Ghostwire: Tokyo Accessibility
Its enjoyable gameplay with simple execution, easy-to-manage skills and inventory, and informative HUD presentation make Ghostwire: Tokyo an enjoyable experience. Although, it's littered with hold inputs and doesn't feel wonderfully accessible for those who are blind.
Score7 out of 10
- Informative and well-presented UI
- Remapping for controller and keyboard
- Timer for timed missions can be turned off
- Dynamic gameplay that feels simple to master
- A large number of hold inputs
- No menu or screen narration
- Lots of glitch effects and bright flashing with combat
- Small subtitles with no background
- Immersive haptics ruin functional haptics that are available
Deadly fog envelopes itself around a rainy city, lights reflect off of rippling puddles, and creepy Visitors unleash elemental magic to kill you, Akito, a corpse now possessed by KK, a sort of, ghost man thing. The plan seems simple, save the souls of the city, get rid of the fog, and eradicate the masked people behind this. I’ll be doing all of that in Ghostwire: Tokyo while accessing how it does for accessibility across the board.
One thing I noticed is that Ghostwire: Tokyo borrows a lot of elements from other Bethesda Softworks games and improves on them. The objective panel on the HUD reminds me of Prey, the casting of your ethereal abilities feels very much like Dishonored, the compass reminds me of Skyrim, and more. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…instead it feels like Tango Gameworks took various elements and made them their own, and it really worked.
I was playing the game on a PC, and the PC version supports the PS5 DualSense controller so I mixed it up to get an idea of the more immersive PlayStation experience.
Lacking a Boot
When you first boot the game, the first thing is your generic adjusting of brightness and such, and then you’re thrown into the main menu. Thankfully there are no cutscenes and such, however, one thing to note is a glitchy splash screen to fit the visual style of the game. After nosing into folders, there is one (of two) Bethesda splash screen that is randomly chosen when you boot the game up. While it wasn’t an issue for me, it was certainly jarring in a dark room.
While our Ghostwire: Tokyo menu deep dive goes into the settings menu a lot more, there are some accessibility features that can be toggled on here. For example, you can adjust the size of the text for a large number of areas in the game, you can increase the minimap, and enable or disable a compass.
Really, this allowance to increase areas helps massively with making the on-screen information clear.
I’ll be honest, the subtitle presentation is not the best. At its default setting the font size is laughably small, and at their largest, it’s only bearable when sat at a computer screen. There’s no background box either to help the subtitles stand out more against the very bright and artificially lit city, instead, there’s a black stroke around the text. Speaker labels are also clearly separated from the dialogue, shown in an orange font and if you’re reading the voice of a spirit, the background of that dialogue glows orange.
What is good is that the subtitles do try to convey emotions through ways such as “I’m boooored” instead of a simple “I’m bored” and even full capitals for screaming. This makes reading them somewhat enjoyable without ruining reading comprehension.
Hang on though! There’s something very interesting in Ghostwire: Tokyo. When you’re browsing products to purchase from floating kitty cats, subtitles change their presentation, and it’s for the better. They shift to the bottom-left of the screen, but they’re very nicely presented within a background box, a speaker label, and a colored label to help them stand even further out.
While I love that subtitles still appear during browsing the stores, I am left feeling a bit baffled by why this style is not the default throughout the game. They’re so much more legible and lovely to look at, and if they existed in this way throughout the game, I’d love them to be centered and bigger than the current largest size.
While we’re talking about legibility, I want to go into the wonderful-looking HUD. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s like Tango Gameworks took a number of well-done elements from other Bethesda Softworks games and improved them. While disappointing at their default settings, being able to increase these elements makes them a lot easier on the eyes.
The compass is nice, allowing me to find the direction of a marker a lot easier, and clearly stands out against the background as do the icons tucked away in there. The objectives in the top-left are decent, although a background behind them could help with legibility a bit more. What’s more, when entering back into the game after being in the pause menu or game menu the objective title does a little increased animation to draw the eye to it and remind me of what I’m doing.
