A lot was riding on The Order: 1886 before it was even released. As one of the first big games announced for the PS4 when the console was announced, people have been anxiously awaiting it’s release for the past couple of years. Plus, with Sony’s sub-par exclusive game list up to this point, Sony needed a hit to kickstart their first party library. The images and video we were shown before release looked promising, but initial reports of people who played the demo was troubling. Reports of stale gameplay and overuse of quick time events (QTEs) made it’s way into the press along with the news that the game wasn’t very long. When The Order finally released a few weeks ago, it was met with very mixed results. Some loved the story driven approach while others didn’t care much for the gameplay. Where does The Dadcade stand on this issue? Keep reading to find out.
The Order: 1886 begins with a very strong introduction. You are introduced to Grayson, also known as Sir Galahad, and a group of Knights from the Round Table legends. While the characters you meet aren’t the actual Knights from historical texts, they are descendants and proteges who, through the use of a liquid that gives them prolonged life, have aged the centuries to fight a war against the Lycan (werewolf) population. The world they reside in is best summed up as a late 1800’s steam punk London with guns. The premise of the game sounds fantastic and the visuals you experience in each level are top notch. I’m pretty sure this is the single best looking next gen console game that has been released to date. Walking through corridors of a town home and picking up photos is almost surreal at times as you try to wrap your head around just how good the game looks. This sense of wonder will continue throughout most of the game and even into character development. You can tell that Ready At Dawn put a ton of work into making sure their characters looked believable and the voice actors sounded movie-like in their delivery of their script. As the game continues, you’ll come to accept these characters for who they are and their plights due largely to the voice work and animations in the game. With that said though, it’s a shame the same level of attention to detail wasn’t shared with the other parts of the game since that is something that would have truly set The Order up for success.
It’s clear the developers of The Order wanted to make a stunningly beautiful game with a focus on story. This becomes quite obvious a couple minutes into the game due to the black bars that give the wide screen view like a feature length movie would have. A game focused heavily on story is actually something that is right up my alley and this approach would be perfectly fine for a video game if the story was actually good. The premise of The Order is actually pretty great, a group of mythic Knights who fight back the Lycan population of London is something that I could easily get behind. The pieces were there for Ready At Dawn to create something truly special and unique, a game that could spawn sequels and start the next big franchise for Sony. Unfortunately, the game never truly takes off and all we are left with is a feeling of what if. The game starts strong with Galahad and team going through some neat set pieces and battles to unravel a mystery that seems to point to nefarious goings on within their own order. The plot from that point on is paper thin and never truly carries on to any true resolution. You’ll meet interesting characters with their own backstories and motivations, but besides some small banter during the story, their side stories are never fully explored. The Galahad and Igraine involvement was something that seemed to be truly special at the beginning of the game but ultimately I was left with a bad taste in my mouth as I felt it was a missed opportunity to not focus more on the two of them. The same can be said with almost any character Galahad has interactions with. At times, it seriously crossed my mind that maybe pieces of the story were removed for budget concerns or to meet a deadline. The basis is there for the game to be great, but instead we’re left with a mediocre story that looks incredibly pretty in it’s delivery. It’s upsetting that a game that focuses so heavily on story can’t even get that right, and when you consider the shortcomings of the other parts of the game, it becomes downright unacceptable.
What are those shortcomings? For starters, the gameplay. I’ve read in other reviews that The Order is the best current gen PS2 game on the market due to the gameplay and that’s not far off the mark. This game is absolutely littered with quick time events that present fail conditions around every corner. The most egregious in my eyes was when you are onboard a zeppelin and have to stealth take down some guards. Without any warning, a button prompt pops up requiring you to time the press of a single button. If you miss this, you are insta-killed by an unsuspecting guard who apparently has the quick draw skill of Clint Eastwood and guns you down where you stand. Other times throughout the story you’ll have to mash on buttons to move obstacles or react to random events with a button press. I’m not inherently against QTEs per se, it’s just they have to be used correctly and effectively. The Order does neither and instead we are presented with a lazy mechanic that has no means being in a next game game.
The other thing that The Order seems to overlook is the importance of gameplay. I understand that this game was supposed to be a playable movie so to speak, but the gameplay has to at least be decent. As you play the game, something you’ll notice is that as you walk through houses and others areas, you aren’t allowed to run. At first I thought it was because an event was going to take place, but eventually I realized it was to slow down the action and possibly drawn out the time I spent playing the game. You can look for collectibles in houses and other areas, and you can even pick them up to examine them, but oftentimes they are boring and sometimes completely unrelated to anything occurring in the story. This sounds like such a trivial gripe with the game, but when this pops up every 15 minutes, you begin to question why it’s even existing in the game. When are finally able to use your weapons you’ll find that the gameplay is a stripped down cover based shooter in it’s most basic form. You’ll hide behind objects and pop out to shoot people with whatever gun you have equipped, hide, rinse, repeat. It’s not that it’s overly horrible, it’s just nothing special. When you are already down on the game for it’s lackluster story, it’s a bummer when there is nothing else going on to save the game. You’ll quickly realize that the best weapon to use is the one that kills enemies quickest to end the drawn out encounter, which I found to be the boring old pistol with sniper level accuracy that can pull of head shots like it’s name is Halo: Combat Evolved. In trailers and press footage, we were shown futuristic looking weaponry and awesome explosions but when you actually explore the game you’ll realize that the two weapons we were shown that piqued our interest are literally the only special weaponry in the game. There is the Arc gun that shoots lighting but is a pain in the ass to use because you have to charge and the Thermite gun that shoots termite powder and then propels a flare at it to ignite the area around enemies. The Thermite gun is legitimately cool, but it’s usefulness is almost nonexistent when killing enemies with your guns, namely the pistol, is just so much faster. When I saw these awesome weapons in trailers, I thought there would be others to find throughout the game but that just isn’t the case. There is no upgrading of the weapons and you can only carry one primary weapon and one secondary at a time. When given the chance between a cool looking gun and a useful gun, the useful gun will win 100% of the time.
The Order: 1886 was a game I truly wanted to like. I had been waiting for this game to release for months and even took the day of it’s release off work in order to play it early and often. After playing for a couple hours, I put the game down and promised I’d come back to it later that night. That didn’t happen. I had to force myself to keep playing the game because the draw just wasn’t there. I wasn’t having fun, plain and simple. It also needs to be said that I’m a big story gamer. I’ll overlook a ton of gameplay issues if the story is worth experiencing. In The Order’s case though, neither the story nor gameplay are really worth experiencing. What is, on the other hand, are the graphics and the world. As I was playing I tended to focus the most of the world being build in front of my eyes and I was truly amazed at what the developers were able to do with the technology at their disposal. While the gameplay and story leave a lot to be desired, there is some enjoyment to be had if you enjoy video games and their progressions. This is a stepping stone into next gen and I think future releases from this company (either if it’s The Order 2 or something else) will learn a lot from this release. I would not recommend buying this game by any means since the campaign is literally the only thing you can do in this game. There is no multiplayer, no extra modes, only the story and the collectables along the way. If there was ever a game that justified renting, this would be it. Or, wait a couple months until it’s discounted under 20 bucks from Gamestop and then trade it back in when you finish it within the week return policy window. In my eyes, The Order: 1886 will go down as one of the worst disappointments recent gaming memory and will be the poster child of not putting equal development into all parts of your game.