Ghost of Tsushima Accessibility Impressions — Just Barely Misses the Bullseye

You might remember my breakdown video back in May when I looked into what accessibility features I could see, or had concerns about in Sucker Punch Productions’ Ghost of Tsushima. At the time, the State of Play hadn’t revealed a great deal of information, but now the game is nearly here!

Due to launch on July 17 exclusively for the PS4, Ghost of Tsushima has players becoming Jin, a samurai on the island of Tsushima set in the 1270s. Players get to explore an open-world and engage in dramatic samurai battles. I’ve been playing the game and have a video showcasing my thoughts on the games accessibility. You can find the video below, and below that is the full transcript.


Transcript

Hi, I’m Steve Saylor, I’m blind and if you’re wondering how I’m able to play video games if I’m blind, if you take a look at the video here, you can be able to exactly what I see when I’m playing video games. Today, I’m very excited ’cause I’m gonna be talking about “Ghost of Tsushima” today. This is my accessibility, first impressions/review of the game. Thank you so much to Sony and Sucker Punch for sending over a code for me to be able to review for you today.

So I’m gonna be taking a look at the accessibility of Ghost of Tsushima and kind of give my thoughts on it in general. First off, I kinda wanna say, this game actually is kind of fun. I’m not really into necessarily the samurai films as a lot of my friends would be but I was kind of interested in this world just because of, just kind of the story that it was starting to present within its trailers and I was like, okay, this might be interesting.

When it comes to accessibility though, it almost hits the mark, it is so close. It’s definitely not The Last of Us 2 in regards to its plethora of options for accessibility. But there are definitely some things that are kind of built into the game and then options you can turn on and off, that actually do improve the experience.

First off, when you jump into Ghost of Tsushima, there is a bit of a cold open and that’s something we kind of described in sort of the accessibility side where a game just sort of starts and you don’t really have a lot of options to kind of like jump in. This one has a bit of a half and half, where at the beginning you get to choose what type of audio output that you want, you can change the game’s difficulty settings from easy, medium and hard, you can also adjust the experience and that sort of dictates whether or not you want subtitles or not.

The standard way is without subtitles and English language voice acted, but then you also have the ability to be able to turn on subtitles that have English voice acted as well as English subtitles. Samurai mode, which is Japanese voice acted with English subtitles. And then on top of that, there’s also Kurosawa mode which I will get into in a little bit and then you are jumped into Ghost of Tsushima pretty much right away.

Once you do have control of the sticks as it were, you’re able to hit the Options button and it will take you to the main options where you can be able to select more settings to be able to adjust your gameplay. Some of the stuff that you actually will be able to see in the accessibility options menu, you can be able to turn subtitle backdrop on or off which has a black bar and behind the subtitles, you don’t have the ability to be able to adjust the transparency or the subtitle size. You do see speaker tags of who’s speaking but you don’t get any of the environmental subtitles from any conversations that are happening around you as you move and explore around the world which is unfortunate.

You have simplified controls, kind of a way for them to be able to get past the QuickTime sequences where you normally would have to mash a button or to be able to get past them, there is no timer to make sure that you have to hit these buttons at the exact moment. So that actually is kind of a neat little thing that you can be able to turn on or off.

Another option is toggle button holds. You can set aim assist, you can set a projectile indicator which for those who are deaf and hard of hearing its great, because then if anything is being thrown at you whether it’s shooting an arrow or whichever, you can be able to see where that direction of where that arrow or projectile is coming from, as well as controller vibration on or off. And that’s kind of it for the accessibility menu.

There are other noteworthy options that I wanna be able to mention that are in other settings menus that I found actually kind of interesting. One of which I really like and I’ve seen a lot in games is to be able to change the difficulty at any time from easy, medium, and hard. Now there is also a contrast mode menu setting that it only has two options, default and dramatic. But I actually really liked how that was sort of set up.

controls scheme

The default essentially kind of just mutes the colors a little bit and just kind of sets a sort of overall tone to the gameplay. But if you set it to dramatic it actually adds a lot more pop and a little more extra color in a lot of the environment. This actually not only makes Ghost of Tsushima look even more beautiful, but it also makes it easier for me to be able to see, you kind of see a little bit extra detail in the HUD elements when you’re interacting with them, which is really nice. So I would definitely recommend having the dramatic contrast menu option turned on. I think that makes it a much better experience or just a more like beautiful experience if you don’t necessarily need that higher contrast.

Now, as far as needs improvements for accessibility, there are definitely some things that are missing. There’s no remapping of controls. When you go into the options menu, you can see a controller that has labels of all the buttons that you will be pressing within Ghost of Tsushima, but it doesn’t allow you to be able to customize that with either scheme, or custom remapping of those controls which is unfortunate.

The overall HUD or UI elements of Ghost of Tsushima actually has some really great elements to it, but just barely hits the bull’s eye of being perfect. Like there are definitely some things that are missing or definitely need improvement on. Gameplay menus are great. There’s lots of large text high contrast, large icons that are easy to see and it has some of if not the best gameplay menus I’ve ever seen from a visual impairment standpoint. There’s just a lot of information that’s given and doesn’t sacrifice a lot of small elements that we’ve seen in a lot of the gameplay menus in a lot of these kinds of complex games.

Within the HUD elements, there’s the ability built to see a pulsating glow on items you can be able to pick up. And also the gust of wind has some interesting elements to it and I’ll get into that in a sec. But as far as the stuff that needs improvement or stuff that’s missing, it’s kinda hard to see certain text elements on the HUD where your objectives are in the top left corner, your health and your stamina, quote, unquote, all those elements are pushed to the far corners of the screen and are hard to be able to see at a glance.