The information for your health bar and ammo and consumables are all nicely tucked into the bottom-right and are quite clear thanks to contrasting colors, and when crouching, the icon is always available to show you’re crouched. Now, let’s divert our attention to the minimap.
The minimap highlights the walkable roads clearly, with buildings —that you can climb up— and alleys being darker, providing a nice contrast for those who want to stick to roads instead of exploring. The icons are kind of small, but thanks to the color and clear iconography I can kind of glance and assume what something is.
It’s a major shame there’s no option to have the minimap rotate as I move as that’s my preferred way of using a minimap, but I’m just glad it has one that still allows me to explore and discover things without giving those areas away. And when it comes to “searchable areas” you’re given a radius to explore instead of being directed right to the objective.
And here’s something interesting about the minimap in Ghostwire: Tokyo, there’s a visible trail of your last few feet. This is actually something I first looked at with confusion, but after a while I found it to be very useful for either retracing my last few steps or knowing which way I don’t need to go.
Another thing done well in Ghostwire: Tokyo is Spectral Vision, a feature in which KK opens Akito’s eyes to see dimensional matter within a radius that can be later expanded through skill points.
Once activated, anything of interest is highlighted through walls and floors such as collectibles, spirits, and Visiots (Enemies) and will linger for a period of time. Enemy outlines don’t have a color to differentiate them from non-enemies, which is a shame.
There’s also a thin line that is assigned the color of your active objective and points toward the marker. Basically, if you’re doing a side-mission and you activate Spectral Vision, a line will come out from your feet and expand off toward the waypoint.
One use of this feature is to follow a trail until it leads you to the target area. How this is achieved is by having a ghost trail remain visible until you reach the next checkpoint where you start the process of following the next portion of the trail.
Combat and directionality
Combat feels very much like it took a page out of Dishonored’s book. It feels simple to master and the different types of powers you unlock can be easily switched through a radial wheel that pauses the game. Usually, battles will have items floating around so that ether can be gathered as firing magic depletes it, and so I never really felt like I was scrambling around for things in the middle of battle.
There’s a directional wheel that appears when enemies are looking at you with the usual yellow for them being alert and red for being hostile. This is constantly visible which can help when in the heat of battle when being flanked. There appears to be no target lock system, but to kind of make up for that, there’s an aim assist and powers seem to head toward enemies so long as aiming near them. There are moments of precision needed for items such as the bow, but otherwise, the combat often feels fluid.
There are also new spells you learn as you unlock more Shrines throughout the game and little statues you can pray at for a permanent buff. Some shrines also have a little section you can pay some money in for some buffs. You’ll be able to say a prayer, and depending on what you choose, you’ll be granted that wish. For example, I wished to find more health and was offered a bunch of floating food I could pick up.
For directionality in other areas of Ghostwire: Tokyo, there’s a lot for accessibility. You’ve got the compass (should you enable it), the minimap, the on-screen marker within the viewable space, and the Spectral Vision guide. There’s also a map where a marker custom marker can be assigned and see information on surrounding areas of interest.
Remapping, Controls, and Holds
With Ghostwire: Tokyo, there isn’t much for accessibility when it comes to controls. Keyboard and controller remapping exists which is good to see, although you can only remap an action once. There’s also a toggle or hold option for sprinting and crouching, but nothing for the game’s many hold inputs.
As you progress through the game, hold inputs become a common feature, holding LT to drain enemy cores to eliminate them, holding a button to confirm a purchase, holding the jump button to glide, holding LT to cleanse Torii gates. There are also hold inputs for charging attacks and capturing spirits around the world.
For those who deter from holding inputs, thankfully the requirement to do so doesn’t last too long with each encounter, but it’s the frequency of how often you come across a hold input that might grow tiresome.
I did feel comfortable playing through the game, the controls, in general, felt simple and fluid and I never felt entirely overwhelmed by any layers of combat and mazes of buttons. Button prompts are usually always displayed, and there’s a section in the game menu for replaying tutorials should a refresher be required. There are also fast travel points between unlocked Shrines.
