Accessibility Impressions: Cyberpunk 2077

After 8 long years of waiting, Cyberpunk 2077 is here. But is it accessible? Here are our first impressions on the futuristic RPG’s accessibility.
A yellow wallpaper with futuristic text that says Cyberpunk. A cyborg looking woman is looking off to the side, holding a futuristic pistol and wearing combat clothing, while also rocking an awesome half-shaved pink hairstyle. She is epic. She is the future.

Introduction

Are you ready for some initial accessibility impressions, samurai!? 

Well, it is no surprise to anyone that Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most highly anticipated titles for this year. For eight straight years, there has been nonstop chatter about this action RPG and it’s unlimited potential. And after almost a decade of waiting and raving, it is finally here.

Johnny, played by Keanu Reeve, looks onto the viewer. He looks dirty and worn, but intense and epic. He is ready to freaking go.

The game is set in a near-future cityscape called Night City, where we play as an outlaw mercenary named V and follow our “friendly” (and somewhat questionable) anti-corporate terrorist, Johnny Silverhand. Players can heavily customize our main protagonist, and this storydriven game includes RPG elements such as an array of stat categories, plenty of character classes, several upgradable abilities, a gigantic weapon selection, and more.

Developed and published by CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077 is set to release for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Stadia on December 10, 2020.

A cityscape of a chaotic futuristic scene, featuring a man in tons of color tattoos and a crazy blue mohawk and cyborg glasses attacked the viewer with a samurai sword. People are rushing to his aid in the background.

Playing this game feels unbelievable to me, especially considering the long road it took to get here. Leading up to its release, Cyberpunk 2077 is already critically acclaimed for its attention to detail, advanced mechanics, in-depth exploration, and immersive narrative. A recent reviewer wrote that it is the “most exciting, emotional, and just plain fun RPGs” they have played in years. Everyone is boasting about the graphics and gameplay, and while there have been troubling instances of marketing strategies and mentions of bugs, the overall reception has been generally positive. And I gotta admit, it’s pretty freaking awesome.

However, is Cyberpunk 2077 accessible?

CD Projekt Red has shared some minimum accessibility information a day before the release, but otherwise gamers with disabilities are left completely in the dark and as a result, understandably hesitant to purchase Cyperpunk 2077. In this piece, Game Accessibility Nexus aims to share accessibility impressions and assist gamers as they decide if this is an accessible product for them. 

So buckle up, samurai, because this is going to be a ride.

A nighttime view of a street, where a person is driving on a futuristic motorcycle. Flashes of colorful, neon signs pass the driver, as they speed down the lane.

Author’s Note: As you read this piece, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me momoxmia@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter @momoxmia, and I will do my best to answer them. This is a review in progress, so updates will be added as we discover more about the gameplay. Last updated: Dec 10, 2020.

Settings

Diving straight into the settings, players can choose between 4 different difficulty settings at the beginning of the game. Each setting offers a brief, one sentence description, such as “combat will not pose a challenge” for easy mode.

Difficult settings offerings easy, normal, hard, and very hard.

The Accessibility Menu includes basic information mostly pertaining to aim assistance and motion sickness.

Aim assist is broken into 3 separate categories; “Standard” being the most amount of aim assist and what is automatically turned on for console users. Players can separately adjust the aim assist for ranged and melee combat. In addition to aim assist, players can also toggle on/off “Snap to Target,” which means that the cursor and/or crosshair automatically highlights over nearby targets. Again, this is automatically turned on.

The Accessibility Menu also includes a setting to adjust “Additive Camera Motions,” which changes the field of view to help prevent motion sickness and headaches. This feature can also be found under the Graphics Menu.

The last Accessibility Menu setting is “Weapon Sway,” which reduces weapon sway across the board, thus alleviating visual processing, headaches, and potential motion sickness.

A man in  futuristic battlegear shooting an advanced, colorful pistol and a nearby enemy. The scene is dark, with bright neon colors vibrating from signs in the background.

However, accessibility-related features are also sprinkled into other menus.

For one, we can adjust the brightness settings for the display in the “Gamma Correction,” which is typically for calibrating gameplay, but can also be an added plus for visual-related disabilities.

Within the Interface Menu, players can enable colorblind mode. There is UI color presets for protanopia, deuteranopia and tritanopia colorblindness.

