Nock VR Accessibility Review — Can I Play That?

Ben Bayliss10 minute read

Nock Accessibility

Deaf / Hard of HearingBlind / Low VisionMobilityCognitive

Accessibility features are lacking in Nock such as useful remapping and odd menu navigation choices. Players will find the game harder to play sitting down due to the constant movement required. However, with no audio required, d/Deaf and hard of hearing players may find it visually appealing despite the illegible elements.

Score

4.5 out of 10
  • Keeping track of the ball feels well done
  • No audio required to enjoy
  • Movement options available
  • Restricting play while sitting
  • No remapping
  • Odd menu navigation choices
  • Legibility concerns for some elements

Pulling myself frantically across the pitch with my bow, chasing after a ball heading towards my goal, I breathe heavily as I look around for my teammate. They have left, leaving me alone against 2 others who are scoring goal after goal by firing their arrows at the ball. Another goal to them, I collapse to my knees trying to catch my breath. At the same time, while Nock as a VR title lacks a lot of accessibility, and with it being early days, I somewhat find myself admiring a few areas it does well.

Nock combines the futuristic-looking soccer arena that you’ll likely feel as if it came straight out of Rocket League. Instead of cars, you’re a blobby-looking archer with a bow and arrows. The aim is simple, get the ball into the other team’s goal by hitting it with arrows while propelling the character around the pitch like a psychedelic ice skater.

Tutorial Boot Up

My first boot found me jumping straight into a tutorial that locks me away from the rest of the game. Each section runs me through the basics, from firing, moving, and jumping. One sequence asks me if the bow feels right, allowing me to switch hands, while another sequence requires me to hit a ball 10 times. With no way to skip, I push myself through learning the basics.

At the start of the tutorial, the environment is simple, lacking any texture or details. It’s just me and a bunch of balls. As I progress through the tutorials, the full arena starts to take shape. There are instructional text boxes that appear in-world that feel legible with white text on black backgrounds. The font could be questionable, but for me, I was comfortable and I found the size to be decent.

Finally, a goal opens and I progress to the main menu.

The Menus and Options

The menu area for Nock is incredibly…blue with white text, and while it does feel somewhat okay for me to read clearly, navigation is where it’s a bit annoying. Rather than using a pointer to select options, I have to physically draw an arrow with my bow and target the choice I want. Trying to land a hit on the desired item may be frustrating in itself. Especially if I hit the wrong option due to a strong pull and have to then hit the back button, then attempt to hit the original choice again.

Watch Nock - Menu Navigation [Article Content] on YouTube

But then, let’s imagine that I’m Robin Hood and I’m successful with all my hits, just like the video above, the exhaustion my arm felt after makes for an uncomfortable onboarding. This is even worse after a few matches played of doing the same action over and over.

Let’s take a move into the Settings area. There are actually a good few changes that can be applied, for example, there are locomotion options to change how I move; a pull movement, or a ski pole movement. I’ll go into these shortly. There are also ways to add a reticle for visual aiming, and the option to switch hands. Turn style can be swapped between snap turn, smooth, or just off in general. The HUD can be turned off or on despite there not being that much available.

What’s baffling though is that some of these settings aren’t consistent during the actual start menu screen. For example, I won’t find audio settings from the main menu’s settings, but the in-game pause menu has sliders for all volume options. And as I was still finding my feet, I wanted to alternative between pull and ski pole movement, and while I can change this from the main menu, in-game, there’s no option at all.

What’s more, the in-game pause menu will allow the use of pointer control and not the use of the bow and arrow. Why not just make this a consistent feature across all areas of the game for improved navigation?

The Moving Gameplay

Nock can be tiring. Having to slide around the arena by physically dragging my character with my left hand, and then using my right hand to jump. Then I’m also using my left hand to aim the bow while drawing an arrow with my right hand. Using the right stick to turn my character feels slow, so I’m twisting my body to keep up with the action, and aiming can find me arching backwards like an elegant Legolas.

It’s great fun, for me, but I can see where the incredible 360º directionality can become an exhausting feat. Playing Nock sitting is possible, but it’ll be a restricted experience unless you stick to 1v1 games against a friend.

This is also where the different types of locomotion can come in handy. Using the pull movement type requires holding the left grip as I drag my hand around. For example, to move forward, I pull my controlled towards me, to shift left, I’d pull right. For standing, and for me personally, I prefer the ski pole style of moving as it feels more relaxed and natural. Rather than dragging my arm in a rigid horizontal space, I can just swing my hand behind me to move forward, or swing left to move right. If anything, it’s as if I’m physically digging my bow into the floor, then pulling my body, whereas the pull method feels like I’m pushing myself off of a wall.

