|Precision >||Yes||You will need precision to play|
|One-Handed >||Yes||One-Handed gamers shoud be okay|
|Deaf Gamers >||Yes||You should have no issues with this game|
|Subtitles >||Yes||Character text is present but not ambiant|
|Colorblind >||Yes||Colorblind gamers should be okay|
WOW is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game or mmorpg for short. For those who are not familiar with this genre or role playing games in general, they let players assume the role of a character that levels up based on completed objectives or quests found throughout the game world. In WOW players accomplish these tasks on their own or by joining other factions of players that are online at the same time. The more difficult quests require that players team up with others in order to accomplish them. Groups of players that play together are known as guilds or raids. These groups of players coordinate their combat strategies in defeating difficult monsters or obstacles; acquiring better items when completing these more daunting missions. The world that players transvers in WOW is massive and includes dungeons, graveyards, forests, training centers, houses and a host of other environments that offer an almost endless amount of terrain and quests to discover.
For this review I was testing the latest expansion to WOW called Mists of Panderia and my first impression when starting the game up was wow! I was treated with an amazing introduction video where an Ogre and a Human are fighting when mid battle a panda like creature jumps in and beats them both in a fight. It was a great start to the game and definitely grabbed my interest. After going through a simple registration process and viewing the video at the beginning; players are taken to a character building screen that has a host of different races to choose from along with class and gender. I decided to pick a Pandaren (Anthropomorphic Pandas) Monk as my avatar in game. Panderens are the newest addition in terms of race to the game and have the very intriguing ability of being able to put foes to sleep with the touch of their hand. After selecting the race, class and gender of their character; players are taken to a screen where they can select the look of their chosen avatar. While you can change skin tone, hair color, hair style and facial expressions; the options here felt a bit limited and this shows in game as it was difficult to tell major differences between my Pandaren brethren. Once I entered the game world I began to feel a bit overwhelmed due to the amount of information on the user interface, though once I started navigating through it each command had a help box that popped up describing the action that will happen if a particular button is pressed; a feature that definitely helped the acclimation process. I then entered the options menu and adjusted the settings and movement controls to my particular taste. Any command can be bound to any key and I found this to be extremely useful. A macros command box also exists that allows users to bind multiple actions to one key, this simplifies diffrent combinations that a player would use in game.
Once I set up my controls I was given a simple quest to go get a weapon down a hill. While maneuvering seemed as it would be simple enough, the camera in third person view was a bit awkward and made the task unusually difficult. The on screen view would keep shifting to odd angles and zooming in and out on its own making walking down this hill a cumbersome chore. I immediately went into my settings again and found some camera options that I tried to toggle to achieve a better result in game, it did not work. While switching camera options did help certain issues; new ones would arise because of the selected choices. As an example, the camera would stop switching to odd angles but it would also stop following me from behind; this created a disorienting experience as my character went around in circles when maneuvering past certain terrain obstacles. I went into the options again and found a command that allows players to click-and-move via the mouse. This simplified things a bit but it was far from perfect as my character would get stuck randomly and the camera would still shift in odd ways. I then zoomed into a first person view and while the field of view was limited by this the control was much better and has been the default way I have been playing. None of these options though seem to be a perfect solution and did test my patience with the game. Newer players may be frustrated by this camera problem and may keep them from continuing playing WOW.
Graphically WOW is vibrant and impressive even on minimum settings. Each action is highlighted by spell effects that enhance visuals and gameplay; giving players the ability to tell who is targeted, what spells are being used and how much damage is being distributed by each side in battle. The look of the game is far from a realistic approach and to its credit WOW uses this style effectively in the massive world it creates for each user. Objects, dwellings, creatures and environment all mesh together seamlessly to establish a fantasy world that engages the end user. The in game sound is also appropriate and adds to the atmosphere of the game world. The voice acting of the non-player characters (NPC) is professional and convincing, while background noises such as fish splashing in a pond, to monkey’s howling in trees, or the rush of a waterfall bring players deeper into this game experience.
WOW is a very enveloping game sure to please those who enjoy role playing games and even some who might not have ever played one before. There are vast amounts of quests to accomplish, lands and dungeons to explore and NPC’s to talk to, that even players who complete games quickly will find little objection to the amount of content put into the World of Warcraft series. It is a true testament to the creators at Blizzard Entertainment and the crew behind this game that has reached millions of players worldwide.
