Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla: An Exciting Step Forward in Accessibility

Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is one of the most exciting upcoming games in quite some time, in my humble opinion. The final game represents the largest slate of accessibility features specifically for the blind that I have yet seen from Ubisoft. I was given an opportunity to check this game out for a grand total of 6 hours during a recent Ubisoft media event, and I witnessed a couple of these features first hand. I’m going to discuss those features a bit here, as well as some general opinions of the game as it currently stands.

First, to be completely clear, not every accessibility feature that will be available in the final game was available in my demo. Menu narration, which Ubisoft claims will be nearly complete save for the in-game hud, was not present, but knowing just how much will be narrated delights me intensely. Other features though, such as the ability to autofollow roads and rivers, and audio cues for items and enemies when using Oden’s Sight, were present, and appear to be considered defaults. That’s right, folks. Features we need are just the natural way of things in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. Check out the video below for an example of these audio cues. Keep in mind they are very subtle. Also spoiler alert, i technically do find the loot in this video… Technically. My demoist realized that the loot… was the fish in the river. You’ll, uh, you’ll know when I find it.

Speaking of audio cues, it doesn’t end there. Collectable artifacts, breakable rocks that give you a resource, and treasure chests also make environmental noises. And that’s not to mention all the audio cues that occur around you as you move through the world. You’re automatically notified of nearby enemies or animals you can hunt. You’re automatically notified when you reach a new area. There are also separate cues for quest progress versus quest completion. There is an audio cue on the top of the game’s synchronization towers. There is an audio cue when you move over a point of interest on your map! It is very, very clear that the devs made it a point to fill this game with helpful audio cues, and they did it for everyone, not just for us. Check out this video for another example audio cue, this one of finding treasure.

Now let’s talk about the stuff I loved about this game, because honestly I didn’t hate anything. First, and possibly the thing I loved the most, one of the mini games. It’s called Flighting. It is essentially Viking rap battles. No, seriously, that’s what it is. You face opponents in a rhyming duel of wits, and the cleverer between you is the winner. And, just as is true in a rap battle, it’s mostly about either building yourself up, or insulting your opponent. These are handled in a series of dialog options, and winning them nets you charisma, which will allow you to use specialized dialog options in story moments depending on how much of it you have. Here. Check this example out. The controls are in the hands of my demoist for this video, but the choices made by our female protagonist were mine. Enjoy!

Second, the combat. It is brutal, especially when you get to the executions, which there are many of. Plus, there’s a heck of a lot of it. And oh yeah, there are epic, epic battles. I’m talking full storming of cities. And they… are… awesome. As a matter of fact, I’ll show you one. This, again, was done by my demoist, since not all combat accessibility was implemented here.

Lastly, the story itself. It is so well-told. The world is full of characters who converse with you and with each other. You can ask the people in your settlement what they do and how they got into it. You have a ship, and your crewmates will tell stories and sing songs as you sail. Here’s a clip of that.

There is so, so much dialog. I suppose it’s fair to say this is typical for a modern Assassin’s Creed game, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s really immersive and well done. Side quests, too, are full of world and character building dialog, and I love it all. Here’s one of my favorite side quests so far, again executed flawlessly by my demoist.

So here’s the part you’ve all been waiting for, the breakdown. Do I think Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be fully playable by the blind? Honestly… NO. But that is not why I am excited. The features I have talked about alone represent something that so many recent games have failed to demonstrate, and that’s progress. Real, and true progress toward accessibility. Guess what? Ubisoft is listening, and these features prove that. Maybe we’re not all the way there yet, but we are moving right along. Audio cues are everywhere. Aim assist will be in. Auto-follow roads and rivers… Nearly full narration… This is what true accessibility progress looks like. And who knows? Maybe I am wrong. Maybe all of us will be playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla on November 10. After all, I don’t know how far narration truly extends. I don’t know how much of the environment can be traversed with roads. We will see. Nevertheless, I’m so happy to have been invited to do this again, and I am very, very excited for the future of blind accessibility at Ubisoft! I leave you now with one last clip, this one controlled by me. Here is my attempt at combat, during which I maybe possibly angered a Templar. Whoops! Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

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