I am Edward Blake, a knight, and my daughter Louise and I have taken shelter from a heavy rainstorm by entering a cave. The cave, unfortunately, isn't empty. A bear, a huge one, is quite unhappy to find us there. It gives a long, deep, terrifying growl, and attacks. I draw my sword, ready my shield, and prepare to fight for my life. There's a bit of a catch, however: Edward Blake is blind.
In A Blind Legend, an adventure game with hack-and-slash combat made for the visually impaired, there are no graphics. Everything about the world is related to you by sound. Binaural 3D sound fills the world around you with voices, footsteps, rain, horse-drawn carts, the hammering of blacksmiths, and other noises. When you move Blake through the game, either by walking forward or backward, or by turning from side to side, those sounds also turn around you in your headphones.
The entire game is built on audio: even the menu options and instructions are read aloud to the player by a computerized voice. When the game is loading, it tells you, and cutscenes—again, there are no graphics, but there are scenes of dialogue—begin and end with two different chimes, to let the player know when they are just meant to listen and when they are back in control of Blake.
Movement and combat is handled via controller or the keyboard, using the arrow keys. And, you have your daughter Louise to help you. If she needs to lead you somewhere, you can listen for her retreating footsteps, turn yourself with the arrow keys until you can hear them in front of you, and walk or sprint after her. If the footsteps fade, a tap of the space bar will cause her to call out to you. "Turn to the left!" or "I'm straight ahead!" or "You're close!"
Louise and Blake are on a quest to find Blake's wife, who has been abducted by some villains, and while trying to track them down we came across a cave to shelter us from the storm. Fighting the bear in the cave, I had to time my attacks based on the bear's, which are signaled by growls and roars. Holding my shield up allows me to withstand the bear's attacks and take no damage, so I can learn the rhythm of his roars and the timing of his attacks, swinging my sword at him just before he strikes. It takes a while, and it's both tense and exciting to manage it with my eyes closed and only using sound.
Blake even has a health bar. During combat, your heartbeat pulses in the background at a steady rate. When you take damage, the speed of your heartbeat quickens in your ears.
I haven't played much, but I'm finding it to be an interesting and enjoyable experience, something worth trying even if you're not visually impaired. At first I just stared at the black screen while I played, but I quickly found closing my eyes really does help. Turning from side to side with the arrow keys makes the audio rotate around me very nicely, and after a while it becomes second nature to pinpoint the direction of sounds with my ears. I'd really love to see this level of attention paid to audio in more games. It would give players with visual impairments more games to choose from, and provide a more immersive experience for everyone else.