It’s a shame there’s no remapping available, or trigger swapping for those who may prefer to use the triggers to move.

Audio is not Important

Nock, like Rocket League, does not require the use of audio. While the audio slider options are there for those who want to make use of them, audio isn’t required to enjoy the game. Throughout matches, the audio is only supplementary to the atmospheric immersion. You do get certain sounds like the successfully picked up arrows indication and goal noises, but nothing that needs significant attention.

With this being a Quest 2 title, players can make use of the headset’s built-in microphone to communicate with other players. While the quality isn’t all that bad for the most part, those with the game’s volume set too loud can cause a disturbance which makes for an unpleasant experience on my end. With struggling to hear players anyway, I just mute the voice chat.

Death in Balls

While the majority of my time with Nock was feeling absolutely badass as an archer in an arena, there are moments when it is possible to die. At least for a brief period of time. When the ball gains enough speed and hits a player, that player will explode and then respawn shortly after.

It happened to me once, and everything fades to a darker contrast. A few seconds pass, a quick flash and I’m respawned. Thankfully this seems to happen rarely as every death I caught looked entirely accidental. At least it feels that way because I cannot target the ball in such a way to strategically hit someone…but that may be my aim!

Understanding Visuals

My one struggle with Nock and accessibility comes down to the legibility of some essential elements. For example, the bow can hold a maximum of three arrows which are signified by the three balls that are tracked alongside my bow. This means that the only time I see my ammo counter is if I have my bow drawn.

There’s also the reticle I mentioned earlier. While handy to have should I require more visual guidance with my aim, it’s hard to see. In saying that, when aiming, the number of arrows is displayed around the reticle, but this wasn’t abundantly clear initially. If you look at the above image, you’ll see three black circles filled in indicating a full quiver of arrows, while a thin outline is displayed for an empty space.

Scattered across the arena are green dots that are automatically picked up when near. Each one signifies one arrow, while a bigger three-arrow pickup is available but less common. The issue here is that the one available arena is bright and I struggle to see the ammo pickups as clearly. Meanwhile, the other arena feels better contrasted due to the darkness.

Despite this, keeping track of the ball is fairly well done. A large green circle with a directional arrow will appear locked to my view and will show the off-screen location of the ball. Once the ball is back in view, that directional indicator vanishes, but not before placing a thick green circular border around it for a brief moment.

The ball also has a trail behind it to indicate the speed and direction it’s heading, and it leaves circles for each bounce.

There is an option to have the HUD displayed, but honestly, this is largely forgettable with me failing to see a timer clearly and the team scores being tucked away below me to the right. When a goal is scored a rather unenthusiastic “Player scored a goal” appears, and when the time is up a more peppy and stylized font appears.

Online or Bots

Nock is an online title, and my experience found me either playing against players who had the aim of Artemis, leaving me worn down and defeated. While others stood there for a few moments before abandoning the match within seconds. More often than not, I’d wind up alone unless I caught the game at a popular time.

There is a way to enjoy the game at a pace that suits you, and that’s through using bots in a custom match. The bot difficulty can be set, and I could either practice my skills or just have fun without the presence of strangers judging my terrible aim. The number of bot difficulties is helpful as well

Conclusion

While Nock is fun to play as a VR title, it’s certainly not great for accessibility, especially in terms of mobility. The twisting and arching of my back to keep up with a fast-moving ball had me feeling like I’d had a workout. Trying to play it sat down with pull movement just felt awkward and restrictive. Menu controls are an odd choice, with the main menu requiring physical aiming and firing instead of a pointer, but the in-game menu uses pointer control.

The legibility of the HUD is very lacking and seems to struggle to float around with the headset position. Ideally, a tightly-locked HUD may fare better. While other in-world elements are visible, more could be done to make them stand out, such as collectable arrows and ammo counters. At the moment, the roadmap doesn’t appear to have anything that would be interesting for accessibility, and features such as quick chat are largely illegible.

I really liked the fact audio doesn’t play a major role in Nock, and understanding where the ball is was achieved nicely with on-screen effects. Admittedly, it would be nice to have an option to always have this effect available as the ball does get lost in the visual mess when moving around quickly.

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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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