Deaf / HoH Game Review – Ori and the Will of the Wisps

The platform challenges and beautiful gameplay return in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This is our Deaf / HoH accessibility review.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps Header

Review copy provided by Microsoft.

Introduction

Finally Ori and the Will of the Wisps was released. For those who don’t know, the game is a sequel of Ori and the Blind Forest and part of the Metroidvania genre, with elements of platform-adventure and puzzles. It’s developed by Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios. As you can expect from this genre, the game requires fast reaction times, precision at some moments and a good dose of patience. It’s a game filled with challenges and puzzles, which can be rewarding once you keep figuring them out and progressing with the story.

Settings

Again, it will be a short review, because what happened with the first game, happened again in this game. As always, let’s start with the settings.

General settings of Ori and the Will of Wisps

Unfortunately, as you can see, the options are still pretty limited overall and very similar to what we had in the first game.

However, the lack of options in terms of deaf/HoH accessibility features doesn’t impact the experience of playing the game, because as I have mentioned, there is not much necessity for those features. There is no speech and dialogue present. Only a visual narration, which is very short phrases that show up in big white font on the screen, as you can see in the screenshot below. Contrast on this text could be better in some cases.

"Naru and Gumo sought through the night" written in big, thin and white font in front of fogged landscape. There is a tree on the left side of screen.

Gameplay

The mumbling which was present in the first game isn’t present this time for me, but that’s due to a bug. There is no sort of sound narration going on while the text shows up on the screen, but as there is in the first game, it should be present in this one too. Despite the bug, the game still relies a lot on visual storytelling (body language, color palette, facial expressions), and I feel they have improved quite a bit on those features to tell the story.

I also have to mention that in my 6 hours playing this game, I haven’t come across any type of visual cues, which can be disappointing for deaf players. Most of the time you can figure out what you can do because you don’t have any other option, you just have to go in one direction because that’s all you can do.

However, it would be wonderful to have a couple of visual cues, at least to signal that there is a challenge coming up or not. I have accidentally found myself in the middle of a battle where I had to beat several waves of enemies, and I didn’t know that was the objective. Once it was over, I didn’t have any visual indication telling me that by winning that challenge, I unlocked a way to get to a collectible, a shard in this case. Those are the moments that I feel a bit of necessity for some more visual information.

This game also presents a new issue for me, which isn’t related to my disability, but it can be frustrating. The game is overall very dark, and in some areas it can be hard to see what I need to do to keep progressing in the story. Below is an example of an area that I found it was dark, to the point that I had to turn the brightness up a bit so I could see some details and figure out what I had to do.

Ori standing in a platform. There is a stone bridge on his right side. Another tree stump below the platform.

And in some cases, because the overall ambient is dark, it can be hard to discern what is safe and what is a dangerous element (like spiky plants, monsters, etc.). This is one aspect that I feel can over-complicate the game for some players, and make it extremely frustrating playing.

They also did a couple of changes, for example in the Skill tree, which isn’t anymore a Skill Tree, but rather Spirit Shards, in which you can equip three of them. You have to find the shards, which have different functions before you can equip them. Also now Spirit Light is used to buy and upgrade abilities from NPCs, who act as quest givers and shops.

Below is an example of an encounter with an NPC, called Lupo. I liked how they did all the dialogue of NPCs because there is a subtle blue background providing enough contrast to read what is being said, and also like how they use yellow to highlight the name of the NPC, when they present to you.

Ori standing by Lupo's side. Text on upper half screen saying "Greetings, traveler! I am Lupo, Mapmaker Extraordinaire!"

Conclusions

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is again a beautiful and great game, especially if you like puzzles and challenges. It still needs to polish few aspects, for example the dark environments, bugs (like the narration I mentioned. It should be present, but all I hear is the background soft music). Some accessibility features such as visual indications for challenges and the result of those, a subtitle size option for the talks with NPCs and a more readable font or optional background for narration text should help when away from the screen. Despite these issues, it’s still a worthy game to spend time and have some fun.

Deaf / HoH Game Review - Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Overall Score - 7

7