Deaf Game Review – Warframe

Warframe Deaf Accessibility
5 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
All dialogue is subtitled, Very helpful visual cues, Gunfire directionality indication
Cons
Subtitles are sometimes difficult to read, Not all NPC chatter is subtitled
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration
Player Communication

Warframe has easily been our most difficult game to review. We both love it, it’s long been a go-to favorite after the novelty of new releases wear off, and we have it on XB1, PS4, PC, and we will have it on Switch come November 20th. We have a problem with our fondness for Warframe.

And we had a problem agreeing on its level of deaf accessibility.

While we’re usually solidly in the thinking that if a sound is important enough to include in your game, it’s important enough to caption. But Warframe… perhaps clouded by our love for it, challenged that.

Warframe, for those unfamiliar with it (how are unfamiliar with it??) is difficult to explain. It’s a shooter but there’s also stealth, melee, an interesting story, you can play alone, you can play with a bunch of randos from all over, you can play with friends. And it’s just stunning to look at. Oh, and it’s completely free to play.

The problem we ran into when playing the game is weighing our belief of if it’s important enough to put in your game, it’s important enough to caption, with wondering how much you need captions to play successfully and enjoy it, plus wondering how that could even work in such a fast-paced game.

So in this review, we’re going to try to balance all of that. Here goes:

View of Earth from space during Warframe cutscene.
Captain Vor speaking during opening Warframe cutscene.

The opening cutscenes, which are fairly brief, have terrible subtitles. They’re small and hard to read, offer no scaling options and often times the contrast is just bad. BUT… as we said, the cutscenes are brief and few and far between. The rest of the story is presented differently.

Volt Warframe looking at vine covered tunnel, picture-in-picture of Vor speaking to player.
Volt Warframe inside gold lined temple type room, picture-in-picture view of Lotus speaking.

Most of the time there’s dialogue in the game, it’s presented this way, with a little video of the speaker with subtitles below it. We both had a considerably easier time reading these subtitles than the cutscene subtitles. There’s still no scaling options, but somehow, this presentation of the text consistently provides better contrast making them a bit easier to read.

The visual cues are plentiful and quite helpful, including mission markers and different colors for different ammo types, as well as lootable containers with a flashing glow. And once you’ve spotted an enemy, it will appear as a red dot on your minimap.

The enemies, however, are where we ran into our disagreement. Hearing players will hear random enemy chatter. Generally, in games like this, this sort of chatter indicated enemy location. We couldn’t agree whether it was helpful at all in Warframe though or if it was just filler in the name of immersion, so we went to Twitter to ask hearing players. The consensus? The enemy chatter is not actually helpful at all in locating enemies, so hearing players aren’t at an advantage here.

The thing I appreciate about the stealth in Warframe versus stealth in nearly every other stealth game is that this stealth relies on vision, not hearing. In the missions where you need to stay hidden, all you need to stay out of sight of is alarm sensors which are always clearly visible. You don’t need to guess enemy location and hope you don’t blow the whole mission, you just need to avoid the visual alarms. Nice, easy stealth for Deaf players!

Given all of this, despite the general lack of accessible features, this is one of the very few games we feel comfortable saying doesn’t necessarily need the accessibility features it’s lacking because it’s still perfectly playable and enjoyable without them andhearing players aren’t at any kind of advantage (a necessary thing to consider for an online multiplayer game like this one).