In a recent interview with 3DJuegos, Neil Drukmann, Vice President of Naughty Dog and co-creator of The Last Of Us, spoke about the accessibility options in The Last Of Us Part 2. While accessibility is important in all games, from the smallest indie to the biggest blockbuster, I think they’re particularly important in a game like The Last Of Us Part 2.
Part of making a game accessible to all players is assessing when it’s too difficult. Games such as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice are deliberately challenging, it’s in their design. For Sekiro, and games like it in the soulslike genre, there has long been a debate over whether an easy mode should be implemented. Many argue that this would allow unskilled players to enjoy the story more, but that isn’t really how the games work.
Story is told through item descriptions in Sekiro, Dark Souls, and most other soulslikes. Exploring the menus and analysing each item is part of the game, and subsequently an easy mode wouldn’t help anyone enjoy the story more.
But The Last Of Us Part 2 is different. The game tells a story through every aspect, from the design of the world, the various enemy factions, the infection that’s ravaged the world, and most importantly through the characters themselves. In a game like The Last Of Us Part 2, I believe that an easy mode, or a game mode that focuses less on challenge and more on allowing the player to enjoy the experience, is entirely essential.
Indeed, without an easy mode, many gamers could give up on The Last Of Us Part 2. From what those who were at the recent preview event have said, the game’s new mechanics make it far more difficult than the original. Ellie has to contend with smarter enemies, dogs, and brand new types of infected, not to mention whatever else the game throws at her.
Drukmann has said that The Last Of Us Part 2 will include accessibility options to cater for players of all skill levels. While this obviously refers to more than just difficulty modes, I think that an easy mode, or game mode that makes it easier to take the story in, will be a big part of what makes The Last Of Us Part 2 a hit with casual gamers, or people who don’t play games apart from The Last Of Us Part 2.
The accessibility options in The Last Of Us Part 2 go beyond making the game easy for those who need it to be though. Druckmann also spoke about how the game has options so that those with different visual or auditory ability will also be able to enjoy the game. He said that this is important to the team, because they want everyone to be able to enjoy the story.
Speaking about those accessibility options, Druckmann said that they won’t impact the tension of the story. The Last Of Us Part 2 has a story that will ramp up the tension throughout each chapter, leading to a crescendo at the end that leaves players reeling. This feeling is a huge part of the game, and without it you could argue that you can’t enjoy the story.
This is why it’s important that not only is there a way for less skilled gamers to enjoy the story of The Last Of Us Part 2, but also that there’s a way for those who are partially sighted, partially or totally deaf, or differently able in any number of other ways to enjoy the story too.
Naughty Dog is making a considered effort to make their game, a huge blockbuster hit, as accessible as possible. The game is going to be the biggest hit of 2020 for a certainty, and will sell itself off of the anticipation for it alone. So it’s refreshing to see the developer going to such great lengths to ensure that their smaller audience demographics will enjoy the same experience as their largest.