Overwatch: Accessibility review


The copy of Overwatch used in this review was provided free of charge by the publisher.


Overwatch is one of the most popular shooters in recent years, being hailed left right and centre for its accessibility to those with colour-blindness and other disabilities. But how does it stack up to games like Gears of War and Halo 5 in terms of its accessibility without sight and does its importance system make as much of a difference as it is said to?

In menus

One of the first things I noticed when I launched the game and started to try and figure things out was that Overwatch has a very annoying habbit, even in training modes. Specifically, it has a habbit of kicking you out to the main menu when it deems you of being "inactive".

Inactivity, rather than being anything close to just standing still, seems to encompass anything that isn't you being in the middle of a firefight getting kills.

Such a system is at best minor disruption and at worst an agonising interuption that can completely ruin your train of thought, whether that's figuring out the controls of the newest hero or just trying to understand how to get out of a small room on a map, but more on that a little later.

The Importance system

The importance system, detailed in only a handful of videos, makes it so that you hear, somewhat understandably given the name, the things that it's most important for your character to hear. This includes enemy footsteps, gunfire and ultimates, among other things.

However, in a game so heavily based around team play, the fact that you can't really hear where your team are to follow them into battle, amongst other uses of these audio cues, means that the audio system employed by this interesting shooter becomes more of a hindrance than a help to those without sight.

Map Geometry

As much as the automatic kicking from your current mode and the frustrating if well-intentioned importance system are major issues for a player working with a complete lack of sight, an overbearing barrier to entry for such players is the map geometry and the prominence it has in gameplay strategies.

As good as your team are, they can't easily help you through a map, especially taking into account that though each character has specific audio cues, if they're on your team, the game will deliberately put those lower in the audio mix for that very reason.

It turns out that in addition to the audio complications mentioned above, different classes, due to their mobility differences, will have issues traversing certain maps. This makes it even harder for a player without sight to choose their hero without have a good idea of the map's geography etc.

The only solution I could think of to solve this most frustrating of issues would be to introduce a level editor to allow for the creation of custom, open spaces with minimal cover so that the geometry, in being eliminated could not serve as an advantage to sighted players.

The hero selection system and the menu structure

Whilst I briefly talked about the menus earlier, I should state that as is currently standard in mainstream console games, Overwatch does not have Speech Synthesis API support on Xbox One.

This means that calibrating offline matches for practice, completing the tutorial without sighted help, opening loot boxes amongst other things are all pretty much impossible without sight.

You can find more information on the Speech Synthesis API here: Here's the GDC recording discussing it

Hero selection could also do with a boost from this new development, though one of Overwatch's redeeming qualities in this area is that each hero does have a unique "hover animation". This term is used to describe the sound that plays when you stay over a hero without selecting them. McCree, for example, has a sound of him twirling his guns.

Whether this is actually what happens in the animation is irrelevant, as over time these can all, theoretically, be learned. It would be useful to have the Speech confirmation backing you up though to enable you to better choose your hero in the middle of a game.


Whilst overwatch is an interesting and diverse game, that is, in essence, its downfall. With so many maps and heroes to learn, combined with the deliberate class system and a lack of easily navigable hero system which would be better served via a grid rather than a straight line, I cannot recommend this game for anyone without any sight at the current time.

I would like to again thank the publisher for providing me with the copy of Overwatch used in this revew and I really hope the game can be made more accessible in the future for those without sight.

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