That being said, Ubisoft has been making strides to try and make their games accessible to as many gamers as possible, particularly in the last couple of years. Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Immortals: Fenyx Rising, which all launched a short time apart from each other, all had varying degrees of accessibility and improvements on what you might consider the norm for large-scale games (even after the success of The Last Of Us Part II).
When given the opportunity to see just how accessible this new entry in this survival-heavy, open-world style narrative series might be, I was excited at the prospect, especially since a list of accessibility options had been published indicating that elements of this game might be workable entirely without sighted assistance.
But as I've said to many people over the years, it's one thing to read about a game and another to play it (not a justification for providing spoilers if you're wondering) and what better way to see if my optimism was well-placed than to fire up my review copy and jump right in.
The first piece of text you see is one saying "Warning: read before playing" and a "this game saves data automatically" screen, neither of which have any narration.
An intro sequence plays, which also has no narration. On wondering if I could skip it and pressing menu to see what happened, I was greeted with what now seems to be the standard "press A button to start" prompt on the title screen.
After pressing the A button as instructed, the game goes through "setting up profile" and other elements which are not spoken, but once on the next actual screen you hear "press left trigger to enable narration of onscreen text in menus". I thought this was an unusual choice of button, but that aside it serves its purpose well.
The screen that provides this prompt is actually the accessibility menu. Pressing left trigger, as you would hope, then informs you that "menu narration is enabled".
As much as the menu apparently looks (visually) to be cursor-based, it turns out that fortunately moving with the DPad does, by default, snap to the various options. This seems like a better implementation of the system used in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, which as you may remember gave me a fair few problems when I reviewed that title. Not to say this version isn't a little unusual, but we'll get on to that later.
In terms of the options in FC6's accessibility menu though, everything is off to start with, allowing the player to customise their experience arguably to a fuller extent and giving greater agency.
When enabling narration, vision is changed to custom instead of off and there are prompts that say about settings conflicts or overlapping which, as of the time of review, are not narrated.
There appear to be two differing narration voices available, known as "speaker 1" (a female voice) and "speaker 2" (a male voice). If you suddenly want to change speakers, you have to go up to the top of this screen, press right and re-enable the narration (at least according to what the prompts say as you do this). Hopefully the lack of narration of these "speaker" elements is a bug that can later be patched.
In spite of the above though, the speaker can be changed by going up two from menu narration. However, you can also turn off menu narration entirely on this selector, so things can potentially be riskier than they should be here, which is why I personally did not change it.
The next two screens, Screen and Brightness Calibration, had a couple of unusual issues. The first did not have narrated numbers (which is useful as a gamer without sight to know what the default value is) and the second did not narrate until I pressed up on the DPad.
Screens, it also appeared, don't always announce their headings, but I only became aware of this after my CoPilot started telling me what the screens were. The narration for whatever reason, did not say what the screen's title was as you entered it, meaning that all you essentially see is a number of controls that (for the uninitiated) might seem very confusing without a clear thread to bring them together. Hopefully, like the speaker bug above, it should be relatively easy to resolve this issue in future updates.
The next screen is audio and interface. Like the other previous screens, it does not read the heading (i.e. you do not hear "audio and interface" when entering this area.
When trying to change language on the audio interface screen, it doesn't (as you would hope) narrate what option you are switching to, with only "English" being spoken as a named language.
Next is motion and controls, allowing you to adjust elements like camera shake, repeated button presses or enable "no stick presses mode", meaning that you can still complete actions assigned normally to L3/R3 with other buttons. Even though I don't have a physical disability that requires this option, it's certainly one that my thumbs appreciate at times).
Note that up to this point there has been seemingly no option to change the narration rate, meaning that while it is bearable, it is not ideal for someone using a screen reader who is used to much faster rates of speech.
Because I have the ultimate edition of the game as part of this review, I then received dialogue boxes about various bonus content elements. However, these were unfortunately not narrated either, only saying "A, OK button" which is, as you can probably understand, less than ideal.
Much like an earlier similar prompt regarding extra content, this one disappeared after an indeterminate amount of time (around a minute). Being able to turn this auto-dismissal off would be useful particularly for streaming scenarios where you might want to make sure you know what's going on. In fact, while I continued to try and get my head round the menu system (which does feel like a much better version of previous implementations), I got two more extra content pop-ups that did not narrate.
After dismissing any remaining prompts, I reached the main menu. As may recall, above I said that this implementation of DPad snapping still has a couple of oddities. Specifically, when I moved down to the bottom of a menu and tried to go back the way I came, most of the time the game would not do as I'd hoped, instead putting me on what looked to be a title saying "co-op".
What this meant in practice was that I had to get used to moving to the left then up to try and get to where I wanted to be, though again this didn't always work. I reckon I could get used to the system over time but feeling like you're fighting with the menus is never pleasant.
Within this series of menus, I discovered there was, thankfully, an option to adjust narration speed. However, there are only 3 options (which are not numbers), namely "Normal" (the default), "slow" and "fast". Neither of these really make too much of a difference unfortunately at least not compared to the rate I use a screen reader at daily. I left it at Fast and decided to start the game and see if any other options might be needed later.
Selecting Story mode (as opposed to Action mode which was the recommended option), I dived in.
When it came time to choose my character however, the narration only told me what buttons to press, not what (or rather who) I was selecting. It also doesn't tell you that to confirm, you need to hold A (rather than just a press) with no sound cue as you're holding it either.
When you do finally gain control, what is presumably the mission name and the objective are spoken. Unfortunately, the former has the butchered pronunciation expected from an English synthesiser trying to speak in a foreign language, which is a shame as your immersion is broken by trying to figure out what was just said to you.
When I was crouched and in stealth, the game told me again to press B to crouch and move quietly. Had I done that, I would've likely got my character killed, thus resetting me to the beginning of the mission. This showed the key value of being able to reduce or disable multiple readings of hints, or at least adjusting the system to be more context sensitive.
Continuing to move through this stealth section, I realised something - every time button prompts came up, they were narrated. This is not the same for stick movements (for instance ladders), but nor is there any directional audio as to where to go in the first place. Finally ending up where the main game opens up, the narration tells you a mission and objective, neither of which are named as such, possibly making it confusing to be certain of what you're doing.
Being left in an open world with the objective of searching for supplies, I realised that as much as this game had menu narration (and relatively solid narration at that aside from the speed), this would be yet another game that I'd have to persuade someone else to play alongside me, which not everyone can do.
I believe if Far Cry 6 had some kind of traversal assistance and item scanner, this game would be pretty much set in terms of being playable without assistance. As I play more of the game, I'll update this review and, even though survival games aren't always my thing (after spending what feels like hours scavenging for items in The last Of Us Part II's Grounded difficulty), I can safely say that this game's overall presentation and the extensive options (which at times simply lack granular control) bode well for Ubisoft's future.
At this point, it's a matter of when, not if, a fully accessible title comes out to rival (and hopefully even surpass) The Last Of Us part II and I think, with Far Cry 6, Ubisoft has found yet another gauntlet to throw down, saying to developers "we're making our games more and more accessible, why aren't you?" and that, as an accessibility consultant, is fantastic to see as a form of progress.
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