Deaf Game Review – The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Morrowind Deaf Accessibility
3.3 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
All dialogue is subtitled, text is large and easy to read
Cons
No visual indication of enemy sounds even though music changes when players are spotted
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration

I’m Saveri, a Dunmer rogue/assassin, brand new to Morrowind. I have no idea what I’m doing, no idea what I’m supposed to do, but I’m out here doing it anyway. So far, I’ve killed a bunch of massive mudcrabs, walked around without pants because I accidentally sold them looking like I shit myself, accidentally sold my second pair of pants, accidentally stole something, accidentally carried around skooma and moon sugar which made people refuse to trade with me so I couldn’t get back my pants I accidentally sold. Now I’m talking to Balmora pauper, Hul, because to hell with Seyda Neen and it’s uptight law abiding do-gooders.

This game is hard. And not even because it’s hard (I’ve got the difficulty set to -100) but because the things that make games cognitively accessible to me in games apparently didn’t exist in 2003. As for the Deaf/hoh accessibility, it’s actually been quite tricky to rate.

Red screen during opening cutscene

The game begins with a cutscene that tells you of your origin and what’s going on in the world. Of course, this is not subtitled so for Deaf/hoh players, the game begins with a red screen.

Player character in Seyda Neen surrounded by NPCs all speaking, subtitles have no speaker labels

For subtitle options, you can turn them on or off. On one hand, they’re quite easy to read and a nice size. On the other hand, in the above image three people are talking to me and I have no earthly idea who said what (hearing players have a slightly easier time discerning who said what as each race has a distinct voice style).

NPC dialogue choice menu

The dialogue screen is as nice and easy to read as the subtitles and here, you always know who you’re speaking to (and how much they like you which would be such a handy IRL feature, somebody make an augmented reality app for this asap).

Player character standing near a tree and a dead kwama scrib

Now usually in games, I’m thoroughly annoyed if there’s no visual indication of nearby enemies because that gives hearing players an advantage. While there are no visual indicators for much of anything, literally nothing in this game moves fast enough to ever sneak up on you making it virtually impossible for any player, Deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise, to be caught off guard (the plus side of these 2003 graphics, I guess?) The music changes when an enemy has spotted you but again, they’re slow moving enough that it’s highly unlikely you’ll be caught off guard by anything.

Player character walking in swamp area with unintelligible subtitles of someone screaming

The above moment of very odd subtitles without context is exactly how it happened during my playthrough without my hearing aids in. I’m standing there minding my own business and suddenly this text appears on the screen with no visual indication as to what the hell is going on. Is someone attacking me? Is someone nearby dying? Do I need to run? No. It turned out that a mage had messed up big time and the subtitles were him screaming as he fell out of the sky.

All in all, despite the complete lack of Deaf/hoh accessibility except for subtitles, TES III Morrowind is strangely accessible for Deaf/hoh players and I’d bet it’s due to the fact that it was made in 2003 and by today’s standards is slow, giving Deaf/hoh players ample time to take in all we need to visually before anything sound-related even happens.

The following two tabs change content below.
Co-founder and EIC of Can I Play That?, captioner of many things, occasional writer of fiction. Any pronouns. courtney@caniplaythat.com

Courtney Craven

Co-founder and EIC of Can I Play That?, captioner of many things, occasional writer of fiction. Any pronouns. courtney@caniplaythat.com