be talking about the accessibility support settings seen in The Devil in Me. We’re going to discuss the settings that are present, the settings that are lacking compared to the Quarry, and why a step backward like this from a developer is disappointing to see, even if I can understand how it likely happened.
In terms of accessibility settings that are present in The Quarry, players can alter the game’s camera sensitivity, aiming and object inspection analogue stick inversion, alter game brightness, alter sliders for music, dialogue and sound effect volumes independently, as well as switch on sidebars with tutorial information, displayed during gameplay.
Subtitles can be switched on, but not closed captions, with some ambient dialogue left out of subtitle files entirely.
Subtitles can have a background placed behind them, of alterable opacity, as well as having their size increased, but the largest size available is still not as large as some comparable titles. Subtitle colour can be set to change per speaking character, and subtitles can be set to show a speaker’s name when they speak.
Subtitles generally appear and disappear at the correct time, lined up with speech, which is one area where this game does perform better than The Quarry, which we will compare it to in a bit more depth shortly.
Text for narrative choices, and sub choices, can also be increased in size, but even at their largest size it can sometimes be smaller than would be ideal.
The game also automatically converts handwritten text on documents into typed text on screen, but is not perfect about always doing this for every single piece of text found in the game.
Players can change all in-game text to a dyslexia friendly alternative font, which appears to be Open Dyslexic, and does include changing menu text font, not just subtitles or in-game text summaries. This is an improvement over The Quarry as well, which did not change its font in game menus at launch when selecting its Dyslexia Friendly font setting.
The Devil in Me also offers players the option to change all quick time events to require the same single button to be pressed for completion (the X button on PlayStation rather than randomised face button inputs). Button mashing sequences can be changed to button holds, and Quick Time Events and combat encounters can have their completion timers disabled.
While button mashing events can be switched to button holds, there is no option to disable the timers on those events entierly. Additionally, there are moments in the game where players are expected to tap a button in time with a heartbeat, but that minigame doesn’t have an accessibility setting dedicated to making it easier, or making it impossible to fail.
The Devil in Me does feature difficulty settings, but does not label what they actually change for the player. One of the aspects they change is the difficulty of those heartbeat minigames, changing prompts from being double taps into single presses, but this is not explained, or set as its own accessibility setting.
Players in Movie [Night] local multiplayer can set their difficulty modes independently of each other but, importantly, cannot set their accessibility settings independently.
Lastly, The Devil in Me allows players who have failed a quick time prompt or narrative choice, and want to redo that moment of the story, the option of restarting their current playthrough from the start of any currently completed chapter, a feature disappointingly absent from The Quarry, which required you to finish an entire playthrough of the game before gaining access to scene select. It’s unfortunate that The Devil in Me autosaves frequently and does not allow for manual saves, in some cases necessitating an entire chapter replay to retry a single moment, but it’s still better than not allowing chapter select at all mid way through a first playthrough.
While The Devil in Me does feature a decent number of accessibility settings, and I do appreciate their inclusion, this is where I want to start talking about some of the settings that were seen in The Quarry, which are absent in The Devil in Me, which I was disappointed not to see come to The Dark Pictures Anthology’s newest release.
While The Devil in Me only allows for the disabling of timers entirely on quick time events and combat encounters, The Quarry allowed for players to set the timer length for quick time events, combat encounters, and narrative choices, choosing from short, medium, and long timers, with the option additionally for players to succeed at quick time prompts automatically if the longest timer was not long enough for them.
While The Devil in Me allows players to turn button mash prompts into holds, The Quarry allowed for those moments to be autocompleted, if prolonged button holds were also an issue for the player.
For combat encounters, The Quarry had options for aim assist, to help aim at the correct spot on an enemy, as well as options for automatically succeeding at those events.
The Quarry also contained a mode called Movie Mode which allowed players who struggle with gameplay, even with these accessibility options, to watch the game’s story as a movie, either with every character living, every character dying, or with a selection of choices at the start of the game dictating character behaviour, and having an impact on how the story would play out, an option also not present in The Devil in Me.
I want to be clear that I do understand the situation here. The Devil in Me was likely made by the same team within Supermassive who created the past Dark Pictures Anthology titles, concurrently with the development of The Quarry by a separate team, and was likely built on the basis of the previous games in its series to ensure a quick turn around, rather than built more from the ground up like The Quarry likely was, a lengthier title not part of the series. However, I still think that the backward step in accessibility, within a studio, is important to discuss.
Prior to the release of The Devil in Me, there was no announcement made by the studio that this title would not feature the same level of accessibility support seen in The Quarry. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that when you buy a new game from a developer that plays very mechanically similar to the last title they released, that most of the accessibility support seen will be the same. I certainly had that expectation, and was actively disappointed not to be able to find settings I had found useful while playing their previous title.
I think that, for The Devil in Me, it is perhaps excusable or understandable that this is the case, but what I want to emphasise here is the importance of seeing some of these settings come to Directive 2080, the next game in the Dark Pictures series, likely to release next year.
If your studio has improved the level of accessibility offered in one of your games, it’s important that knowledge be shared among teams within the studio. I don’t want to see the next Dark Pictures Anthology title release without these improved settings options, as they are genuinely useful steps forward that they have the expertise and knowledge to implement.