Deaf Game Review – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro Deaf Accessibility
4.1 / 6 Reviewer
Pros
Dialogue is subtitled, helpful visual cues
Cons
Subtitles often hard to read, no speaker labels
Visual Representation of Dialogue
Visual Representation of Sound
Visual Cues
Controller Vibration

I don’t think it will come as any surprise to learn that I despise From Software’s games. The only person who might have disliked them more than me was Susan. I don’t play games for the challenge. I play on easy even if I don’t need to because I want to enjoy the story and the gameplay, not get so mad at my TV that I need to leave the room. But I got Sekiro as a gift so I had to give it a fair chance and play it at least enough to review.

So where am I in the game? After thirteen attempts, I’m still trying to get out of the very beginning tutorial area of the game. I can’t do it. I make it as far as the area’s mini-boss (with very little health to begin with) and I die again and again and again. I’m never going to see any more of the game than this. Why? Because Sekiro is the rare game that’s physically inaccessible to me, as someone with weak and painful hands due to lupus.

And the Deaf/hoh accessibility isn’t too good either.

Language options menu
Sound and display options menu

As far as options go, you’ve got your standard options of subtitles on or off and a few volume sliders (although I’m hesitant to call the bare bones subtitles on/off and volume sliders “standard” when many studios have implemented much better options).

There are no size options, no text appearance options which is a problem considering the subtitles are a serif font and harder to read for many, and there are no speaker labels. There’s also no subtitle background outside of cutscenes, so contrast is often a problem.

Wolf crouched underneath a house.

In the above scene, Wolf is supposed to be eavesdropping on a conversation. There are two different speakers but absolutely no indication of who is saying what, so it doesn’t actually read as a conversation so much as a string of words that may or may not be important.

Wolf standing near tall grass, awareness icon spotted above nearby enemy

Less-than-ideal subtitles aside, Sekiro does have some very helpful visual cues. There are small awareness icons that both fill up to become solid and change color from white, to yellow, to red depending on just how spotted you’ve been by the enemy.

Wolf in a sword fight with an enemy, health and other bar shown on screen.

There are also two bars above your enemies. One indicates their health and the other indicates… something else. Their posture? I know that when my bar that behaved the same way ran out, the enemy was able to knock me over and kill me pretty quickly.

The last very helpful visual cue is a big red orb that will appear on your enemy’s chest when you’ve reduced them to being able to deal a death blow.

The biggest problem I’ve found, and it’s not something I can say with 100% certainty because I can’t get out of the damn starting area, is that this game is all about timing your blocks. I’m strongly inclined to say that if you hit the block button the moment the enemy grunts at you, you’ll block successfully and get that nice death blow window. The problem? Those utterances aren’t subtitled or indicated any way but vocally, so Deaf/hoh players miss out on this. But again, I’m not completely certain of this. It seems to be the case with the same 5 enemies I’m stuck fighting over and over again.

It’s very hard to conclusively rate Sekiro’s Deaf/hoh accessibility because I usually like to play at least an hour before I judge anything. I can’t do that here because it’s too damn physically inaccessible for me, so I will say this: The visual cues are great, the subtitles not so much, and if what I think is true about enemy utterances actually is the case, the Deaf/hoh accessibility fails miserably.