In recent entries though, we've seen Ubisoft shift more towards implementing accessibility in their titles, to varying results, as highlighted with Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, but other titles in their franchises have also been attempting this, slowly but surely stepping up their game to be more accessible than the last.
So with that being said, how does this newest entry in the series fair?
On first boot, the game opens with an Assassin's Creed 15th anniversary logo, with no audio description. Using OCR, I read the standard "this game saves data automatically" message. I Then discovered, again via OCR that there was a "press A to start prompt", at which point I was greeted by a "hold Y to enable narration" prompt, much as Valhalla used previously before.
Following the instructions to press menu to proceed, there was no narration on the following image calibration screen. There was also text here that was able to be read via OCR once again which, though it wasn't ideal, certainly worked better than I'd expected. Navigating up and down through the menu here actually did read the options, so it must've been a lack of some trigger that caused the earlier silence, I speculated.
The one thing I noticed on these screens, which didn't wrap for those who might be wondering, was that the music was extremely loud in terms of the mix, meaning that it was harder to concentrate.
On the next screen with difficulty and blood effects, it placed me at the bottom of the menu for some strange reason. It wasn't providing button prompts for selecting options either I realised, but the tooltips were reading, which was very useful especially with difficulty selection.
Moving through the rest of the process, things narrated relatively smoothly and I eventually got to the main menu.
thankfully I was able to increase the speed of and change the voice used for narration as well once I got to the accessibility menu under options, after of course turning down the music first.
Interestingly there's a music frequency adjustment option, allowing you to change how often exploration music plays, along with "collision sound", which allows for additional sounds due to your character being unable to move further due to collision obstacles. These, which we named as "wall sounds", would certainly be useful if they worked as we thought.
When adjusting the menu narration voice, the prompts were switched to their opposite gender "i.e. the male voice prompt was spoken in the female narrator's voice and vice versa. A small but strange bug which may be able to be resolved later. Getting to the "narration pace" option, I discovered to my confusion that it was set to 100% already. Thankfully I could raise it above 100% to get it closer to an optimal speed for me personally and having this granularity was definitely appreciated.
It only appeared to go up to 150%, but it was at a quick enough speed for this first test run.
once out of this cutscene, we discovered the first very cool thing...
The narration also read title cards, locations and tutorials, including one as to how to auto-parkour, which worked surprisingly well. The radius for the navigational narration seems to be relatively large so you're not going to easily miss it when rotating your camera around to focus on the next point or a change of direction, though tutorials are interrupted when holding buttons down unfortunately, with no way to necessarily repeat them later that is immediately apparent.
We were definitely curious to see what happened when multiple objectives were at play. As a result, we pressed onwards, trying to see how far this new system would take me. As much as I was moving through the environment relatively well, the unfortunate caveat is that you had to guess whether you were climbing, what you were negotiating etc, rather than having direct information provided to you. A potential solution for this could be audio description when you're going the correct way or a way to narrate what's happening dynamically in terms of what surface you're on via synthesised speech, with options as to the verbosity of this theoretical element.
There were definitely times where the distances bugged out, as previously mentioned, thus meaning that I had no idea that I was actually progressing even though I was.
After some dialogue, we got into a pickpocketing tutorial which, sadly, didn't give enough information to execute it properly, particularly relating to the minigame that it involves. What must be said though is that there are interaction prompts that are also narrated, including being able to pet various cats that you'll find around the world. The aforementioned pickpocketing tutorial devolved into a prolonged unscripted chase when I failed said minigame, but with some assistance and use of the objective information I eventually managed to break line of sight.
In our adventures, we discovered that collision sounds did actually work as intended, though they did not sound like an immersive wall hit unfortunately, which personally I would've preferred. In fact, I didn't even mind the collision effects, but was surprised I couldn't preview it first.
We also found that as we progressed, there were times that I'd get stuck on terrain and geometry that would make me unable to move forward at all. This was because the objective seemed to be shown through geometry rather than showing you the actual path to find.
In amongst all the talking and following you had to do, we realised that you'd need a cutscene cue to indicate both the loss and regaining of control, it certainly would've made it easier for me to tell if I was still within gameplay or not. As well as interactions and the like that we'd already seen read, we found that notes located throughout the world are narrated as well, further fleshing out the experience.
My ability to intervene in these encounters led to some very tense moments as Gibbon didn't have to call out that I could attack, though he did try to. It turns out that I was much quicker to react and managed to defuse potentially violent retaliations, which gave me no end of enjoyment.
After navigating through a mission involving Eagle Vision which, alas, I needed assistance for to find a secondary objective, specifically a key, I was able to locate the primary objective and unlock the door to progress. This need for assistance to get to intervening objectives was unfortunate, as I'd hoped that the objective would shift to account for the next required task on the proverbial list (finding said key in this instance), though sadly this wasn't the case.
The gameplay didn't change very much (though given this was the tutorial I wasn't surprised), namely follow objective, take out enemies, retrieve keys, etc, but eventually after some cool cutscenes and an escape sequence which again sadly I needed a little assistance with, we managed to get through the first part of the tutorial and to a scripted combat lesson section.
The most immediate thing I was concerned about was dodging attacks or whether there'd be incoming audio. As we'd figured out before during my dabbling in casual thievery, there was no incoming audio for attacks, which is unfortunate as they happen very quickly. However, I learnt in this tutorial that there was a dodge cue that was consistent and very deliberate, much similar to what you find in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Survivor. Parrying was also possible as it acted more like a counter - you hit L1 and you'll counter with an attack of your own if you're successful though of course you have to be quick to react to the enemy hitting you, at least that's the way I perceived it. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, this was where we stopped, but it was a good stopping point as there'd been a lot of talking, moving to NPCs (some of whom were blocked by the aforementioned geometry-based pathing issues) and navigating around some relatively open terrain beforehand which had taken longer than anticipated.
I had a good time with this title and felt I was able to do more than in previous, which is a small but arguably important win in my book. After all, if even an entry in a series improves on what the previous iteration did, even if it doesn't make it fully accessible immediately, it's better than nothing. That's not to say that it's ideal or what would be wanted, as everyone should be able to get involved as soon as possible rather than having to wait for multiple games to release before being able to enjoy the experience, but it's a start.
I'm definitely interested to see where this entry's accessibility takes the series going forward, it's a promising beginning to another new chapter in Assassin's Creed as a gamer without sight.
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