The release of As Dusk Falls took many of those in the blind community by surprise, simply because of how many accessibility features were announced. It was even more welcome to have accessibility features for the game to be announced before its release, giving those interested plenty of time to speculate the scope of its accessibility and whether or not it could truly be played by those who are blind. I am happy to report that As Dusk Falls is one of the most exciting and most accessible games I’ve played on Xbox. To top it off, it’s available on Gamepass immediately. If you would like to watch my first impressions playing the game, click here!
Upon booting into the game and arriving at the main menu, narration automatically tells the player to press X to go to accessibility options. It was immediately apparent that the game detected my screen reader and toggled narrator on accordingly. The accessibility menu provides a myriad of ways to customize the game to your liking, such as removing the timer for decisions, camera shake, and the ability to customize quick time events to either a single button press or automatic completion altogether. I’ll admit, I enabled quick time events to only require a single button press because I was worried narration would not properly read the events, but more on that later. After finishing up with settings, I launched the story and jumped right in.
Before playing this game, I had never played a story based game and didn’t know what to expect in terms of navigation, but I soon learned that every action appears in a list of other possible actions you can take, all completely read by narrator, along with narration for the position of the list and the total number of options in the list; the ladder being critical for making quick decisions based on the amount of choices provided. Furthermore, narration while playing does a fantastic job letting the player know when it’s time to choose and what type of choice will be made. If you thought it couldn’t get any better than that, it can because narrator also reads text that appears within the game that is important to the story, making As Dusk Falls that much easier to follow along with the story. A game like this would be even better with audio description, but having important text like text messages or scene changes narrated is a great first step.
Quick Time Events
Quick time events (QTEs) are another area where this game excels. When a QTE occurs, the player will feel a vibration in the controller to signal a QTE, and this is perhaps one of my favorite features. Such a small addition makes a world of difference when playing the game, as is the case with many seemingly insignificant accessibility features. Remember how I enabled single button QTEs because I was worried events wouldn’t be read properly? It turns out my worries were unfounded because QTEs are perfectly read by narrator and accurately instruct the player to swipe in a specific direction, press a button a certain way, etc. This is the first game on Xbox where I have been able to completely participate in QTEs and it’s a big deal. It is also worth mentioning that there are trigger warnings in the game for particularly disturbing scenes and the option to skip them, something I certainly appreciated, coming from someone with PTSD.
Ultimately, I am left with excitement and thanks towards the developers for working to allow as many people to play their game as possible. Even the timeline at the end of each chapter, which allows the player to see how their choices impacted the story, is completely accessible. Making something like that accessible can not be understated. Many times with accessibility, it can become apparent when corners were cut or the developers ran out of time, but this is a feeling I not once experienced when playing As Dusk Falls. That’s not to say this game is perfect; there are still the occasional bugs with narrator, and multiplayer is even buggier, but hopefully these issues will be fixed. My only concern is that the companion app for IOS is not accessible with Voiceover and can make it extremely difficult to participate as a blind player. Hopefully the developers will consider these concerns and address them accordingly, but at the very least, As Dusk Falls makes an excellent single-player experience you do not want to miss out on. If you enjoyed reading and are passionate about accessibility in gaming, feel free to join the Accessible Gaming Discord!