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Ghost Of Tsushima: Accessibility Review

Disclaimer

The copy of the game used in this review was provided by the UK PlayStation PR team, at no cost to the reviewer.

Introduction

After the phenomenal new standard for accessibility set by The Last Of Us Part II, (read my review here), I am looking forward to seeing what the next game will be that will allow me the same sense of agency and freedom, regardless of platform, as a gamer without sight.

Not knowing much about Ghost of Tsushima, I wasn't sure what to expect other than an arguably more combat focused experience compared to Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic title.

Given I've always wanted to play as a Samurai and obliterate my foes with the power of a blade, only one question remains: Just how does this title fare in terms of accessibility? Let's start at the very beginning.

First Boot

The first screen you come to after launching the game and the logos appearing (with very much welcome accompanying audio, I might add), is a brightness adjustment prompt that has no narration.

Pressing X to confirm the default setting then puts you in an audio output screen, again with no narration, but that can be read relatively well using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) via using PS4 remote play.

Next is a difficulty screen, with 3 options (easy, medium or hard). I should point out that all the screens seen so far wrap continuously.

The screen allows you to choose an "experience", with options including Standard (UK Dialogue), Subtitled (UK Dialogue and Subtitles), Samurai Cinema (Japanese dialogue with UK subtitles) and Kurosawa Mode which, to quote directly from the game's menu applies "Black and white filter with Japanese dialogue and English (UK) subtitles. Inspired by the movies of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.".

Interestingly, this final option changes the background audio of this screen significantly, leading me to believe that this change will also occur in game, though I have yet to try this at this point.

As to my earlier mention of a lack of narration, this is persistent throughout the entire experience unfortunately. As a result, if you don't have OCR as an available method of reading the screen, you'll need sighted assistance to even get this far with any certainty.

As for my choice of experience, I went with the UK dialogue and subtitles option to allow my sighted CoPilot to be able to discern dialogue if anything was unclear.

First gameplay

The introductory cutscene pretty much sets the tone for the entire game, throwing you right into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, given there are no accessibility options designed specifically for gamers without sight (such as navigational audio cues, pathfinding or Text To Speech for the UI), this game (as previously stated) will require sighted assistance from here on out and the rest of this review will be played as such.

Stealth

This game isn't just a combat-focused hack and slash as you may be led to believe. There are also stealth elements too, which even with sighted assistance didn't seem to be tutorialised that well, at least early on. The icons and user interface were unclear, meaning that even when enemies might be about to spot us, we weren't really sure.

The audio design for these sections is at least makes it clear when you've been seen, though by then it's mostly already too late even on Easy difficulty, as you then fail the mission and are forced to retry. Thankfully, the loading times are reasonably short and the sections themselves aren't too long at all, so any frustration that is felt is quickly swept away by the progress you end up making.

Combat

As much as the stealth is frustrating even with sighted assistance, the combat on the other hand is almost the complete reverse. Note I use the word "almost" as there are certainly aspects that could be easier to work with as a gamer without sight.

Let me provide a couple of examples. During the combat tutorial, you are taught how to break defences. Thankfully, there is (once you listen and get your head around it) a cue for when an opponent is blocking. When you hit that block state with a quick attack, that cue plays and their defences stay intact. However, when you break their defences with a heavy attack, you hear a distinctive second cue that indicates you have an opportunity to capitalise on their vulnerability.

On the other side of the spectrum, there's parrying. Parrying is complicated not because of the reaction times you need, but because there are sometimes no audio cues before the attack animation kicks in, meaning that as a gamer without sight, you can rarely use this to your advantage. This was pretty much the same as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order which I reviewed around the time of that game's launch, where the only reason certain enemies proved problematic was because of the lack of wind-up audio cues for their attacks.

There are projectiles that you have to dodge at times as well but fortunately, much like Fallen Order's unblockable attacks, there is at least a sound cue for when these are about to happen. However, the cues happen so close to the attacks themselves that it feels like they are impossible to dodge, but I am uncertain as to whether they line up with the animations correctly in the first place to give you ample time to move out of the way.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Conclusions

Ghost Of Tsushima is yet another game that, whilst it could've theoretically been accessible to gamers without sight, falls short in many respects. That is not to say that the game is "bad" or anything of the sort, however. It is definitely an enjoyable experience, even if the stealth missions can be more frustrating than necessary and, though sighted assistance is required, it's a relatively straightforward narrative that allows you to hack and slash your way through enemies with the kind of strategy only a Samurai would learn.

With impactful and brutal combat, a cast of well-voiced characters and a tone definitely worthy of a movie, even if it is a little cliched at times, Ghost Of Tsushima is definitely a game I'll enjoy playing with sighted assistance. Even if at times it can be frustrating to work through the aforementioned stealth sections, the rewarding audio cues and battle scores make everything worthwhile as you strategise as to the best ways to cut down your enemies in the most efficient way possible.

I hope that, with the great strides The Last Of Us Part II has made recently, games like Ghost Of Tsushima will start becoming more and more accessible on release. If there are any other updates to this game that increase its accessibility to gamers without sight, I will endeavour to update this review.

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