The Vale: Shadow of the Crown Review – A Victory for Accessibility

    Some games don't need graphics.

    I have experienced no game quite like The Vale: Shadow of the Crown. It’s an action/adventure title that requires no eyesight to play. In fact, there is barely anything to see here. Instead, players must rely on their ears to see around them, as the game utilizes 3D audio to bring this world to life. As one might imagine, this is an incredibly unique concept, but does The Vale manage to successfully realize it?

    With the game’s recent release on Switch and PlayStation consoles, I’ve had the chance to play through the whole thing and tell you how I feel about it. This is a game that definitely isn’t going to appeal to everyone but for those who are open to innovative ideas, you may not want to miss out on this. 

    A Game for the Visually Impaired

    The Vale gameplay
    This is normally all you will see while playing.

    Originally released in August of 2021 on PC and Xbox, The Vale puts you in the shoes of a blind princess who finds herself on an adventure after the death of her father. This may sound like the setup for a fancy audiobook, but make no mistake, this is an actual game. While it’s a bit slow to start, players will find themselves in tricky situations soon enough.

    No matter what platform you decide to play on, you will need a decent pair of headphones for a playable experience. The Vale expects you to pay close attention to each and every sound that surrounds you. If the game’s audio design was subpar, everything about this title would fall apart, but fortunately, that’s not the case. As long as you have the proper equipment, The Vale is full of fantastic and immersive audio. 

    The gameplay mainly consists of either combat or navigation. While the mechanics aren’t particularly deep, the game isn’t long enough for them to get old. This does make the overall experience feel somewhat like a proof of concept, but this also means that The Vale doesn’t overstay its welcome. 

    A Unique Journey

    The Vale Travel Map
    The Travel Map is one of the few things players can see.

    The Vale‘s story is quite brief and simple, but the execution is what pulls everything together. For the most part, the voice performances are stellar. Combined with the game’s excellent writing, the narrative is both easy for players to follow and engaging. With this in mind, I found it especially easy to imagine the game’s medieval fantasy world around me with my eyes closed. 

    The cast, while fairly small, is quite likable and makes the adventure feel quite personal for a fantasy narrative. The story mainly follows Alexandra, the blind protagonist, alongside her Shepard guide as she attempts to find her way back home. It was satisfying to see the dynamic between these two evolve throughout my playthrough. However, as much as I enjoyed the story, it was the interactive elements that stole the show for me. 

    Perhaps my favorite aspect of The Vale is exploration. Moving through environments without being able to see felt foreign to me at first. However, this is also what made navigation so appealing. Having to find my way through a burning structure with only the assistance of the crackling noises of a fire and a voice to guide my general direction was a thrill I won’t soon forget. 

    Even the game’s much less threatening hub areas are a joy to explore. There are several sounds the player will need to differentiate to locate where they want to go next. Inns provide the player with quests and can be identified by chatter and music. Blacksmiths offer better gear for a price and can be found by the distinct hammering noises they make. 

    The Engaging Combat of The Vale

    Tier 3 Hammer stats
    Each piece of equipment has stats to consider.

    Believe it or not, The Vale has no shortage of action. There are many combat encounters throughout the journey and they can get surprisingly challenging later on. Obviously, you probably shouldn’t expect a combat system with too much complexity, but the game makes great use of what it does have. 

    Fighting enemies mostly consists of reacting to audio cues with directional inputs on the left stick and right stick. It is very basic at first, but the game gradually increases the amount of sounds the player will have to take into account. There’s even a basic magic system that players will be able to eventually utilize. 

    Having to face off against several opponents can be genuinely intense. Sometimes, you will need to keep track of what multiple enemies are doing, which leads to some very quick decision-making. If you are too aggressive, you can run out of stamina very quickly, leaving you open to devastating attacks. 

    What makes this all work is the consistent audio design. Once I became more accustomed to the game’s fighting, I found that every sound was easily identifiable. It’s always possible to tell what an opponent will do before it’s too late. This made nearly every encounter seem fair even when the difficulty was turned up. 

    The Vale Is an Impressive Accomplishment

    The main menu on Nintendo Switch
    The Vale is an outstanding experience on Nintendo Switch.

    At the end of the day, The Vale provides some amazing innovations for accessible games. It’s solid proof that visuals aren’t necessary to make something that’s enjoyable to play. Even as someone who isn’t visually impaired, I felt like I almost caught a glimpse of what it’s like to be someone who can’t see. If that’s not effective art, I don’t know what is. 

    While there is more that could be done with the concept, I can’t imagine The Vale was easy to put together by any means, especially for a small team. There are very few games that achieve what this title has here. It would be great to see these developers expand upon what it does because there is a lot of potential here. 

    The Vale will likely be a great experience no matter the platform. There is no need for concern when it comes to the game’s performance, as there’s very little it needs to render. I experienced no technical issues when playing on Nintendo Switch and I would be surprised to learn if any other versions of the game had them. 

    For more reviews, be sure to keep an eye on Final Weapon! The Vale is currently available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store. 

    Disclaimer: First Peoples Digital provided Final Weapon with a Switch copy of The Vale: Shadow of the Crown for review purposes. 


    The Vale is perhaps one of the most unique titles I have played in recent memory. Hopefully, more developers can take some notes when it comes to making accessible games. It may be a very short adventure, but it's one I won't soon forget.
    Itch has a strong passion for PC gaming and retro consoles (especially the Dreamcast). From Melty Blood: Actress Again to Forza Horizon, he will play just about anything that catches his eye. Ever since playing Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit as a young child, he has been in love with the medium of video games and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

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    The Vale is perhaps one of the most unique titles I have played in recent memory. Hopefully, more developers can take some notes when it comes to making accessible games. It may be a very short adventure, but it's one I won't soon forget. The Vale: Shadow of the Crown Review - A Victory for Accessibility