There’s also some weird sort of text against background kind of things where the majority of the text is against a black background, but whenever there is a white UI box in behind a certain text or hints, it leaves black text on white. But then there’s a sort of gold color that is supposed to emphasize specific words, but really hard to see against a white background.

Overall for the UI, it’s like it’s almost there. It just hits about 80% of what you want in a UI and HUD from a visual impairment standpoint, but then they’re like, that’s that 20% of things that are missing that are really important that kind of stand out. So let’s talk about the gust of wind gameplay feature that was featured most recently in a Sony State of Play and this was a way for developers to kinda add in a way to direct you as the player to go to specific points of interest on the map but without adding waypoints.

It’s kind of a mixed bag for me. There are times where the gust of wind is great and there are times where it’s hard to be able to see. You can be able to use the gust of wind at any given moment, you can swipe up on the touch pad and at any given moment, it will direct you where your next waypoint is that you selected in the map and it’s cool so you can be able to see it at any given time but difficult in certain areas where it just sort of blends in with the environment.

There is a bit kind of like a higher contrast in certain points. But it’s hard to tell whether or not that’s being done through the dramatic contrast mode or just done in part of the UI itself. So it’s hard to kind of determine whether or not you can be able to adjust it or turn an option on or off to see if that works.

I like the way that it’s displayed honestly. I think it’s kind of a neat idea to kind of add more exploration element to Ghost of Tsushima and it kind of adds in with the story outlook that is being presented, but it’s just, it doesn’t really hit everything that I want as well as there is no sound direction for the gust of wind at least that I was able to try and duplicate with my headphones on. There was nothing for me to be able to know which direction audibly that gust of wind was coming from ’cause it kind of blends in with the sound environment itself.

Now, you can be able to adjust the sound effects volume to be a little bit higher than the rest, it still kind of blends in with the rest of the sound effects and can be difficult for those who have less vision than I do or completely sightless, to know exactly where you need to go based on that gust of wind, which is something I feel like is a miss because I feel like that would have been an amazing accessibility feature if Sucker Punch was able to add that sound direction a little bit more prominent in the gameplay audio so you can be able to know exactly where you’re going if you can’t see the gust of wind.

There’s also an option for when you wanna go into stealth mode which is technically called focused hearing. It’s similar to The Last of Us 2 with it’s kind of enhanced listen mode but without the blurry blobs and grayscale of The Last of Us 2. You actually get a highlight around the enemies that are near you with sort of a reddish glow around it. The world around you actually kind of goes a bit muted with its color and also your character moves a bit slowly but what’s cool is that actually there are more enhanced sound effects for the enemies that are near you and those are directional so you can be able to tell if an enemy’s to your left or to your right, based on what actions they are doing.

You can improve this skill as you go, you can unlock it as you keep playing and you can put more sort of skill points to it and it actually does enhance that focused hearing a lot better where it mutes the colors a lot more in the background, makes the enemy stand out more and the highlight around the enemies stand out a lot more. But I kind of wish it wasn’t locked as an enhanced skill that you can upgrade and that’s a problem with accessibility sometimes where if there are features that would be really beneficial for accessibility, but you have to unlock them with skill points. It kind of limits a player who is disabled to get past that hurdle within the beginning of Ghost of Tsushima that they would have not had if that barrier was gone with these extra enhanced focused hearing modes. So I kind of wish they were able to add that as an option instead of an upgrade.

Now let’s talk about Kurosawa mode. Now in my previous video, where I took a look at the State of Play footage that introduced Kurosawa mode, I was very interested to see how the colorblind options were when you’re playing in that mode. And I can honestly say after looking at it and playing with it for a bit, it actually works. I was able to play it without having to rely on color whatsoever. There were definitely some elements that were a little bit harder to see contrast wise, but I think actually it can be played without having to play in color, which is something that I was very excited to be able to see if it would work out and I think it did in this case.

In regards to story and gameplay, I actually really like it. I’m only a couple hours into act one. So I can’t determine that kind of like how this will sort of play out as you keep going, whether things become repetitive or not but from what I was able to play, it does suck me in regards to more of the story than necessarily the gameplay. The gameplay is kind of neat and there are definitely some elements that you see from other games that are influencing this. The story is what kind of immerses me into the world and I definitely wanna see more and I’m excited to be able to, to keep playing.

Now as far as if I would recommend this game from an accessibility standpoint like I said, that 80% of accessibility that’s there, whether it’s built into the UI, or there are options that allow you to remove some barriers for accessibility. I think what’s there is actually really great. It’s just that 20% that is missing, is also really important and kind of makes the 80% that’s there kind of feel like that there are some holes in it because there are certain things that are missing or certain things that weren’t added or that were not improved upon that kind of make those whole stand out a little bit more than I would like. Would I recommend playing Ghost of Tsushima if you’re disabled? Yes, I definitely think it’s worth a try.

I don’t know if this will be something that you would wanna be able to sink 60 to $80 plus into if you feel like some of the options that I said were missing, might be a barrier for you to be able to play. But as far as everything else, I think it might actually be a pretty decent game for accessibility wise. But that’s just kind of my own opinion. I definitely would say always try it out for yourself if you can, because if you have a disability, only you can be able to know exactly what your disability needs are. I just am giving you the information that I have available as someone who is a consultant and an advocate in this field. So I definitely try to give my best.

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