Marvel’s Avengers seems like it will be a lot of fun, but not necessarily for the blind. Yet, there is an inkling of possibility there as well. Accessibility would be possible in this game, based on what I’ve seen, with the addition of only a few features. Before we begin our discussion, it must be noted that these beta impressions are based on a beta build provided to me by Square Enix.
From the beginning, it needs to be said that this game lacks any sort of narration. This of course would be vital for its accessibility, especially considering you must first connect a Square Enix account to the game to play. The linking process is, fortunately, one of the more simple processes out there, so one could likely manage it with OCR. Once you’ve reached the appropriate screen, you need only to log into a web site and enter an on-screen code there to link your account. I was able to do this with sighted assistance, and though there was a little confusion during the process, we got it done. This is not the only instance where in-game narration could have been utilized though, and we’ll get to the others shortly.
In terms of accessibility features, the game does include subtitles, as well as targeting and aim assistance, though I’m pretty sure the targeting assistance only applies to enemies, which is an important note we will also get to later. The game also does have an easy campaign difficulty, which I would recommend to any blind folks testing this out for themselves, given the lack of other blind accessibility features. After browsing the options and selecting my difficulty, I began the adventure.
The good news is that this is where a few positives come in. Loading times are fast except when reloading after death, and cut scenes and gameplay flow smoothly. An even bigger positive for us, though, is that it seems all tutorial-related quicktime events will freeze time while their associated tutorial message is on screen, only permitting you to restart time by actually pressing the button you are supposed to press, making these unfailable. This was a nice touch, and introduced me to some of the game mechanics in a way I understood. Again, this was helped along by having access to sighted assistance, so understanding might not be achieved by a blind person on their own since there is 0 narration or explanation of what you’re doing. My sighted fiancé described what I was doing when I pressed these buttons, which likely contributed a great deal to me understanding what the game was attempting to convey. This is where I feel narration, and possibly audio description, are strongly needed.
Another positive, honestly, is the combat itself. I had the most fun in this beta during sequences when I was surrounded by enemies. Using Thor’s hammer, or the Hulk’s devastating attacks against enemies is great fun, and the heavy vibrations of the controller make you really feel the impacts you’re dishing out. Every character feels unique, and it’s not hard to imagine how teamwork is going to factor in once you get through the tutorials and into actual co-op gameplay.
Unfortunately, navigation is still a huge stumbling block in this game. While the surround sound audio is generally good, there is enough platforming here to make movement through the world difficult. There is a particular early sequence with the Hulk that stands out in its difficulty, as you must jump across multiple parts of a breaking bridge. I can’t tell you how many times I had to restart here because I fell. It was a lot.
Now I want to step back a bit, and talk about the auto-aim. Based on what I could tell, it only seems to work in direct combat sequences. There is a point in the first mission where you must aim Thor’s hammer at something far away and throw it, and aim/targeting assistance didn’t seem to work at all here. I had to be carefully guided by my fiancé to aim at the correct spot. This would definitely require some modification for total blind accessibility.
So, based on what I have seen, could this game be made blind accessible? I would actually say, quite confidently, yes. With the equivalent of traversal assistance, such as what was used in the Last of Us 2 to help with jumps and things, along with some audio queues for certain elements, maybe navigation assistance that could also be tied to your co-op partners for an easy follow, slightly better auto-aim, and of course, lots and lots of narration, I do believe Marvel’s Avengers could be playable by the blind. Unfortunately at this stage, I can’t recommend it without a monstrously helpful sighted person who may also need to become a monstrously-helpful co-op partner for later missions. The suddenness with which you need to jump sometimes would make even this difficult, but I could see it being done with enough patience and understanding.
Thanks for reading this impressions piece. More of this will be coming in the future, and I hope it gives people an idea of what you can and cannot expect. As always, share and enjoy! Stay awesome!