Deaf Game Review – Nier Automata

Nier Automata Deaf Accessibility
3.2 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
Helpful visual cues, Game is subtitled
Cons
Subtitles are done horribly and impossible to read much of the time, Not fully captioned, No speaker tags unless it's done over the radio (and then the tag is only a small photo of the speaker)
As much as I'm enjoying NieR Automata, I know that the only reason I'm able to is that I'm playing with someone beside me to interpret all of the amazing dialogue when it's impossible to read (which is more often than not). Given that this game is so story rich and the story IS what makes the game so great, I can't recommend it for deaf players, unless, like me, you're fortunate enough to have someone to sit beside you and interpret.
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration

NieR Automata is a hell of a game. I’ve seen it referred to as cerebral and 12+ hours into it, there’s really not a better word to describe it. And it’s the first game in a very long time with a story interesting and non-repetitive enough to keep me interested and engaged enough for me to actually want to finish it. That said, it feels unfair to summarize any part of it, even the accessibility, because there’s so much that’s done well, so many WTF is even happening right now moments, and so much (accessibility wise) that just awful. So we’re just going to do a step-by-step, photo-by-photo review of everything of note. So here we go:

2B and 9S talking

Cinematic subtitles are nicely done. They’re large enough and presented on a darkened background so they’re easy to read. Problem is, there’s no speaker tag, so unless somebody says a name, you just have to guess as to who’s talking.

2B and 9S exploring mission area in city ruins.

Non-cinematic subtitles are just a disaster. Seriously, some of the worst I’ve encountered. You can barely even tell there aresubtitles in the above image, can you? Throughout the entire game, it’s hit or miss whether you can read them or not. If the scene is dark enough you’re fine but so much of the game is in desert or otherwise light/beige areas and the text is so hard to read you may as well play with subtitles off.

2B and 9S exploring amusement part ruins.

Dialogue choices are good, with the text subtitles on the same dark background as cinematic scenes, and the choices on solid backgrounds and also large enough. It would still be nice to be given the option to resize all text though.

2B fishing in a stream in city ruins.

As with dialogue choices, any on-screen instructions are easy enough to see.

2B fighting robot enemy on metal platform.
2B fighting group of robot enemies in the city ruins.

Battle scenes are kind of a mess. In some instances, given the right lighting/background, info such as damage numbers, enemy health, and enemy level are clear and easy to see. In other instances, it’s really, really not.

All in all, beige is never a good subtitle/pertinent info color for anything because who likes beige? It’s really not a good choice when much of the game is also in varying shades of beige.

Sound options menu
Sound options menu

There was one scene toward the very start of the game that for me, as a Deaf person, was really just off putting. 9S, your scanner companion, walks you through setting up your settings. It’s a cute little addition in that it makes something as mundane as settings feel like they’re part of the game, but the dialogue which you can’t hear until you turn the volume up (or ever if you’re deaf) is presented in text that you can’t read because it’s beige on beige. The off putting part was the little dig at my deaf ass not knowing what the hell was going on and therefore not doing anything because I can’t read the text, and 9S goes on about how it’s embarrassing that I’m taking so long. Just… Really?

2B and 9S in safe zone near a quest giver.
2B and 9S in the desert near a vendor standing under a tent.
2B and 9S inside dark building.

Visual cues (while being a difficult to see clearly at times) are well done, obvious without being intrusive, and helpful. You’ve got arrows that hover over items you can collect, red quest markers over required NPCs to complete missions, and different symbols that hover over different NPCs indicating what purpose they serve. Their symbols are also on the minimap and full map. Also helpful is the indication of organic life versus machine life (little shape filled in with black and little shape not filled in), so you go into every area with a good idea of what you’ll have to fight, if anything.

Quest areas are clearly indicated on both maps as red circles and side quests are also indicated on both as little red dots. One feature I really appreciated was (and this is playing on easy with auto-chips on) was the auto targeting when enemies spot you. So even if you can’t hear the change in audio when beginning a battle, there’s no mistaking it and no surprise attacks.

Robots dancing

As much as I’m enjoying NieR Automata, I know that the only reason I’m able to is that I’m playing with someone beside me to interpret all of the amazing dialogue when it’s impossible to read (which is more often than not). Given that this game is so story rich and the story IS what makes the game so great, I can’t recommend it for deaf players, unless, like me, you’re fortunate enough to have someone to sit beside you and interpret.

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