Under the Sound Menu, we can adjust the dynamic range, volume sliders, and other sound effects. For example, we can change the volume of sound effects compared to music which, though a staple, is very critical for d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers. We can also mute detection sounds, which is nice for those with auditory processing disabilities who may need to toggle noises. Overall, the Sound Menu is quite typical.

Subtitle text can be adjusted to six different sizes and all text includes a speaker name regardless of your adjustments. Background opacity can be fine-tuned for this title, and I highly advise gamers use it since the current colors—which cannot be changed—blend in with the futuristic background. More so, we can toggle subtitles for cinematic vs. overheard, which is a great practice to see.

At this point, we are unable to enlarge overheard subtitles, which will cause major issues for d/Deaf gameplay. Additionally, there is no option to make the subtitles directional, which is a bummer to see.

For the Controls Menu, remapping the controls for keyboard and mouse is possible, with the exception of certain menu shortcuts. For console and/or controller gamers, all controllers are fully supported with hybrid mode. According to CD Projekt Red, UI adapts automatically to whichever controller is being used.

Players can also adjust the controller feedback and sensitivity. For instance, vibration feedback is fully supported, but can be fine-tuned and turned off. The controller’s sensitivity levels can be fine-tuned as well, and the sensitivity can be distinguished from first-person camera to third-person camera.

For more information on the accessibility for mobility and motor-related disabilities, please check out our Mobility Game Reviews.

The Graphics Menu is massive, and I mean MASSIVE. We can adjust anything from shadows to fog, all the way to ambient occlusions and color precession. We can also change the lens flare and motion blur, which is a game changer for neurological/visual accessibility and motion sickness.

But having the ability to change all these options, whether it be shadows or decals, can promote an accessible experience. Players calibrate the in-game environment to meet their individual needs. And that’s something we love to see!

Lastly, the game does offer some psychiatric related accessibility, including a nudity censor. It would also have been nice to have a gore filter, but the nudity filter is still much appreciated.

A never-ending accessibility settings “Wishlist”

Beyond what has already been mentioned, here are a few settings that I wish were in Cyberpunk 2077. I list these in hopes that as CD Projekt Red continues to patch the game, they will consider incorporating these critical accessibility features.

First, the game doesn’t include full menu narration, which is absolutely crucial for individuals who are blind, low vision, or sightless. Even if a gamer will require some sight assistance, having a full menu narration will make the interface clear and improve the overall accessibility. Especially once you realize just how many menus this game truly has. Even individuals with cognitive-related symptoms report that menu narration assists with general processing. So it would be an asset to gamers everywhere should this be added in a future patch.

For more information on accessibility for blind and low vision gaming, please check out our Blind / Low Vision Game Reviews.

Inside a home. A black man in a slick leather jacket is covered in purposeful scars, indicating cyborg surgery. He has wires coming out of his head and arms, as he turns to look at a black woman with her hair tied. She looks onward to the viewer, seeming to ask a question.

Additionally, it would be great if we could make adjustments to the size and opacity of the HUD. Right now, the health bar and ammo information is small, leaving more room to look at the general gameplay. More so, the UI and HUD utilizes a futuristic, slightly transparent aesthetic. Though the information is displayed in a thematic way that prioritizes the gameplay, it would be nice to have the ability to make UI items more opaque and increase the size of the HUD.

Someone is shorting at a bunch of sketchy enemies who are lined up on a staircase. The HUD is subtle and blends into the color scheme of the image. The health is in the top left, the map is top right, some scanning info is bottom left, and guns/ammo is bottom right.

From here, it would be great to give options to skip content and/or provide hints for certain challenges. The game itself is massive, with tons of super awesome and immersive content. But that can make things really overwhelming, especially in terms of cognitive and psychiatric accessibility. Allowing players to reasonably skip content or providing thorough hints can empower disabled gamers as they continue through the storyline. And trust me, the story is great and we definitely want to play it too!

Gameplay

Now that we have done a thorough walkthrough of the settings, how does everything hold up during the gameplay? Keep in mind, too, that just because it isn’t in the settings, doesn’t mean it isn’t in the game. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, fundamental design creates not only an immersive, but also accessible experience. Here is what is working so far and what needs improvement.

