After three years, Overwatch is finally getting subtitles.
Overwatch didn’t exactly debut with a lot of accessibility options. The game only just got colorblind settings last October, and this year they’re finally getting some subtitles for those that are hearing impaired.
Added with the most recent patch released on July 16th are several subtitle options to give deaf or hard of hearing players some control over what voice lines they want to have subtitled. Options include Critical Gameplay, Gameplay and Conversations, or Everything.
As the name suggests, Everything will provide subtitles for every word that leaves the mouth of a player character, which includes quips, pre-game conversations, ultimate abilities, and taunts whenever you get blown away by a cloaked Sombra.
With Gameplay and Conversations you’ll get the pre-game conversations and the important stuff, but none of the extraneous noises that characters make during the game. Critical Gameplay will only provide subtitles for the most important of uttered sounds, such as when a player uses their ultimate or demands healing for the umpteenth time in a match.
However, the system isn’t perfect. There are some concerns that it can give players using subtitles an unfair advantage by providing a visual alert when something happens that they can’t see, such as the previously mentioned de-cloaked Sombra assault. For players that can’t hear at all, this visual notification would be the only warning they could receive, while for those hearing it can serve as an added layer of alertness.
Expect Blizzard to toy with the subtitle radius in order to minimize the advantage subtitles can provide to a player that can hear perfectly fine already.
While this brings Blizzard ahead when it comes to accessibility for Overwatch, it’s still nowhere near Apex Legends that includes a voice-chat-to-text subtitle option for the hearing impaired. Overwatch could also use Apex’s ping system, which remains the pinnacle of competitive gaming communications.
Subtitles are certainly a step in the right direction. We’ll see how well Blizzard can press forward with future patches.