Review copy provided courtesy of Square Enix
By Kenneth Nida
About me and my play style: I’m legally blind after suffering several strokes. My peripheral vision is fine, but my central vision is like looking through a shimmering kaleidoscope. I’m unable to read text, and even if it is enlarged, I have to go letter by letter. When playing console games, I stand directly in front of the TV so I can see as much as possible.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn originally launched in 2013, replacing the failed Final Fantasy XIV. So why am I reviewing it in 2020? Because right now it’s more popular than it’s ever been, and after playing it, I want to encourage those with visual disabilities to give it a shot. I avoided the game for the longest time because I thought with my vision it wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience. With my inability to read text, an MMORPG is incredibly daunting, and might even seem impossible to play. I’m happy to report that’s not the case, and while you’re not going to get the exact experience someone without visual issues might have, you can still have fun and lose yourself in Eorzea for an untold number of hours.
Visual Characteristics 9/10
FFXIV is an absolutely beautiful game, and I didn’t find the visuals negatively affecting my ability to play. Areas are large, but easy to navigate. There were several times I struggled navigating to a specific quest objective marked on my map. Usually, it would be located above where I was looking, and I would need to take a particular path to get to it. However, this rarely only happened, with the majority of quests being easy to understand and complete. If you need to defeat a certain number of enemies, those enemies are going to be found within the area of the map that is shaded red. Other activities and destinations for quests are similarly marked with corresponding colors. Quest NPCs are clearly marked with large icons next to their name, though I did have trouble figuring out what various other icons represented.
This was quelled by the official game manual website, which I found incredibly useful. My vision never caused any issues with combat as there is no aiming involved. Your various skills can combo into other skills to cause additional damage, which is communicated through the next skill in the chain being highlighted in your hotbar. If an enemy is executing a special attack that can be dodged, the ground is shaded in blue/orange which clearly communicates the oncoming assault. Each piece of the HUD can be resized and moved to make navigating menus, seeing your health bar, or your various skills much easier.
Accessibility Features 9/10
The accessibility menu is actually quite sparse, but there are options within the other sections of the settings that make the game more accessible. The options to resize/relocate UI, as well as increase the size of fonts are spread out within the settings. It would be great if there was an option to increase the size of everything within the accessibility menu. I was able to locate each of the options eventually, but that did require some research.
There is also an option within the System Configuration menu to increase the scale of all UI. It’s a setting for people running the game in a high resolution, but it works for accessibility purposes. Just under that setting is an option to increase the scale of all UI by up to 140%.
Another setting that could potentially be useful for accessibility purposes is Character Lighting which makes character models stick out more as it gives each character model it’s own light source. This means that enemies and other characters are going to be easier to see, even if they would normally be covered in shadow. There is also an option to increase the size of the mouse cursor within the mouse settings which makes it easier to keep track of.
Non Visual Cues 7.5/10
There are sound cues when you are first targeted by an enemy and when an ally has targeted you to cast a spell. Music changes when in and out of battle, and when entering FATES (public quests) there is a music cue that accompanies the on-screen notification. Macros, which are strings of actions done with one button press, can have sounds added to them. This is especially useful for when a tank wants to alert everyone of danger. There is also an option to enable vibration if you are using a controller.
Decent Fonts 9/10
The game’s menus and font sizes are very customizable. All font sizes can be adjusted. Menus can be scaled all the way up to 200% which makes navigating things such as inventory, skills, and the quest log much easier. Playing the game before and after discovering this option was like night and day in terms of visibility. The font size for the chat log can be increased, with individual elements such as the battle log, world events, and general chat each having a font size setting.
Necessity of Text 7/10
This is an MMO so lots of text comes with the territory. VO in cutscenes is sporadic, mostly happening during big story beats. I found myself clicking through lots of dialog unfortunately. It’s a testament to the other aspects of the game that even though I have no idea why I’m killing marlboros, or fighting Ifrit, I’m still having a ton of fun exploring and leveling up my character. I found a web browser invaluable while playing, as I could look up quests if I had any questions, or wanted to know which quest reward is going to be most appropriate for my character.
It does feel odd to be playing an MMO, but engaging with that second M very little. The only time I interacted with other players was joining groups for dungeons. I was intimidated at first, because I was afraid I would be a liability to the group. However I never found myself in a situation where I couldn’t simply follow my party’s lead. I chose a damage dealing class, so this would have been very different if I had chosen a healer or tank. I’m sure endgame dungeons and raids are going to be a different story, but if you want to go down that route you could find a community on your server and communicate through something like Discord. One day I hope all games include a text to speech option, making even the most text heavy games accessible to those with vision issues.
Level of Precision Required 9/10
Combat uses lock on targeting, so there really isn’t any precision required in combat. There are enemy attacks that require the player to move their character out of the part of the floor that is shaded in blue/orange, but the areas that are safe are not small or intricate, so it’s more about just reacting and moving your character and not threading the needle to avoid the attack.
Depth Perception 9/10
The camera can be pulled back quite far, or pulled in for a very close behind the back view. You can even toggle a first person view if that works better for you. Due to the customizable camera, I didn’t run into any depth perception issues.
This is a review of the Realm Reborn content which is the base game, and doesn’t include impressions of the expansions. However A Realm Reborn establishes the baseline of what to expect going into the expansion content. There is a free trial that lets you play as much as you want, with all classes being capped at level 35 with a few other restrictions such as limiting how you can communicate, and how much in game currency you can earn.
This is a generous trial that allows you to experience what the game has to offer, and if you’re going to be able to play the game with your vision. If you want to continue beyond the free trial, the starter edition is $19.99 with 30 days of game time included. After that the game requires a monthly fee that varies depending on how much game time you sign up for.
Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment
My vision is 20/200, but I think someone with 20/400 could be able to play the game. I play using my peripheral vision, so the ability to play using solely that portion is possible. Visual skills such as object recognition, the ability to navigate your character through large 3D environments, the ability to differentiate enemies from one another, recognize and differentiate the icons for your character’s attacks as well as your character’s inventory, and the ability to recognize and differentiate icons next to NPC’s heads to know what type of service/quest they offer.
If you can read text you’re going to enjoy the story more, and be able to communicate with people which makes MMOs even better. The ability to read 16 point font is required if you want to read the chat/battle log as that is the largest font size available. But even though I was unable to engage with anything in the game that required the ability to read, I still wanted to continue playing the game to explore the wonderful world Square Enix has created.
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