Combat & Driving mechanics

On the plus side, Cyberpunk 2077 can be played across a majority of platforms, making the game flexible for accessibility. Need a mouse and keyboard? No problem, it’s on the PC and you can rebind keys! Prefer a XAC? Perfect, it’s on the Xbox too!

It’s great that players are able to rebind the mouse/keyboard and fine-tune the sensitivity for controllers. Between the controls and aim assist, the game’s accessibility seems very promising.

However, I would like to note that as someone with very mild motor symptoms, I genuinely had difficulty with aiming in this game, even with aim assist. The responsiveness of the aiming was not particularly ideal, especially for moving targets or shooting from vehicles. On paper, the settings are all there, but in practice, the combat was very frustrating for me, as I missed significantly over half my rounds.

Additionally, during several portions of the game, it is difficult to locate enemies due to the Night City’s darkened landscape. Luckily, the game includes a basic enemy indicator, which appears as an arrow when the player is not hovering over. When the cursor faces the enemy, a bright red health bar appears.

We can also use our scanning ability to locate enemies, which is a major plus.

Beware, however, as driving can induce motion sickness, even with the current settings. The mechanics are too loose, a bit blurry, and mildly unresponsive, which also makes it generally more difficult to drive too.

Flash warnings

The game features flashing lights and patterns, which can cause headaches, migraines, visual disturbances, and in severe instances, seizures. Though some instances are tied to specific abilities or quests, others are completely unavoidable.

Liana Ruppert warns players that there are general triggers such as glitch-like effects and shaking patterns, as well as major triggers such as Braindances. Braindances are one of the core mechanics of the game that uses “rapid onslaught of white and red blinking LEDs” and throughout the gameplay, Braindances include several specific glitch-like animations that can trigger visual, cognitive, and neurological symptoms. At best, it causes eye strain, and at worse, it causes grand mal seizures.

And I can confirm as someone with a severe neurological disability, the flashing is not only disturbing, but inducing.

Though the CD Projekt Red is aware and wants to address this issue, there are currently no in-game ways to mitigate this barrier. Therefore, I would like to warn individuals with neurological and visual/cognitive processing disabilities to be careful with this title, as it may not be fully accessible to you.

Playing without sound

Whether you are d/Deaf/Hard of Hearing or you have another auditory related disability, it is important to consider subtitles and visual cues. And between the subtitles and UI/UX, Cyberpunk 2077 is playable, but lacks depth.

What is working so far is that a majority of sound cues have a corresponding visual cue. In fact, it works with the entire futuristic theme of using cybernetic eyes to see our landscape. The only issue is that there is not always a cue for every single off-screen event which, though is not a dealbreaker for me, can cause frustration.

The game also has in-depth subtitles, which though I wish we could change the color, the size of the subtitles are great. Every piece of dialogue, whether it be overheard or within the cinematic, has subtitles.

However, the subtitles have a “wall of text” issue. In these instances, I really wish we could go back and read the dialogue or even pause the game to read, as there is no way I’m going to read all of that while playing a game.

Additionally, the overheard subtitles are comically tiny. Unless you are standing on top of the speaker, they are completely illegible.

From here, there is a distinct lack of directionality for subtitles, which makes it confusing to navigate overlapping dialogue. As a Deaf gamer, I felt like an owl, as I was constantly rotating my camera to identify the speaker.

Lastly, there is a lot of dialogue… and I mean a lot. The ongoing dialogue, especially during combat, makes it hard to cognitively process all the information at once. It doesn’t help that the UI/UX uses the same color scheme as the rest of the gameplay. It makes the HUD seemingly blend into the futuristic landscape.

The gameplay overall is somewhat accessible without sound, but as a profoundly Deaf person, I would’ve been happier to see better features.

time sensitive dialogue

As previously mentioned, Cyberpunk 2077 has a ton of dialogue, which makes the overall gameplay fun and immersive. In addition to choosing your responses and changing aspects of the overall narrative, the game will oftentimes require players to select dialogue options very quickly.

This causes significant accessibility barriers, especially for hearing and cognitive accessibility. For one, players are still reading the subtitles as the time sensitive dialogue options pop-up, which makes the narrative surprisingly stressful. If you have a hearing disability, it’ll be a little more difficult to navigate this gameplay, and things only worsen for cognitive disabilities, as auditory and visual processing may be a barrier.

