Fortnite Accessibility Review — Can I Play That

Ben Bayliss13 minute read

Fortnite Accessibility

Deaf / Hard of HearingBlind / Low VisionMobilityCognitive

Fortnite has numerous areas where it could be improved such as map and menu presentation, but it has a strong sense of directionality throughout, The gameplay options provide a lot of personalization for controls and the new Zero Build mode opens the game up for those who want to enjoy Battle Royale without the famed and fiddly building mechanic.

Score

8.5 out of 10
  • Remapping for controller and keyboard
  • HUD scaling
  • Subtitles and customization options
  • Sound visualization wheel
  • Game modes for a variety of play styles
  • Minimap and main map can be visually messy
  • Text elements of the HUD and map information could be more legible
  • Complicated menu structures
  • Settings feel very detached from the game (Tucked away)

It is without a doubt that Fortnite is one of the major video games in the Battle Royale gaming space, but it’s also one that is consistently evolving, but has accessibility evolved with it? As we’ve seen recently, there are new story beats with each season, new game modes such as the new Zero Build mode are introduced, new features are implemented, and the game has more options like Flick Stick Gyro Aiming being added over time.

Our original Fortnite review was in 2020 and focused exclusively on the deaf and hard of hearing accessibility of the game, but now I want to revisit it. Why? I want to take a deeper look into what the game has to offer now across the board, and I also want to experience the new Zero Build mode that removes the building mechanic — a mechanic that pushed me away from the game in the first place.

Getting Started and Menus

Fortnite feels absolutely confusing to start with. I booted up on PS5 after a few years of not playing the game and was greeted with a story cinematic, a battle pass cinematic, and then a few adverts for new modes and other in-game content. Following that, every start-up process introduces some more adverts for in-game content, which is fair enough, it’s a free-to-play game, but it’s also a lot of pressing and holding buttons to skip through.

What’s irritating is that each advert has different navigational structures with some requiring to press Circle to skip, for example, while some require navigating to a button to skip with the Cross button. It feels more designed to encourage players to take in the content of the advert by deliberately adjusting the skip process for those uninterested.

Then there’s the navigation of the vast plethora of menus. Firstly, there’s your navigation between the top-screen tabs using L1 and R1. These areas are where I can switch between Battle Pass, the loadout, the store, etc.

Then, on the first screen, I’d press the square button to open another menu to browse the available game modes — and there are a lot. These range from the latest Zero Build mode, standard Battle Royale, Creative, Party, and even the separate and purchasable Save The World version to name some. Thankfully these are sorted nice and categorically and don’t feel too overbearing.

Pressing the start button opens another menu that contains the online friends and party settings, and then further down the settings menu is tucked alongside other bits and bobs.

It does feel like a lot of the menus are divided up in a way that makes it feel like too much navigation. Having shortcuts to Settings would be great. especially as the menu itself should be clearly available instead of feeling like there’s a trek to get to it.

The settings menu is also populated to the point that players may feel incredibly lost within it at first. Thankfully, settings come with explanations and sub-headings. You can find out what’s available in Fortnite chapter 3, season 2 in our menu deep dive.

Thanks For Nothing, Map

The start of every Battle Royale match finds players jumping out of a Battle Bus and landing somewhere on the map. While the process of this is fairly simple, understanding where I am was not. The default minimap is far too populated for my liking with a player arrow getting easily lost amongst the top-down satellite view of the area, including terrain, buildings, and location text.

However, there are segments of the map —on this version anyway— that are presented in a dark blue/green theme and a lot clearer to view. Personally, I much prefer this map view and think that it should be a toggleable filter player can choose between. Everything stands out a lot better, from the terrain types, the markers, map lines, and even the supply drops.

I also hope to one day see a rotating minimap option as I find it easier to gauge a sense of direction with this. I spend half my time in Fortnite turning clockwise, awkwardly watching the player arrow trying to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. Using the top-screen compass doesn’t feel as visually helpful as a rotating minimap.

The line directing me to the inner circle always feels too thin and then there are the issues with the larger map. By pressing the touchpad, the full map opens and I find myself consistently trying to find my player marker amongst the visual mess of the entire satellite terrain view.

