In an industry dominated by sequels and remakes, it is a rare occurrence to come across a game that tries to accomplish something truly unique, a game that dares to move past the norms and provide an experience that is unlike anything gamers have experienced before.
A Blind Legend is one such game that takes a very creative approach to the story based action adventure genre, by completely eliminating the graphical competent of gameplay and forcing players to truly roleplay as a visually impaired adventurer.
The game takes place in a medieval setting and puts players in the shoes of Edward Blake, a blind knight, who is guided by his daughter; Louise, on a mission to rescue his wife from her kidnappers.
It is an adventure that sees the player journey across different terrains while encountering various enemies in a simple story that features enough twists and turns to keep it from getting too predictable.
From start to finish, the whole game is fully ‘blind-accessible’, which means that it does not rely on any visual prompts for even the most basic controls. From in-game movement to navigation of menus, everything in the game is based on aural stimuli.
Therefore A Blind Legends features little to no visuals and displays a screen that is filled with thick fog during its entire run.
While this screen flashes red when the player character is hit, and white when his sword hits its target, the player does not need to view the screen for these visual cues as the game’s audio does an adequate job of conveying these effects and actions through its acoustics.
Since there are no visuals or virtual camera to anchor player perspective, A Blind Legend features tank controls as movement device for controlling Edward Blake.
Players can control their character by pressing up and down on the left analogue stick to move forward and backward and press left and right to turn in the respective direction.
The game deliberately keeps the movement options simple and focuses most of the exploration and traveling aspect to the mechanic where the player has to listen to Louise’s voice, ask her for directions and follow her to progress through the game.
While at a first “glance” the game’s action mechanics can be approximated to quick time events, these are not random button presses but reaction based actions requiring timed button presses in the direction of different sounds.
During their journey players can encounter physical threats ranging from wild beasts to enemy soldiers and thieves. Combat requires players to determine the direction of the enemies and any incoming attack and then respond accordingly.
Players can press a button to make Edward Blake equip his sword and get ready for combat. Edward cannot move while his sword is out and automatically sheaths his sword once the combat encounter ends.
The use of the left analogue stick allows players to swing sword in the front, left, right or back of the character and pressing down on right analogue stick allows players to block enemy attacks. Blocking keeps the player safe from incurring damage from enemy attacks and allows the player to determine enemies’ attack tempo.
Blocking cannot be exploited to cheese the game’s combat mechanics as whenever the player is in his blocking stance the sound around him gets muffled, making it difficult to determine the position of the enemies and the direction of their attacks.
As the players progress further into the game they are introduced to a basic parrying system that adds risk vs reward flavour to the basic combat mechanics.
Death can occur from taking too much damage in combat or failing an environmental obstacle. Upon which the player will hear Louise cry for you followed by a ‘game over’ jingle and the game will automatically start from a recent checkpoint.
As the game progresses, players are presented with more challenging fights and sound based progression puzzles that test their grasp on the gameplay mechanics.
This moderate jump in difficulty curve never goes beyond the limits of accessibility but it does succeed in adding a level of frustration, which is symptomatic of completing a challenge while lacking a crucial ability; which in this case is the sense of sight.
Game uses binaural audio to provide surround sound experience in a virtual 3D space and is best experienced with use of ear/headphones and keeping eyes closed.
A Blind Legend’s audio design does a great job of conveying the direction of the sound as well as the distance it is coming from, and its ambient sound effects paint a vivid audial picture of the player surroundings.
The game environment is filled with audial details that range from chirping of birds and rumblings of clouds to creaking wood planks and twigs crunching beneath Edward’s feet.
Similarly, A Blind Legend’s voice work is also sufficiently nuanced and helps to create believable characters with little touches like the Edward Blake’s gruff bluntness or his daughter’s naïveté and energetic spirit.
Dialogue delivery has a stage play like quality to it, as much of the speech is dramatic in nature. This emphasis on dramatic aspects seems to be there to provide enough audial context to allow players to mentally project what is happening around Edward.
The dialogue in this game communicates more than just verbal information, it carries within itself the characters’ emotions, their intentions as well as their physical behaviour and allows the player to interpret and give purpose to the unseen scene.
As mentioned before; everything in the game is communicated through sounds and speech. This not only includes basic dialogue and direction but includes information that ranges from the company logos and credits to tutorial voice over and prompts for loading.
However the design choice to make this prompt/tutorial voice that of automated computer reader seems to be flawed. While this computerized voice does do its job of being an instructional voice that can be distinguished from in-story dialogue, the repetitive nature of these voiceovers can become a bit cumbersome as the game moves on.
All of this can become overbearing for a frequent gamer but it seems to be a necessity due to the nature of its unique game design and its repetitiveness does not become obnoxiously irritating due to the length of the game as its campaign ends in a couple of hours; long before it starts overstaying its welcome.
While everything in the game works fine, it still has a lot of room for improvement. The experience could have benefited from streamlining some of its elements like the invisible user interface and menus as well as addition of bit more background so as to add more context to the adventure and flesh out its characters.
Overall, A Blind Legend is a distinct experience that offers enough value for a $7 purchase on PC and is also available on MAC as well as Google Play and iTunes for Android and iOS touch devices respectively.
The game provides a unique glimpse into challenges of being visually impaired and is definitely recommended for anyone interested in experiencing the novel idea of an audio-only action adventure gameplay experience.