It would be ideal if players can toggle on/off the time sensitive dialogue option, as doing so relieves stress and creates an overall more accessible experience.

Navigating Content and challenges

On one hand, Cyberpunk 2077 has a ton of great content that never leaves a gamer bored. On the other hand, that is a lot of content to navigate.

When navigating the map, Cyberpunk 2077 does a fairly good job at clearly marking objectives. Cognitively, it is not too much information to process at once. Sometimes I just wouldn’t really understand what the location text means, which made things mildly frustrating. It felt a bit vague to me, and even when I would go check it out, I would quickly forget the major details since honestly? There are a lot of details.

Also visually, it would be nice if objective text was larger as well.

Overall, the HUD and UI/UX prove very helpful while navigating the vastness of Night City. The objective markers are clear on the screen, and the corresponding path is distinctly drawn on the player’s map.

However, sometimes the UI/UX and HUD will blend into the overall cityscape. I can’t tell you how many times I had to rotate my camera to read something clearer. It is thematic but, in terms of accessibility, not ideal. Take the instance below where the objective text is an identical color to a nearby wall.

It would be great if we could customize the HUD, whether it be to enlarge it or make the text background more opaque.

Navigating content during combat is also sometimes a little difficult, mostly due to the sheer amount of information provided at once. The HUD, though color-wise was not ideal, generally provided thorough information. It is just a matter of information overload and easily forgetting key mechanics/concepts. Especially keeping in mind that you need to listen to the dialogue and pay attention to the complex HUD, all while making sure you are actually doing your objective in realtime. The game doesn’t really have much of a safety net besides stuff like reminding the player which key to press.

Which by the way, I very much appreciate the input reminders.

Additionally, there is a ton of weapons, items, and upgradable abilities. For some that are struggling, it’s easy enough to look up a quick guide to answer a question. But for those who absolutely require cognitive accessibility, a game like Cyberpunk 2077 can become quickly overwhelming. And don’t forget, none of this has menu narration, making it significantly more difficult in terms of visual accessibility.

I understand that for hardcore RPG fans, extensive menus might be an asset. But for those with cognitive disabilities, it is information overloading.

In some ways, though, the cognitive accessibility works, such as the easy-to-comprehend vehicle directions within the HUD or ongoing tutorials during the onboarding stages. It is clear that a lot of time and love went into making a vast, but comprehensible game. However, there are no hints or suggestions throughout the gameplay, besides the basics for quest/map management. So in terms of navigating content and challenges, Cyberpunk 2077 has some room for improvement.

I would like to point out, however, that other challenges show surprising amounts of accessibility potential. During the Braindance—which if we can move past the flashing animation that is neurologically inducing—there is a thermal mode which is shockingly helpful for visual disabilities. I almost wonder if CD Projekt Red can figure out a way for players to use this filter during the rest of gameplay. It’s a stretch, but could be an accessibility game changer.

Concluding Thoughts

Is the game fun? Yes! The story is immersive, the combat is engaging, and the world is expansive and awesome to explore. Honestly? I couldn’t put the game down and it may very well be one of the best RPG’s I have ever played. If you don’t hear from me this week, you know why.

But is it accessible? While some things work for Cyberpunk 2077, there is still a vast amount of room for improvement. While the game itself is somewhat accessible for those with hearing-related disabilities, the animations can cause mild to severe neurological symptoms and processing overload. Additionally, Cyberpunk 2077 does not include standard cognitive accessibility features and overall, the game is not friendly towards blind, low vision, and sightless individuals. However, the game does include the ability to remap controls and fine-tune control sensitivity, as well as allows players to reduce animations that may cause motion sickness.

Overall, the game is a hit for accessibility in some ways, and a miss in other ways. The game is no where near Ubisoft or Naughty Dog level, but it is clear that the Cyberpunk 2077 designers have put time and effort into incorporating basic accessibility. And according to CD Projekt Red, there may be more accessibility features in future patches.

But until then, I look forward to Cyberpunk 2077‘s very accessible future.

Night City landscape. Hovercars are seen flying through the air. Buildings of bright colorful, neon signs in many languages. It's a cloudy, blue day. on the bottom right, an old broken down building. The future looks bright, but imperfect.

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