It wasn’t until a few matches in that I noticed the button prompt that I can press R3 and center the map on my position. This is something that would be beneficial to occur automatically, especially as this R3 press needs to take place every time I open the full map.

With a native zoom feature available, I can zoom right in which can be helpful, but I still find that my time is spent trying to pinpoint my exact position, see the inner circle amongst the terrain, and if I’m playing with a squad, figure out where they’re run off to.

Above all, I think my experience with both the minimap and the full map would be more comfortable if there was an option to change how detailed their presentations are. Removing that extra step by having the full map automatically center on me would be great as well.

The HUD and Visuals

The HUD, as a whole, can be adjusted in size which can help somewhat with legibility, especially as the font choice is nice and heavy. However, elements such as the compass, the icons under the minimap, ammo counters, and time left for consuming shields do get lost against brighter backgrounds.

While the status bars section does have a slight background everything else does not. Having a background with an adjustable opacity behind all of these HUD elements would be far more favorable to provide a legible experience without having to find dark sections of the world to see the information clearly.

Crucial information such as health, shields, and stamina is determined by colors with icons next to them. While colorblind filters are available, having patterns for these bars and even weapon rarity types would be more useful.

The vibrancy of the world does come with a plus though, and that’s making other players stand out fairly well, especially when in large open areas. There’s also a specific weapon I adore, the Thermal Scoped Assault Rifle, because it shifts the view to the same dark blue/green scheme mentioned above with the minimap, but highlights the enemy with a bright shader.

This helps me a lot in the same way some games use outlines or shaders to highlight enemies. Whenever I drop into a match, this is the weapon I’m looking for.

Directionality and Understanding

Fortnite got a 10/10 in our Deaf/Hard of Hearing accessibility review for a reason. I’m able to play the game comfortably because everything is clearly explained when it comes to gameplay. Button prompts are available for everything, the bullet tracers help pinpoint the source of incoming fire, a damage wheel also helps, and large pop-ups indicate situations like when to jump out of the Battle Bus, when the ring is closing, and more.

There’s no in-game dialogue to follow, and if there is, subtitles are available and they can be customized to a fantastic degree. This includes adjusting the size, the background, text outlines, and drop shadows. There are in-world NPCs that communicate through speech bubbles that have a nice size and contrast as well.

And then there’s the sound visualization wheel that sits alongside the incoming damage wheel. A remarkable feature with a problematic past due to being implemented originally only for mobile users wanting to play without sound. It was later added to more platforms but having it enabled meant all game audio became disabled. Since then, the sound visualization wheel has been practically perfected and is available on all platforms and can now be activated while still keeping the game audio enabled.

Here, I’m shown nearby footsteps, gunfire, vehicles, golden chest hums, and other key in-game sounds that rotate with my character giving me a sense of direction. These visuals differ in opacity depending on how far away the source of the sound is, which means that anything a hearing player is likely to hear nearby will be visualized in accordance for deaf and hard-of-hearing players.

There’s also a ping system, something that appeared to be spurred by the popularity of Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends. I can easily assign a marker either through the map or by pressing left on the d-pad indicating my planned location to my team. I can also double-tap the same input to mark an enemy location. Furthermore, there’s a radial wheel available for making visual orders or requests such as requesting ammo or health.

Blind Support

What I will point out, is that there may be some benefits from the sound design for blind players to pinpoint the directions of enemies, especially the 3D Audio feature that’s available should users have the headphones.

The aim assist can help a smidge providing the reticle is fairly close to the target. However, Fortnite doesn’t feel all that friendly, especially for long-range combat and also the complicated menu structures. It’s also lacking any native screen reader support, and those playing in the Build mode may find navigating through structures and edits a messy experience.

Management

One of the nice things about Fortnite is the simplicity of management which can be good for cognitive accessibility, but at the same time, it does come with its complications.

Players land with only a melee weapon —mostly used for breaking items in the world for materials for crafting— and then there are five slots for any other equipable items. Items are found scattered around, but the better items are found in golden chests.

