Watchdogs: Legion: We’re the Wrong Recruits: My Blind Accessibility Impressions

Watchdogs Legion is, no doubt, an ambitious game. The idea that you can recruit, and thus play as, essentially everyone in the game’s massive population is awesome, and a little insane! All that on top of the deep hacking gameplay we’ve seen from previous games, and Watchdogs Legion is a game I’m super, super interested in. Unfortunately, it is not playable by the totally blind. That isn’t to say it does everything wrong, though. Let’s break it down and discuss Watchdogs Legion.

One thing Legion does correctly right from the jump is menu navigation. It’s not cursor-based! Or at least if it is, I was able to remain unconcerned about that since the D-pad works perfectly for jumping from item to item. Secondly, menu narration is the first option you’ll find as you press down, and even when off, that option is still narrated so you know when you’re highlighting it. From then on, settings are easy to configure, as all of them are narrated well, including tool tips for each. Setup for the game is a wonderful and dare I say satisfying experience.

It is when the game actually begins, though, that the blind run into problems. Unfortunately, there are virtually no assistive audio cues in Watchdogs Legion, and Hud elements aren’t among the things that are narrated, so we are left with very little guidance as the first mission, (which happens to be an infiltration), begins. There is a button, R3 by default, which will do a scan for nearby hackable objects, and it does play a sound, but it is a nonspecific scan sound, and not at all based on the results of that scan. I did manage to take out a few guards though, and the positive takeaway here is that aim lock on, which can be activated from the settings menu, works beautifully. Every bit as good as TLOU2, from what I can tell. There isn’t a targeting sound, but if there’s an enemy, lock on will help you take them out.

Because there was more I wanted to test, I asked my fiance, who is sighted and also has the game, to play the first mission for me. She agreed, and got through that infiltration bit in no time. It was time to start recruiting operatives, and this is where another positive accessibility thing happened. The recruitment list is completely read by narration. Everything from their names to their stats to what they are known for, be that good or bad. I can honestly say I chuckled when I had the chance to recruit someone who had been permanently banned from the London zoo. What had they done? It must’ve been pretty awful for such a harsh jjudgement. Little story bits like that are intriguing, and I enjoyed browsing through the selection of candidates. I ultimately chose an app-developer, and was told to meet with our contact at the safehouse.

So now we get to another accessibility positive. I pressed select to go to the map screen, which does not read in Watchdogs Legion, but a simple press of the right bumper got me to my missions list, which does read in full. Best of all, you can then press A to track, and Y to view on the map. Now, I admit I’m not actually sure if viewing a mission on the map does what I think it does, but one would think this would set your map cursor on that mission… right? Well, if so, this is a positive because you need only to press A once you’re back on the map screen to set a waypoint. Then, we come to yet another positive… Autodrive. Almost every vehicle in Watchdogs Legion is equipped with autodrive, and when enabled, your vehicle will set course for the waypoint that you set on the map screen, and take you there. It even handily tells you when you’ve reached your destination. In theory, this is a fantastic feature. It technically does allow us to navigate a vast map. However, this is where our final problem comes in.

As I mentioned before when discussing the first mission, there is virtually no on-foot guidance whatsoever. Though holding down A while moving will autovault, as it does in multiple Ubisoft games, there’s no real way to tell where you are or where your objective actually is. In this example, I am pretty sure my car drove me to the safehouse, but there was no way I was actually getting inside, as I had no idea where the entrance was relative to my position. I attempted to find it, but ultimately just ended up walking away. This is the reason I ultimately deem the game unplayable by the blind.

All that said, folks, I want you to know that I still left Watchdogs Legion feeling positive. What we have seen over the last couple of months are multiple Ubisoft games all at different levels of embracing the idea of better blind accessibility. Even in Watchdogs: Legion, the effort is absolutely there. Where narration is, it’s very good, just like in other Ubisoft games. There are no accessibility-related audio cues to speak of, but we already know there are in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. It is therefore difficult to knock Watchdogs: Legion’s lack of blind playability because I instead see it as part of a puzzle that is still being constructed. I did need to be honest about that lack of playability, but the truth is that we’re getting there, and I think for Ubisoft, it will be sooner rather than later. Thanks as always for reading. Stay awesome!

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