Game played on Xbox One. I only played in offline mode, so I can’t speak to how the multiplayer communication works.
I love this game, folks. I love the way it looks, I love the way it feels to play, I love that it’s an end of the world scenario without the millionth iteration of zombies, I love the armor, I love smashing crates to get loot and upgrading said armor, I love the writing and how damn pretty the graphics are. I even love its Souls-like-ness, which is saying something because generally speaking, I loathe Souls-like games.
Because of all of that, I hate writing this review, because no matter how much I love it, there are a couple big failings when it comes to Deaf/hoh accessibility.
But let’s start with what they did right.
First of all, the subtitles are just on. For everyone, all the time. I know that’s not ideal for everybody and being able to turn the off is actually a key accessibility feature itself, but for Deaf/hoh players such as myself, it’s a welcome change of pace. All games should have subtitles on by default and turning them off should be the norm, not the other way around. This practice ensures that players aren’t launched into an opening cinematic where Deaf/hoh players miss the entire premise of the story because we can’t turn subs on until after it’s over.
Another thing they did well was the inclusion of captions for NPC conversations, like [SIGH]. Not many games do this and while it may seem like a minor detail, that little detail helps to set the tone for the exchange.
So what didn’t they get right? Unfortunately, a lot.
The always-on subtitles will be very hard to read for some players, as they are a little small and have no background.
Contrast is sometimes an issue because there is no background for the text.
And there are no speaker labels, which in scenes such as that shown above, makes it impossible to follow the dialogue.
The biggest problem though is the lack of any visual cues for enemies. In the above image, you can see it’s dark and spooky and, you know, oh no, when will the enemy jump out and get me? The problem is, hearing players, thanks to the very loud enemies, know exactly when and where the enemy is going to come from. In the scene above, it’s very clear from the sound alone that there’s an enemy waiting for me at the end of the hallway. For Deaf players, you’ll walk to the end of the hallway and suddenly you’ve lost half your health because you had no indication that the enemy was going to pop through the window. Same thing happens in the next room and then you’re dead.
So, as I’ve said a million times before and will keep repeating until I no longer have to: If you include enemy noises in your game, you need to also visualize them in some manner. A little dot on the minimap is fine. But there needs to be something that levels the playing field for your Deaf/hoh players.
One last issue I ran into during my time in this game was the size of the dialogue options. While they are within a black or white text box that makes them easier to see than the subtitles, they’re super tiny.
So as I said, I love this game. It’s the very first Souls-like game that I actually want to keep playing despite how bad I am at it. But these few accessibility issues make the game infinitely harder for Deaf/hoh players than our hearing peers and considering how incredible this game is, I hope they can be addressed.
See all settings and menu options below and note that the controls are not remappable: