The copy of the game used in this review was provided by the studio behind the game, at no cost to the reviewer.
I've been reviewing products for a while now and with my review of Claire: Extended Cut as well as the review of the Gears Of War 4: Limited Edition Xbox One S bundle, I've been able to branch out from just working with hardware, into more closely examining the accessibility of games from the perspective of a gamer with no sight.
After talking with the studio behind a release that, whilst it was recent at the time I started this review, I'd not had the chance to look at myself, namely Arkane Studios and their game Dishonored 2, I was able to get my hands on a copy to see just how accessible the second in this critically aclaimed series might be. For a player with absolutely no vision, that is.
Before we start
This game is an open world title and, being relatively familiar with mainstream gaming, I am aware going into this review that there are likely to be difficulties surrounding navigation, for example. However, that won't stop me from trying to make the most of an interesting opportunity and seeing just how much I can do in the world of Dishonored 2.
Another important note is that this game is a single player experience, at least as far as I'm aware. Whilst this might hinder my progress, if I get sighted help with sections, these will be noted and analysed just like anything else.
Finally, I have never played the first game in the series, or its remaster, but was informed that this entry in the franchise should stand on its own.
With that all out of the way, on with the review.
On loading up the game for the first time, I was presented with 3 separate logos, then a "press start"/title screen of sorts appeared, simply heralded by a piece of music and not much else. It's almost a shame that there's no cues for title screens (think of the Soulcalibur series for those familiar with it), but that's a relatively minor problem in the grand scheme of things.
Once I'd managed to get into the campaign, hidden behind a series of menus that are complicated to understand (without sight), I was presented with a decidedly lengthy cutscene. This sets up the main plot of the game, with atmospheric music and sound design After a while of uncertainty as to when you'll get to actually start playing, you're presented with a choice. Specifically, who you're going to play as throughout the game. You do this by pressing left or right on your Dpad, hitting A then right then A to confirm your choise. Left is Corvo, Right is Emily. You'll know if you've picked the character you want by what happens in the cutscene that follows the selection (which I won't spoil).
I did end up getting stuck after this, as you're locked in a prison cell and some how must escape, though it's very unclear without assistance how you must achieve this.
I discovered, through reading a series of guides, that you actually can't get out of the door. A shame really, given that this game seems to take pride in its innovative approaches to gameplay. I guess the door was too easy? Either you get out stealthily or you rush the door, taking out a guard or two... anyway, I'm back on track.
Doubtless, all this information would be easily available on screen to a sighted player, but looking through guides for open-world games, even whilst playing with sighted assistance, is not an unfamiliar process to me either. It was just a shame that the game had me stuck at such an early point.
What you actually have to do in order to escape as your character of choice is to climb out of a window at what appears to be the back of the room. From there, you climb out on to a ledge. It's important to note that with some trial and error, I could consistantly find the window in question via the positional audio and the detailed ambience in-game, but once I was out on that ledge, it's a matter of careful and relatively precise navigation.
Several deaths and recompletions of the same section later, I managed to get into the next room, with sighted assistance of course. Even once you're there though, things aren't necessarily any easier. You still have to move around and tap X to interact with objects and characters, which then takes you on to your next objective.
First combat encounter
Even when you first have the opportunity to interact with enemies, it appeared to be in the context of a stealth-specific scenario. Little did I know at the time that I could block and swing, so how I defeated those first few guards was rather a mystery to me. There was still the issue of navigating to objectives and actually being able to complete the game. However, an interesting turn of events and the ability to test out a feature that is, at this time, not yet fully released to the public, certainly helped in that regard.
CoPilot mode is a feature that was mentioned in a few places, but wasn't really talked about, even after it roled out to the public builds of Xbox OS. Essentially though, it allows for something that personally I've wanted to see for a while.
How it works
The process of setting up CoPilot Mode are as follows:
Press the Xbox Button once to open the guide
Press right trigger to go to settings
Now press A on all settings.
When the screen loads, press right trigger then arrow down as needed to "Ease Of Access" and press A on it.
Now press down once to get to "controller" and press A.
On the screen that's loaded up, move down to the bottom and press A on Copilot Mode.
Your controller may need an update, which should be straightforward to complete.
After completing this, you should be able to click "Turn On Copilot" and select a controller that will be your copilot, assuming you have a second one connected of course.
From here, both controllers should function as a single unit.
What does this all have to do with Dishonored 2?
This feature allows myself and a second player to navigate the in-game world together, with them focusing on looking around via their own controller, with myself focused on combat and general movement with the left stick. I was pleased to discover that within 5 minutes (including basic orientation with the controls), we'd managed together to get further than I had hoped, killing some guards and finding a door that we needed a specific item to open.
Even if it takes a while to play through the whole game, I'd be curious to see how this feature works in fast-paced action sequences or boss fights, for example, to see if there's any kind of priority system in place based on who presses buttons first etc. But the fact remains that even if you can't play Dishonored 2 or other single player games on your own, if you have a second controller and a player with vision who is willing to play alongside you locally (I.E. in the same room), this would be an interesting starting point.
Solid audio design that allows you to imerse yourself in the world of the game.
Score that is at once very much unobtrusive, but also stands out where necessary.
Interesting opening cutscene with an actual reason why you have to pick a character to play for the duration of the game.
No necessity to have played the first game.
Well designed combat audio.
Ability to play successfully with CoPilot mode.
Need sighted help on a regular basis as even with guides and FAQs, the information that I'd need to complete sections (such as where the window to the next area was located is not available or documented by most gamers as they themselves do not need it).
- Linear gameplay rather than the freedom of choice that the marketing seemed to imply.
No Speech Synthesis API support, though the technology was only revealed at GDC 2017, but could still be patched in.
Dishonored 2 is, certainly, a good looking game from an audio and musical standpoint. However, in terms of accessibility, it joins the ranks of many games that with enough work from the beginning of development, along with appropriate testing, could've been accessible but unfortunately aren't at the current time.
I'd like to thank Arcane Studios for providing me with this review copy of Dishonored 2 and if I find anything else interesting to discuss or add, I'll update this review.
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