Deaf Game Review – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim Deaf Accessibility
4.5 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
All dialogue is subtitled, enemy location icon on compass bar so minimal sneak attacks
Cons
Subtitles are often hard to read due to poor contrast
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration

Saveri the Dunmer assassin is back for one last adventure! Not aimless at all and she keeps her pants the whole time! This time she’s the Dragonborn, which apparently means she can shout loud enough to knock anyone nearby fifty yards away and she can talk to dragons. Fun!

Now if you’re anything like me, you’ve already played Skyrim at least 500 times and intested more hours into it than you feel comfortable admitting. You also probably understand that playing it without mods is a jarring experience, but that’s what I did to make sure I got a fresh perspective in case there’s anyone alive that has yet to play Skyrim.

While still lacking a lot in Deaf/hoh accessibility, Skyrim does a bit better than both Oblivion and Morrowind.

Volume slider menu
Game settings menu

You’ve got your standard fare in terms of options; individual volume sliders and the ability to turn dialogue and general subtitles on. They’re off by default so unless you pause the game and change them as soon as the first scene begins, you’ll miss stuff.

Unlike Morrowind and Oblivion, Skyrim doesn’t start with an un-subtitled opening cutscene! It’s a minimally interactive one (you can turn your character’s head) that you can pause to turn on the subtitles).

Opening execution scene in Helgen. Stone tower in background, Imperial captain speaking.

This time around, the subtitles have speaker labels, though they’re not always exactly legible. Nor are the subtitles themselves. Though I have seen worse. They’re not resizable, though this is unsurprising for a game that was initially released in 2011 and remastered in 2016.

Inside Alvor's house talking about the dragon that attacked Helgen.

The dialogue menu is of the same size as the subtitles and relatively easy to see thanks to dialogue choices being displayed on a darkened background.

Dragon standing above player character, breathing fire in Helgen.

New to Skyrim is something lacking in Morrowind and Oblivion, the enemy presence icon that shows you approximately where the enemy is nearby. And it’s a good thing it appeared in Skyrim too because combat is a hell of a lot faster and hearing players still get the advantage of the music changing when they’ve been spotted by an enemy.

Also improved in Skyrim is the controller vibration pairing more appropriately with various sounds. In Morrowind and Oblivion, controller vibration felt the same regardless of how loud the sounds were, in Skyrim, the intensity and length appears to be much better matched to that of the sound.

Skyrim is the most Deaf/hoh accessible game in the series, thanks to the helpful enemy location dots on the compass bar, though the game misses the mark accessibility-wise in every other way the last two did.

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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

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