But just how accessible is the launch experience? Thanks to the kind folks over at Blizzard, let's dive in and see just how things work in the Day 1 build.
Doing as instructed gives you the Xbox profile prompt which is fully accessible given it uses the console's Narrator feature. This then takes you into safe zone and brightness adjustment, in my case the defaults were fine and I was able to press A to confirm.
Now we come to the arguably most important screen, where you enable the various aspects of Text To Speech (TTS). You actually start on the screen reader option and pressing A will toggle it on. Moving up and down should now allow you to change the TTS speed, with an interesting caveat that if you change it to 23 or above, the frequency also changes, thereby changing the pitch as well and gradually making the TTS less and less comprehensible (which is not an ideal situation to be in).
When choosing a voice on this screen there is no preview or spoken name for the voices, thus making it a chore to choose the voice you want. Moreover, the statuses of various options (on/off) don't read on this screen, though they can be read later.
Narration of all in-game text chat is off by default, (press A to toggle them on via the top option in that particular area of the menu). This turns on all channel TTS settings for in-game chat which are featured below that as individual settings should you wish to adjust them.
Pressing RB to continue (and again no prompt is spoken to tell you this) you end up on the visual support screen.
Given none of the settings were personally useful to me here, I pressed RB to continue to Gameplay options.
Oddly enough, the ability to reduce the amount of strobing is disabled by default. I enabled this reduction as I know that could impact people watching my gameplay.
Subtitles are on by default, which is always good to see.
Auto-advance dialogue is enabled by default, I turned it on to avoid having to press buttons repeatedly.
Oddly enough, instead of pressing the menu button or RB again, you have to press Y to start game from here, again no prompt for this.
All this to say that loading screen tips, which can definitely be helpful, now narrate through the TTS. However, a small issue is that consoles load so fast that you actually rarely get to hear the full tip. Then again, I'm aware of sighted players who have the same problem.
After skipping the cutscene that I'd personally already seen a few times by this point in other scenarios, you then have to choose your class.
As was the case with the beta builds, buttons are labelled as "bottom action button", "top action button", "Right action button" etc (corresponding to A, X and B respectively), which is unusual and not helpful to those unfamiliar with controllers. Having the game detect what type of controller you're using could potentially go some way to allowing players to know what needs to be pressed to perform certain actions.
After selecting your class, you have to select a body type, though they are still labelled as female (left) and male (right), though these didn't read when last I created a new character.
Then you get the option to customise presets from a list. However, if you back out of the preset it instead kicks you out to the body type screen rather than to the list of presets, somewhat frustratingly.
I've always wanted an accessible character creator with full alt text and, though this doesn't actually achieve that, you can see the beginnings of it here.
For instance, unfortunately the hair styles are rendered as numbers ("8/11"), rather than describing them specifically. However, I did manage to fluke the system into reading the hair colours I was selecting, though I'm honestly not sure how I achieved this and could not reproduce it.
What I should point out is that this part of the process seems to be a combination of DPad and free cursor movement, which isn't helpful for gamers without sight or anyone else who might experience issues utilising the analogue sticks for whatever reason.
Finally, after you're done, pressing Y should move you to the next screen. Though the hardcore selection does read when you enter the screen, whilst writing this review I couldn't get it to read when I moved away and then back onto it.
Next, you need to choose your name and, as I described in the beta, it was rather complicated. Though I could've used the random name generator, I opted to resurrect the name of one of my beta characters, Ayiza, being able to use the Xbox's narrated keyboard to easily type things in where required.
Selecting your level of tutorial guidance via left or right on the DPad, though the required directional inputs aren't spoken, is straightforward. Doing the same thing for World Tiers (difficulty levels) puts you right into the first post-character cutscene. Once that's played or you've skipped it as I did, you're in the game.
When I loaded in, I started receiving rewards, which continued to pop even after I'd hit quit game to continue testing things later.
I didn't think much would change before launch and it turns out I was correct. If you read through my first impressions from the beta, other than some narration refinements, you still have to rely on the map, there is no navigational assist at the present time and utilising brute force and patience is the only way short of sighted assistance that I've seen gamers without sight getting through this title, with varying degrees of success.
However, that's not to say the game isn't fun, even as a duo, it really can be. Taking advice from a fellow player as to a build for sorcerer, I was able to act as support, eliminating threats from range, then teleporting in to freeze foes as a backup if required. In that particular play session, I went from Level 11 to 17 in a matter of hours, which was a welcome surprise.
Being able to contribute to a full team was also great, as even though we had to inventory manage as we went, we were all doing that, so I didn't feel out of place.
Whilst I appreciate the fantastic work Blizzard has undertaken moving from Diablo 3 to 4, I can't help but feel I'd have sunk a lot more hours into it were I able to play alone in addition to partying up. That being said, the narration and accessibility that is here is sure to make things hypothetically, much less frustrating and more manageable and I can't wait to play more as things improve.
If you have friends definitely dive in and start slaying, inventory managing and finding a play style that suits you.
This is because with seasons, you have to use a separate character, you can't use the one you've levelled already, though elements of progress do carry over. It'll be interested to see how this works out as time goes on and greater accessibility comes to the game thanks to the game.
Though we may have to wait a while, I and others are very interested to see what comes of these efforts and how they fit into the final product.
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