Even as accessibility becomes more mainstream in gaming, there remain holdouts—none more prominent than the Souls-like subgenre, a category of games built on the foundation of From Software’s catalog of persistently inaccessible games. In June, however, Seattle-based developer Aggro Crab announced a suite of accessibility options for its upcoming Souls-like, Another Crab’s Treasure, that highlights how games influenced by From Software are starting to leave the Elden Ring developer behind.
Aggro Crab’s announcement stands in sharp contrast to 2022’s Elden Ring, which represented a step back in From Software’s already meager consideration of accessibility. That same mindset has infected Souls-like games for years, as the industry embraced parries and dodge rolls as a staple of video game combat.
It’s an inaccessibility that Aggro Crab’s cofounders, Nick Kaman and Caelan Pollock, understand well.
“There are a lot of factors that contribute to Souls games feeling unapproachable,” they say in an email conversation with WIRED, “from the punishing difficulty to the lack of explicit direction to the cryptic narrative.”
“From Software prefers to create work that is exactly what it is out of the box, with minimal knobs to turn on the part of the user,” they continue. “Honestly, that’s a pretty cool vibe, but obviously it is always going to wind up restricting the player base to those who are comfortable playing that core product.”
This was especially true for Elden Ring, which drew criticism from players and developers alike for its inaccessible UI and quest design—among an extensive laundry list of inaccessible design decisions.
Many players created workarounds for those design issues; others simply stopped playing. But Kaman and Pollock believe there’s room for different approaches in Souls-like games to welcome a broader spectrum of players.
“With our game’s cartoony art direction and (somewhat) less grimdark themes, it made sense to be accommodating to players who might be experiencing the genre for the first time,” they say.
Those accommodations include ways to mitigate enemy damage, slow down gameplay, and increase parry windows—features that feel overdue in the subgenre. Another Crab’s Treasure also includes the option to give Kril, the titular crab, a gun. Kaman and Pollock say it “was just too good a visual gag to pass up.”
The ability to one-shot undersea enemies with a gun may be a bit of fun in keeping with Another Crab’s Treasure’s tone and a demonstration of how Aggro Crab is pulling away from the typically self-serious From Software. But it’s also, according to Kaman and Pollock, “a great way to illustrate our commitment to letting players play the game however they want.”
Player control hasn’t been forthcoming in previous Souls-like titles. Fortunately, however, developers are starting to listen to players about what they need in this style of game.
For Aggro Crab, this began with the studio’s previous title, Going Under, understanding what worked there and iterating further, helped by feedback from players at events like Summer Games Fest.