XCOM: Enemy Unknown accessibility review

Josh Straub4 minute read

Now that the rush of holiday game releases is almost at its end, we at DAGERS are free to go back over the list of recent releases and review some of the notable titles that we missed the first time around. Although it was released back in October, XCOM: Enemy Unknown definitely deserves a look—not only because it’s a great game, but also because it’s incredibly accessible. 

For starters, like its predecessor, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based strategy game, which is good news for all players with disabilities because it means that the game has a slower, more forgiving pace. But this is especially good news for players with fine motor disabilities, because there are no quick time events or button combos of any kind. The entire game can be played with one finger, and players don’t need to worry about the triggers getting accidentally pressed, since every command needs to be confirmed with the action button before it is executed. Because of XCOM’s simple mechanics (which remind one of electronic chess) as well as its incredibly polished gameplay, any player with fine motor disabilities should definitely check out this title. At this point something needs to be said about the fact that XCOM plays as well on consoles as it does on PC. Usually strategy games on consoles require complex button combinations and are relatively painful to play. But this game is fun and easy to control on any platform.

Only slight problems will arise for hearing impaired gamers. All of the story dialogue is subtitled, and most of the game’s important alerts are displayed in distinct text boxes. However, there is one disappointing oversight: When playing a mission, the things that the individual units say are not subtitled. And even though the game is set up where you can turn off soldiers’ speech entirely and not miss anything important, it does help to be able to hear when a soldier is out of ammo or is about to panic, instead of relying on the game’s visual cues. To be fair, the soldiers don’t say anything that is not already communicated in the game’s interface. But this lack of subtitles does make the game marginally less accessible, and it seems like it would have been a quick fix to include these.

Similarly, players with sight disabilities might have slight issues. The text which the games uses to communicate certain aspects can be hard to read at times—especially the lab reports which are displayed over a bright light, which makes some of the text unreadable except if the player is very close to the screen. However, if playing XCOM on the PC, this problem should be avoided. This is the only problem, however, and XCOM does get a couple of things right for the visually disabled that other strategy games are lacking. First, nothing seems to be communicated through color alone. For example, instead of forcing the player to rely on the colors of the different movement zones, XCOM puts the word “dashing” over the character’s reticle to inform the player that they are making the character use up both of his moves for the turn. Even more important is the fact that players don’t need to rely on fine detail to distinguish between units on the screen, because every unit has a unique name and class icon that shows up clearly in the corner of the screen when the character is selected.

As a whole, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is both incredibly fun and thoroughly accessible. There are just a couple of disappointing oversights, but these should only provide slight issues for gamers with hearing and sight disabilities. On a final note, for the most accessible experience, XCOM should be played on a computer.

Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Barrier Free
Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
GameInformer Score: 9.5

The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: XCOM: Enemy Unknown


– The game does not use color alone to communicate anything.
– The game does not rely on fine details to distinguish one unit from another.

– Some text that is not essential to gameplay can be harder to read due to font color and size.
– Font color is bright blue-green.

Fine Motor

– Simple control scheme.
– The game can be controlled entirely with one finger.
– Methodical pacing.


– All important elements are subtitled or otherwise communicated in the text.
– Certain very important notifications appear in distinct boxes at the corner of the screen.

– The soldier dialogue is not subtitled, making certain aspects of combat less obvious.

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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