Long time readers of my work will know that I am a big fan of turn-based tactical games like XCOM, so when Firaxis teamed up with Marvel to produce the Midnight Suns I was definitely interested. I’m happy to report that for me, Midnight Suns may be the most accessible game that I’ve played in 2022, unfortunately, there is a large swath of the disabled gaming population that won’t be able to enjoy this excellent title due to the puzzling absence of one of the most basic accessibility features.
Accessible from the start
When I booted up Midnight Suns on PC, I was not greeted with an opening cutscene or dropped into gameplay immediately. Rather, I was given a main menu that included settings, which lead to a fully remappable, context based, control scheme as well as multiple color blind options with accompanying examples. Because I tend to play this type of game on PC, I can not speak to whether this accessibility translates to console, but if you are playing the PC version, you should be able to alter the controls to whatever scheme fits your needs.
Super Accessible Super Powers
The main gameplay loop of Midnight Suns revolves around the Hunter, a new Marvel superhero created specifically for this game. In this role, players will interact with heroes such as Captain America and Blade, in a hub world that revolves around the Midnight Sun Abbey. While at the Abbey, players will be able to engage in traditional role playing elements like conversation, friendship trees, and upgrading various player cosmetics, but the combat in Midnight Suns is where the accessibility truly shines. From the Abbey, the player can launch missions against the evil Lillith who is controlling perineal Marvel baddy, Hydra, in her bid to take over the world.
When undertaking missions, players choose 3 team members from a pool of 14 heroes including the Hunter that span all of Marvel’s IP and include well known heroes like Dr. Strange and more obscure heroes like Magik from the X-Men. Once the player’s squad is selected, they are dropped into a combat map and tasked with specific objectives, whether it be capturing a certain NPC or defeating an enemy before a timer runs out.
Flexible turn-based combat
The top down turn-based combat sees players controlling their squad of 3 heroes for a limited number of moves. Most attacks and powers are executed using power cards, a certain number of which can be played each turn. How many moves depends on the various abilities present on each card and the amount of Heroism the player has accumulated. Heroism is the in-game resource that the player accumulates each turn based on the moves that they play. Each hero has an 8 card deck, resulting in a 24 card pool from which you draw an opening hand with the option to redraw up to 2 cards per turn, unless otherwise specified by certain hero abilities. Cards are generally recycled into the deck after use, and there is no penalty for using all of the cards in your hand. The player controls all of their heroes in one free flowing turn. Once the player has exhausted all of their available card plays, or other resources, they end the turn and the AI makes it counter move.
It’s important to note that Midnight Suns is not a CCG. At this point, all hero powers are available in-game and nothing other than cosmetics can be purchased using real money. Rather, the different hero cards are unlocked through the Hunter’s interactions with various characters and can be upgraded through one of several different systems. The combat itself is almost as accessible as traditional XCOM with the one caveat being certain moves have knockback potential and players will have to manually aim where they want the knocked back enemy to land using a cone slider that can be a little bit finicky on tighter maps. This is aggravated by the fact that using in game tools, the mouse sensitivity cannot be adjusted. However, using a gaming mouse or adjusting the sensitivity in your operating system settings can be a relatively easy work around. Because of Midnight Suns’ profound flexibility, if a player truly finds this mechanic inaccessible, it’s probably possible to playthrough an entire campaign without relying on the knockback feature. In fact, one of the things that stood out to me, is that if necessary, players could play through Midnight Suns without having more than a single button to press at any given time, while taking as much time as they need to plan out their moves and pick their targets. The game also lets you restart any encounter at any point, which makes it much easier to experiment with different move combinations to achieve maximum effectiveness. This means that for players with fine-motor impairments, Midnight Suns is almost as accessible as most traditional Pokémon games.
Two Puzzling Flaws
Unfortunately, there are two things that I need to bring up that may make Midnight Suns inaccessible for some with certain disabilities.
Although all of the dialogue is comprehensively subtitled, I could not find any HUD resizing options. I tested the game at multiple distances and the text seemed to be completely legible for me in most use cases, however the lack of any kind of HUD resizing is disappointing, especially given the fact that the text size does not even meet half of the minimum requirement for legibility for most players with healthy vision. As a result, the UI in midnight suns will probably exclude players with severe vision loss, unless they are using additional assistive tech, like a screen magnifier.
The other thing of note is that the game features an epilepsy warning prior to gameplay that should be taken into account for anyone prone to epileptic seizures. However, I am not sure which elements in Midnight Suns run the risk of causing seizures, so I would recommend doing your own research before writing this game off. The reality is, the fact that the epilepsy warning is there means that either Firaxis did the testing and people prone to epileptic seizures are at risk, or they didn’t do the testing and they included the statement as boilerplate legal protection, neither of which bode well for players who may struggle with seizures.
Midnight Suns is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to accessibility. There are many use cases that I can see where this game would be completely accessible given its high degree of flexibility and extremely forgiving nature. However, the glaring absence of any HUD resizing and the reliance on text that is too small even for many players with healthy vision, means that I can’t unequivocally recommend this game the way that I would like to.