There are moments in which a time limit comes into play, for example, Akito needs to find and destroy corruptions that are causing a barrier around the building he’s in at one point and there are over 6 minutes in which to do so. These tasks required going into rooms of an apartment complex and searching rooms, and while the time limit felt forgiving, there is an option to turn it off entirely so you have more time to explore.
There is a system called Hand Seals in which you’re presented with a specific shape that vanishes, and then you have to mimic that shape in the correct order. What’s cool here is that the game forces you to follow the correct input, meaning that when first encountered you feel you have to do it correctly, but when trying to force an incorrect direction later, it wouldn’t register until I went the right way. It’s a nice way of including a gamified feature without making it a nightmare to complete with any punishments.
Haptics and Triggers
Once I plugged in my PS5 DualSense controller, I started to feel the more immersive level of play, and honestly, I felt conflicted here. On the one hand, haptics had a useful function in which the controller would rumble lightly when nearby enemies, growing stronger the closer I was.
This was incredibly useful for me as I wouldn’t hear the enemies due to lack of audio captions, and sometimes I wasn’t overly reliant on using Spectral Vision to see through walls.
But outside of that useful function, there’s a great deal of immersion at play. Rain haptics are frequent and at times can ruin the far more functional feature I mentioned above. The haptics are also used to convey KK’s power when draining an enemy core but also used to immerse you into Akito’s footsteps, especially when landing after a jump.
As for the adaptive triggers, these didn’t feel overly overwhelming as there’s no resistance pull for casting spells or drawing a bow, for example. The most they reacted during my time with the game was when draining enemy cores or cleansing Torii gates, and even then they just jiggled a little.
Personally, I found Ghostwire: Tokyo to be enjoyable with its cognitive accessibility. The option to keep the objectives on-screen was helpful, the animation to draw the eye to the objectives I mentioned earlier is a nice touch, the objectives log is easy to understand, the map isn’t overwhelming, and the inventory is simple to manage.
The most I felt lost was in remembering the names and purposes of different things such as the Ether crystals, Jizo statues, talismans, and whatever the spell casting is called, weaving? I can’t remember. Even leveling up skills is a nice task that shows video examples of the skill you’ll be learning.
Another thing is how KK and Akito communicate. Their dialogue strings can help with understanding when you’ve cleared an area, when you need to heal, or when something could be nearby. It’s a really nifty feature to have included.
The main thing that may put off some players is something that grew more and more irritating for me. The game is littered with digital graphical artifacts that flicker and a lot of bright flashes when it comes to magic play. It never feels like there’s a lot of sequential flashing, but for the small bits it does glitch for, it can be worrying that it may lead to more.
What I found weird is the constant chromatic abbreviation and the effect on things in the distance. It’s a weird distorted world you wander through and sometimes it can be a bit much.
Sadly, there’s no narration support available built-in, and for users with low vision, I think it could have been handy to include a permanent Spectral Vision feature rather than having to continuously toggle it. It works as a stylish high contrast mode, and having that available would have been a big win.
Ghostwire: Tokyo has a lot of great accessibility by design features, and it certainly shines with the presentation of its HUD elements and its simple, fluid gameplay. It falls short in areas such as subtitle presentation and the lack of differentiation between enemies and other objects when in Spectral Vision. Haptics are used for a function which is amazing to experience, but the fact immersion overrides that experience makes me want a haptic preset feature to switch between functional and immersion.
The number of required hold inputs and how frequently they arise in gameplay feels a lot, and the glitchy visual style may be offputting for some players. Blind players may struggle with the lack of narration, and given how the game can juggle vertical and horizontal gameplay might find mobility being somewhat fiddly.
Overall though, this is perhaps one of the most legible and understandable games of 2022 so far in terms of UI — bar a few issue such as the subtitles and enemy differentiation. It could be more legible overall, sure, but Ghostwire: Tokyo is an enjoyable game that fans of Dishonored and Prey may like sinking their teeth into.
A review copy of Ghostwire: Tokyo was provided by the developer / publisher.