Disability Game Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider
In 2013 I was crushed to find the new Tomb Raider that had been beautifully rebooted by Crystal Dynamics inaccessible. 2 years later how does Rise of the Tomb Raider stack up? Unfortunately Crystal Dynamics continues their previously established modus operandi of setting the standard for accessibility in certain areas while seeming to ignore the needs of disabled gamers in others.
To begin with players with visual disabilities should have very little problem accessing this game. The text seems to be reasonably large and easy to read. One of the uniquely accessible features of the Crystal Dynamics reboots is that any of the text of discovered documents such as scrolls that Laura finds are not only displayed visually but are read aloud to players eliminating the need to be able to see the text to be immersed in the story. Furthermore nothing in Rise of the Tomb Raider seems to rely on the ability to distinguish color but due to extensive fine-motor barriers that truncated the length of our playthrough we cannot say explicitly whether Rise of the Tomb Raider is barrier free for the visually impaired.
Indeed the fine-motor barriers in this title are severe and systemic. The game features absolutely no controller customization which will not be a problem for PS4 or PC users when the game releases later this year but for now players on the Xbox One will be wholly stuck if they can’t use both hands simultaneously unless they feel like shelling out an extra $150 for the fully remappable Xbox One Elite controller. To make matters worse the controls are not only static but they are also hard on the hands. In order to shoot, players will need to be able to use both triggers simultaneously while tilting the sticks to aim. These barriers are exasperated by the fact that like its predecessor Rise of the Tomb Raider is rife with quick time events. I could only advance 30 minutes into the main campaign before I needed the help of an able bodied person in order to progress and it wasn’t long after this moment that I ran into more, so this seems to indicate that players that can’t handle these moments should count on having to play this game with a friend if they hope to progress very far. These barriers seem very hard to justify. It is unclear why Crystal Dynamics can make a game so accessible to certain gamers but does not put the effort in to make the game accessible to gamers with fine-motor impairments especially when we’ve seen accessible QTEs and shooting mechanics from such well received games as the Last of Us and Heavy Rain.
These barriers are made even more confusing when you’ve seen what Crystal Dynamics has done for players with auditory impairments. They could literally teach a course on how to make a game accessible for deaf and hard of hearing gamers. Nothing in the game relies solely on the ability to hear. The subtitles are thorough enough to include important sound affects and can even be color coded to help the player distinguish the identity of the speaker. Furthermore gamers with both auditory and visual impairments need not worry because Crystal Dynamics implements the subtitles in such a way that they are legible in any environment that may be encountered. They feature drop shadow and are offset from the main HUD by a clearly distinguished box. These features make the subtitles in Rise of the Tomb Raider the best subtitles I have ever seen in the gaming industry. It is just unfortunate that this level of accessibility does not exist across all forms of physical impairment.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Fine-Motor Rating: Inaccessible
Auditory Rating: Barrier Free
Released For: Xbox One
ESRB Rating: M
GameInformer Score: 9.5