When offered the opportunity to try the highly anticipated sequel at an event, I took that chance hoping the game would, Like Gears 5, have even more accessibility improvements added after launch.
Unfortunately, when playing the build at the event, there were no narrated menus or audio cues to indicate how to proceed, though the combat was in stereo, which is definitely appreciated. I knew that things could change for the better at launch and had hopes that this game would at least be somewhat if not fully playable at that point in time.
With 2019 being the beginning of, essentially, a new era in accessibility, let's see if Ori's second outing can make an impressive statement.
There is no narrated menu infrastructure as you might see in a game like Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Crackdown 3, Sea Of Thieves or Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which was an unwelcome surprise to me. Once we got into the game, which has no true voiced dialogue, only a series of sounds that are subtitled with the lines in English (in my case).
The subtitles aren't narrated either, meaning that the story, though it could be easily relayed through audio description or an in-game equivalent, was incomprehensible without my CoPilot figuring out what they could with no point of reference as they hadn't played the original game either. It's analogous to watching a foreign language sequel to a critically acclaimed blockbuster, described by someone who hasn't watched the first entry in the series.
As for in-game navigation, there is no way to tell how to progress, thus requiring that you have sighted assistance from the very beginning of the experience.
That being said, the soundtrack and sound design are top-notch, working to build an atmosphere that's certainly unique and intriguing, something that I'd definitely invest my time into if I were able to.
There are several audio-only games in the 2.5d genre, some of which even have more advanced platforming elements and demonstrate that the theory as to how to make a game like Ori accessible as a gamer without sight has existed for over 15 years. But I really feel Ori had the chance to deliver an experience that would set the standard for a variant that anyone can play regardless of disability and, at least as of the time of writing, it doesn't deliver.
If you're reading this and considering it as a damning review, that's not my intention. I would love to play through a game like this start to finish without sighted assistance on the hardest difficulty and, if the developers are interested in making that happen, I'm always up to discuss and consult on just how that can be made possible. Hopefully some if not all of the issues I've highlighted can be rectified in future updates and patches to the game to create an experience that an even wider audience can enjoy, regardless of disability. After all, to quote the Microsoft Super Bowl ad, "when everybody plays, we all win".
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