Respawn Entertainment‘s Apex Legends took me by surprise when it launched purely because of how accessible it was to me. Sure, it isn’t perfect but even to this day, it does a good enough job at making the action-packed gameplay bearable while still allowing me to consume all the information I need. However, a year after launch and it feels as if accessibility has taken a back seat.
There were two stand out accessibility features that made me personally fall for Apex Legends. The first was the brilliant subtitles that came with speaker labels, various font sizes, and a background. Not only that, but every line of dialogue within the game is subtitled, minus some menu screen bugs which I’ll touch on later.
The second was the intuitive ping system that quickly became a stand out feature, so much so that Epic Games implemented a similar ping system in Fortnite. The sheer scale of Apex Legends’ ping system is incredible. You can ping practically everything that’s interactive; doors, weapons, ammo, enemy traps, and even interactive world elements.
Not only does the ping system allow for tactical conversations and easy-to-use commands with a radial wheel, but it also means you can play without needing to jump on a microphone to communicate. As someone that feels intimidated by voice chat, this was a huge system for me that has kept me coming back.
There are other brilliant features, such as your bullet impacts giving a visual representation of damage on the enemy. A white cross means you’re hitting them, red means you’ve brought them to their knees. Incoming damage is also indicated by direction markers on your screen, and explosives are given orange wireframe markers so you know to get the hell out of there.
There’s also a minimap that’s easy to see, detailing your squads position with colors to differentiate them. Their outlines can be seen through walls, and if they’re attacking, the player’s player card emits a muzzle flash to visually represent who is attacking.
So really, it all sounds pretty good. The problem is, the accessibility features don’t appear to have improved since the game’s launch a year ago despite there being plenty of room for new features of fixes. Since the game launched, the content wasn’t coming out as regularly as the behemoth that is Fortnite. Players took to social media laughing at Respawn Entertainment, insulting the studio for not being able to “keep up.” Other players were demanding they had more content and even to this day, players keep laughing at announcements saying the game is “dead.”
Respawn was under pressure to try and please these players, and over time it seems as if that’s exactly what they’ve been trying to do, push more content. We’ve certainly seen a lot more content in the last few months. In-game events have populated the game and we’ve already had two seasons launch this year. There’s a lot going on in terms of content. But what about the issues with accessibility?
Since day one, issues have been present with some features, and a year later seem to remain unchanged. For example, ping markers are placed for wayfinding and highlighting points of interest. However, they can be difficult to see due to blending into the world and sometimes not being clear enough to catch your attention.
A more intrusive animation could help, something to draw your eye quickly to the marker. Perhaps some sort of glow as well to try and separate it as much from the game world as possible. I usually have a much harder time seeing the red enemy marker. Check out the video above which shows me being told there’s an enemy in the distance, but look how long it takes me to locate the marker, on top of that I have to use a dark panel to even see it.
Voice-to-text is something I was very excited to see in Apex Legends and on paper it seemed like a brilliant idea. In reality, it’s a clumsy feature when coupled with bad microphone quality and mumbling that causes confusion, and winds up being ignored. I’m fairly sure a player isn’t talking about the Facebook logo or children, but as you can see exampled below…they apparently are. I won’t say this feature needs to go…sometimes it can help, but it seems to be struggling a lot to be a reliable feature.
I’m also surprised that Respawn Entertainment hasn’t tried implementing an audio wheel, similar to Fortnite’s sound visualizer. Apex Legends does have some high-quality audio for nearby footsteps and directional audio, but for me having a visual guide to help give me that directional understanding would make for a much better experience.
Subtitles through the game are great, as I’ve already stated. However, menu areas and the legend selection screen don’t have subtitles which means I don’t know what’s being said if dialogue presents itself. This is particularly irritating when I’m browsing character quips to purchase. I will point out, after selecting a legend, when the panel pans away, for a second you can see subtitles were present underneath the selection screen…and this has been the case since launch.
I don’t want to insinuate that Respawn Entertainment is neglecting accessibility with Apex Legends, but it does feel as if the studio ticked the accessibility box in development, launched the game, and decided that was that. Almost as if there was no need to delve any further. I could have missed any tinkering that has taken place, but the main issues for me are the issues that are present still after a year and that there’s not really been anything new that I can recall?
I am enjoying the new, regular content, but I’d also enjoy having more ways of enjoying the game without feeling as if I’m at a disadvantage compared to the rest of my squad. It’s worrying that it seems as if the studio feels more determined to please impatient players who want Fortnite regular content than ensuring the experience of all players is as inclusive as possible. Of course, if I’m wrong, I’d love to know what things have been significantly changed!
Update: Since launch, there have been some changes, such as digital menu navigation and head bob reduction. Footstep volume was tinkered with, and death box visibility. Font readability saw a tweak, and a practise mode had also been added. Colorblind upgrades were also inplemented as well as cursor velocity option.
So it’s fantastic to see small tweaks being made that seem to have passed me by. It’d still be great to see more features make their way to the game for sure!