Deaf/HOH Game Review – Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Game reviewed on Xbox One

Game reviewed on Xbox One I don't like this game. I know this is probably a very unpopular opinion, as everyone and their mother seems to be in love with it, but for me, it's one disappointment after another. Every review I've read heralds it as being better in every way from the first in the series. Then I read an interview featuring one of the developers in which he called motion capture "dumb" and that attitude towards anything tends to sour me on whatever the person did or created. I mean one must think quite highly of themselves to…
All in all, if you want to play a pretty game and don't have hand joint issues and you're a Deaf/hoh player who doesn't mind a story told almost entirely with (non-visualized) sound, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is fine. If you're a disabled and/or Deaf/hoh player who is less stressed and frustrated than I am right now, Ori might even be better than fine.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Deaf Accessibility

Visual Representation of Dialogue - 6
Visual Representation of Sound - 0
Visual Cues - 7
Visually Engaging - 5

4.5

All in all, if you want to play a pretty game and don't have hand joint issues and you're a Deaf/hoh player who doesn't mind a story told almost entirely with (non-visualized) sound, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is fine. If you're a disabled and/or Deaf/hoh player who is less stressed and frustrated than I am right now, Ori might even be better than fine.

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I don’t like this game.

I know this is probably a very unpopular opinion, as everyone and their mother seems to be in love with it, but for me, it’s one disappointment after another.

Every review I’ve read heralds it as being better in every way from the first in the series. Then I read an interview featuring one of the developers in which he called motion capture “dumb” and that attitude towards anything tends to sour me on whatever the person did or created. I mean one must think quite highly of themselves to call a massive staple of the video game industry dumb. The interview also mentioned how the entire game was basically reliant on the sound design. Can you imagine if I decided to tell the world sound design was dumb just because I think there are better, more inclusive ways to tell a story?

And that bit about the sound design is true. The emotion of the game can very often fall flat if you’re Deaf or hard of hearing. After a short time spent in this second iteration of Ori I now can’t help but wonder if they also think accessibility is dumb. Because it’s nonexistent. I don’t know how one can be a developer of a platformer and not be aware of or care about the very warm reception of the accessibility additions made in Celeste.

My greatest disappointment with this game though isn’t with the game itself, but with the fact that it’s published by Microsoft Studios and is without any sort of intentional inclusive design. I thought we were beyond that, at least with Microsoft. I thought if anyone would enforce some sort of accessibility standard, it would be Microsoft. (This is where some people are probably having the “But ARTISTIC VISION!” thoughts and they can keep them right inside their heads.)

Is Ori and the Will of the Wisps playable for Deaf/hoh players? Yes. It’s fine. I’m just personally beyond fed up with games where “ARTISTIC VISION!” very clearly did not include disabled players in any way.

Illustrating the subtitle text.

The limited narration is fully subtitled. These subtitles are certainly large enough, though still manage to be illegible to many, as the font choice is far too thin.

Illustrating the lack of captioning for sounds that act as dialogue.

Aside from the infrequent narrator, Ori is mostly without dialogue. Instead, characters make sounds, emotional emotes if you will. One of these sounds is happening in the above scene from off to the left. Hearing players will understand this directional sound as a call to go that way. But since they didn’t bother to provide any visualization of these sounds, Deaf/hoh players will eventually move that way because it’s the only way to go. That’s a fun way to experience a game, right? Doing something just because you can’t do anything else?

Illustrating the infrequent dialogue captions.

On occasion, players will come across an NPC with something to say. Unlike the cinematic narration, these subtitles are fairly well done (because they have to be, because the NPC isn’t actually voice acted). It would be nice to have some size options for these, as they will be far too small for many.

Helpfully, enemies and interactable objects all have a distinctly colored glow. Enemies and dangerous objects have a very clear pinkish-red glow, though often times, hearing players will be able to hear them while still off-screen, while Deaf/hoh players won’t be aware of their presence until they’re within fighting distance.

Illustrating the high ledges that require rapid button mashing to scale.

My biggest issue with Ori and the Will of the Wisps was a) the controller options that lead you to believe they are remappable but actually aren’t (why have a “revert to default” option if you can’t change anything in the first place?) and b) the level of rapid button mashing required for everything from climbing to fighting. The image above is one of many areas you will need to climb out of by rapidly mashing the climb button. Incidentally, the image above is also where I gave up on Ori and the will of the Wisps (about 15 minutes in) because I’m not going to try and fail a million times to climb out of a hole, causing myself joint pain.

I very highly recommend taking the time to watch Steve Saylor’s video in which he discusses his impressions of the game. We’ve both arrived at essentially the same conclusions regarding accessibility but he did so in a much less annoyed way.

All in all, if you want to play a pretty game and don’t have hand joint issues and you’re a Deaf/hoh player who doesn’t mind a story told almost entirely with (non-visualized) sound, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is fine. If you’re a disabled and/or Deaf/hoh player who is less stressed and frustrated than I am right now, Ori might even be better than fine.

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Co-founder and EIC of Can I Play That?, captioner of many things, occasional writer of fiction. Any pronouns. courtney@caniplaythat.com