The Barbarian Bard

Tales and Musings by Michael A. Espinoza

Silversword: Modern Interface, Classic Atmosphere

Recently, I acquired a new game for my iPad, a fantasy title called Silversword. Being almost totally blind, my selection of games on a touch-screen platform–more specifically, games compatible with Apple’s VoiceOver feature–is fairly limited. Having read (on AppleVis) that Silversword strives to be as accessible to blind gamers as possible, I was eager to drop the $3.99 needed to pick up this fantasy adventure.

From a gamer perspective, Silversword is old-school in a great way. “Classic” and “Modern” game modes let you set up character stats by either trusting to the luck of the dice or carefully distributing an allotment of points between their various stats. D&D fans will recognize both styles of character generation, and those of my mindset will appreciate the latter far more than the randomness of the former.

Obviously, I can’t say much about the graphics. A small window allows you to see what your party sees and move forward, backward, or rotate left/right. A text output points out anything noteworthy in the space you occupy, or describes any encounters with NPCs. On an accessibility note, movement is made easy by VoiceOver, which tells you whether your current direction is passable or blocked, and if blocked, it (usually) says by what. I can see how hearing “Move Forward (East), Passable) or “Move Forward (South), Blocked by Water” may get repetitive after the 100+ hours of gameplay the game purports to offer, but that’s the price to pay for VoiceOver compatibility. I’m happy to live with that.

If I had any complaint at all with this game, it would be with the relatively dull sound effects. So far, I’ve logged only a bit over an hour of play, but have heard very little music, and sonically, battle is little more than a few grunts and clanging sounds, plus the occasional (neat sounding) bard song or prayer. (Battle itself is a fun exercise in turn-based, round-based, strategic action selection for a party of up to seven heroes.) I’m hoping the sound-scape will be different as I play on, and that not every character will have the same ogre-ish grunts in battle. That could get pretty weird.

Fans of classic RPGs, both pen-and-paper and PC, will undoubtedly enjoy Silversword. It is a very retro game, and for us low vision gamers, it’s the best fantasy experience one can hope for with VoiceOver. I hope a game developer takes some serious notes from this app and implements its level of accessibility into a game with slightly more modern sounds, but Silversword is a delightful experience and I can’t wait to explore the world of Tarnak!


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