Items are always dumped onto the ground and anything that can be equipped needs to be picked up. Ammo and health items can be picked up automatically by running over them, although if I have two bandages, then I automatically pick additional ones up until the limit is hit. Weapons come in a variety of rarities that are indicated by the color of their glow. The rarer the weapon, the better it’ll be.

Management can be done by opening the inventory and manually moving items to where I prefer having them on the LB and RB inventory navigation. For me, I always have weapons to the left and consumables to the right as an example. There’s also an option in the menu to set a preference for inventory management to make sorting it all less time-consuming.

Controls

The controls can be fully remapped. Controllers can have every button changed from a nicely presented remapping screen, and the same can be done for the keyboard, and there are presets available. Fortnite also has a good deal of accessibility features in the form of enabling toggle and holds for some things such as auto opening doors, auto-sprinting, holding and toggle for swapping, and a few others.

Those who may want to use macros can’t as they are classed as a form of cheating. Building, which can require a bit of precision may be an uncomfortable experience for some if having to manually select pieces, rotate them, place them, and edit. There are Builder Pro options and presets, but it’s still additional inputs that can work against a player.

Again, the new Zero Build mode removes this build mechanic and allows players to focus more on traversing the world and using what cover is available.

For PS5 specifically, the haptic vibration in Fortnite does not feel overwhelming and feels more functional which is great for those hoping for accessibility uses. The same goes for the adaptive triggers, which also come with some nice options for catering the adaptive trigger experience to the player. There’s also the Gyro control that can be helpful for some, for me, I don’t enjoy the feeling of moving my controller while also trying to operate other buttons.

Zero Build Win

Ultimately, before Zero Build mode was added to the game, I spent my time feeling inadequate as a player on the standard Battle Royale. I couldn’t get to grips with the building controls and despite being fairly good at aiming, that advantage was always ravaged when an enemy would craft a fuck-off large structure within milliseconds.

I wanted to enjoy Fortnite, but I wasn’t able to participate in the style of play, and as a result, I never felt like I had a place at the game’s 350 million+ player-filled table. Thanks to Zero Build, not only do I feel more welcomed with a mode that suits me, but I’ve seen various other players on social media excitedly announce they want to jump back in.

As for Creative mode, it’s just not a mode for me. While it has the freedom to kick back and have fun, I wanted to enjoy the Battle Royale experience.

Conclusion

Fortnite features a number of accessibility features that can help make the gameplay itself enjoyable and adjusted to a variety of needs. Remapping is great to see, as are toggle and hold options and the sound visualization wheel is spectacular. The new Zero Build mode also removes the cumbersome building mechanic that feels required to use in the standard Battle Royale in order to survive, and removing it opens up a whole new player base.

There are areas where legibility comes into question, such as the HUD not being clear against brighter scenery, and the map feels incredibly useless most of the time. More options and visual themes for the main map and minimap such as a rotating minimap or a monotonous digital-looking map style as well as clearer indicators would help with a quicker understanding of the world. Furthermore, the menus are so complicated that even getting past the first menus before gameplay feels like it’s a game in itself.

All in all, Fortnite is not only good for various accessibility reasons, but it’s so widely available on all major platforms. With the variety of settings, players should be able to find some way of enjoying the game, even if it’s just through Creative or Zero Build. Hopefully, future updates target the problem areas mentioned in this review and improve legibility and menu confusion, but otherwise, the gameplay feels like it now has a variety of modes to fully involve a larger player base than the game already has.

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Ben
BaylissEditor-in-ChiefHe/Him

Ben is the one in charge of keeping the content cogs at Can I Play That? turning. Deafness means that he has a focus on discussing captions, but with experience in consultancy and advocacy, he covers what bases he can. Having written about accessibility in video games at DualShockers, GamesRadar+, GamesIndustry.biz, Wireframe, and more he continues his advocacy at CIPT. He was actually awarded a Good Games Writing award for an article he wrote here! He enjoys a range of games, but anything that’s open-world and with a photo mode will probably be his cup of tea. You can get in touch with him at: ben@caniplaythat.com

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