Before getting into this portion of the review I would like to share a story that made me think long and hard about what I was about to write. This story is a about a WOW player who is blind, his name is Ben Shaw. He was injured in Iraq (both eyes were surgically removed) by a roadside bomb while serving with the British Army. You might ask, how does someone with no eye sight possibly find a way to play a video game? He plays with a partner (Owen) who acts as his eyes in game. The following link is to the article which describes the situation and gives a short interview with Owen (http://wow.joystiq.com/2012/01/12/guide-dog-player-and-guild-embrace-sightless-guildmate-steer/). Reading this article amazed me; here is a game that brings people together in meaningful and profound ways. While this game might not be perfect in accessibility it truly shows that with the determination shown by people such as Ben Shaw and Owen that anything is possible. Warcraft adds many features to assist disabled gamers but its greatest achievement is the ability to bring a community together to not only play a game but to make a difference in each other’s lives as well.
Mobility is the one area I feel WOW suffers in terms of accessibility. There are a few negative aspects to WOW’s mobility that hurt its score and I will go over them in detail. The first is the camera and the ability to control it properly. This is not only frustrating but requires so much attention that other aspects of the game such as targeting and item awareness will suffer. Playing the game one handed is possible (either with the keyboard or mouse) yet it is far from ideal because of the camera system and the sheer amount of buttons needed to be pushed in order to be effective. The second issue is that the classes play very differently and may hinder some play styles because of the difficulty level and precision needed, especially in battles with multiple enemies. Steven Spohn in the article “Disabled Gamers Guide to World of Warcraft” (http://www.ablegamers.com/game-news/disabled-gamers-guide-to-world-of-warcraft.html) does a fantastic job of breaking down each class along with the strengths and weaknesses in terms of mobility. WOW does excel in a few areas for mobility, specifically the user interface. Buttons on the interface are easily identifiable and can be manipulated by the use of an add-on called Bartender. Bartender allows players to reposition the on screen action buttons enabling easier access to commands and spells. Bartender can be found on several website a few links which I have included here (http://www.wowinterface.com/downloads/info11190-Bartender4.html, http://www.curse.com/addons/wow/bartender4). A feature included in the WOW menu is click-and-move. Players can point via the mouse to a place they would like to walk/run to and have their character automatically navigate to that spot. This feature eliminates much of the camera angle issues and allows for easier one handed play, but does limit movements such as strafing. Mouse speed and sensitivity can also be adjusted through the in game menu for ease of use. Also, the ability to map any button to any key is a great feature that any gamer will find useful and make gameplay more adaptive to different characters classes and play styles.
A color blind mode is included in the game. Here is a link on some specific features it offers (http://www.ablegamers.com/game-news/blizzard-speaks-to-ablegamers-on-the-new-accessibility-options-in-wow.html?) and also a link to the official Blizzard Entertainment website which details how to activate different color blind modes depending on condition (https://sea.battle.net/support/en/article/color-blind-mode-improvements-in-patch-4-3 ).
Under settings is the option to resize the heads-up display. It is a great feature that aids in the visual aspects of the game as well as mobility.
Sound is not needed to play WOW as quests are all text based along with a great interface that has drop boxes describing each action, a chat box and subtitles for cut scenes. I did however come across an article about dungeon raids from a deaf gamer’s point of view that may open Blizzards eyes to possible advancements in this area of accessibility. The article is written by a deaf gamer going by the name Aidrana and is titled “Disabilities and WOW: Do I Tell or Not” (http://www.misspewpew.com/2011/11/disabilities-and-wow-do-i-tell-or-not/). In the article she chronicles the challenges facing her while playing and trying to join different guilds and raids. It is an eye opening story where she discusses the hurdles of being a deaf gamer and her solutions to overcoming the obstacles she faces. Also, without the vast amounts of ambient sound scattered throughout WOW some of the immersive experience is hindered. Though Blizzard Entertainment has done a great job in this area of accessibility, but they can do more to add options for deaf gamers. These can include more automated text based cues for communication or additional subtitles for the ambient and background noises that make WOW such an incredible and engaging experience.
WOW overall is a fantastic achievement in terms of accessibility for gamers, but Blizzard Entertainment can do more for the disabled community. Being such a big gaming power and influence they can lead the way for accessible gameplay not only within their own company but for the gaming industry as a whole. For additional accessibility options I encourage the Able Gamers community to help each other and post what they feel can help others when playing WOW. Some of these suggestions can already be found in the comment section of the above mentioned article “Disabled Gamers Guide to World of Warcraft”. As described in the story of Ben Shaw and Owen; we as a community are the best possible source for achieving success against obstacles in our daily lives.