I’ve listened to a lot of early impressions content, and so many have started with the expression, “I spent a few hours with this game,” and so on. When contemplating how I would start this article, I realized that, if I said only that, if I just posted a post which stated that I had spent a few hours with God of War Ragnarok, the blind community would go nuts! So, with that in mind… I spent a few hours with God of War Ragnarok.
Just kidding, full article is below. Thanks so much to Playstation, who graciously provided me the code for these impressions and my upcoming review. On that note, please do remember that this is not a full review. We’ll get to that on November 3.
As I sat on the home screen on the Ragnarok icon, preparing to press X and launch the game, I began uttering one single word. “Please,” I uttered. “Please, please please please, please please.” And then, I pressed X. Seconds later, I issued forth a tremendous sigh of relief and happiness as I heard the words “To enable screen reader, press square.” I happily pressed square, and proceeded to set up the game, down to every single accessibility feature including presets. Boy oh boy, there are many, many accessibility features here, folks, and most of it is what you’re expecting and what you want. However, if you’re expecting a carbon copy of TLOU Part 2 or Part 1, this is not it. These are different games, made by different studios, and though resources were absolutely shared here, there are differences.
I do feel the need again to reiterate that this is not the full, comprehensive review, so while I will discuss some accessibility features here, please read my upcoming review for the full picture. That said, my first few hours with God of War: Ragnarok were almost entirely incredible. Navigation assistance exists, though it is done purely with camera direction rather than waypoints. However, with appropriate prompts informing you of what button to press and when, it seems to work relatively well. I got stuck a few times, but a quick back and fill is all it took to get me back on track.
Let’s talk about the combat. What I have so far experienced is exhilarating, but I think it’s fair to say, difficult. However, I truly believe it is difficult in a good way. This is the kind of combat that really does train your reaction time, and I found myself reacting to dodge prompts, parry prompts, and block prompts faster and faster as time went on. I’m still no expert, but I’m definitely getting better. I can’t say much about these fights yet, but I can tell you I’ve faced both mini bosses, and full on bosses this way, and though some of them took me a few tries, I succeeded in typical God of War epic stylish fashion.
Let’s talk about the audio cues. In a funny way, these are going to be one of your biggest challenges as a blind player. What I mean is this. Many of the audio cues from TLOU were indeed shared, and used here in God of War: Ragnarok. However, in TLOU, these are tutorialized using the button names themselves. “This audio cue indicates that you should press triangle,” for example. In God of War, buttons are almost entirely ignored in favor of simply stating what action you would be performing upon pressing this button. “Press interact,” for instance. I’m sure you can imagine the control scheme for God of War is very, very different than that of TLOU, however you best believe that I pressed triangle the first several times I heard that interact prompt, because that’s the association I had. It is something that can be overcome quickly enough, but it’s worth mentioning.
There is another problem this creates though, which I will talk about here because it’s something I had to figure out during the beginning of my time with the game. Controls in this game are never, ever, ever tutorialized. We do get specific prompts related to the accessibility features we use, which is good, but you will never be told during gameplay which button is interact, which is block, which is light or heavy attack, and so on and so on. As the beginning of the game contains several quicktime events that use these buttons, I did initially fail, but then I found the cure. Consider this my recommendation to all blind players starting this game, especially those playing God of War for the first time. Go into the options menu, and look for a view controls option. It’s below the controller remapping option, and trust me, you don’t want to get those things twisted. Anyway, find that, click on it, and the controls will be listed for you one by one via TTS. This clears up the issue, but it is absolutely essential.
I’m going to put accessibility aside for a bit to talk about the first few hours of the game itself. I’m not going to say much, but I do want to say that it takes mere minutes to realize this is going to be an incredible game. The music is epic. The sound design is spectacular, full of impactful thuds and big stereo effects. The 3D audio is great. The haptics are absolutely tremendous, possibly even better than TLOU Part 1. Yeah, I said it. And the voice acting done by both familiar and new voices is exactly what you’d expect from a AAA title like this. This game is, I believe, firing on all cylinders, and yes, this is still an impression of just the first few hours. That should tell ya something.
Back to accessibility though, because I need to talk about one of my biggest disappointments. TTS narration is very good in this game, but it’s also, very, very sadly to say… incomplete, and the areas in which it does not exist are really, really important areas. I cannot accurately express how sad I felt when I got to the first prompt to look at my weapons, and equip weapon attachments, and learned that every single menu you get when pressing the touch pad is not narrated. That’s your stats, your weapons, your skill trees, your codex, your objectives, and your map. Thankfully, though it is a small consolation, the first time you have to do anything in any of these areas is heavily tutorialized, and TTS does take you through those step by step, but it’s still a shocking disappointment in my opinion. One of the coolest aspects of this game, the RPG aspect, where you gain XP, spend skill points, upgrade your weapons and so on… It’s just gone for us. We just don’t get to do those things, (or we do if we’re willing to just putter around and click on random stuff, or I guess try OCR). There were other issues, not all of which I can discuss here, but I still don’t think any of them disappointed me as much as this.
Still, breaking it down, here are the facts. I did, absolutely, 100%, play the first few hours of God of War: Ragnarok. That is a thing that happened. And for the most part, yeah, it felt great. I can’t wait to bring you the rest of my review. Stay tuned for that on November 3! Thanks for reading.