The Order: 1886 is a game so obsessed with itself, that meaningful player involvement is an oversight. After much of the game fundamentally comes crashing down, what’s left is an elaborate, big-budget tease for PlayStation 4’s technical capabilities. You’d be hard-pressed to find a console game that looks any better, yet I come to expect more from the prized medium than just graphics.
It didn’t take long before Sony’s latest exclusive revealed itself as a generic, and at times, forceful excursion. The Order: 1886 dances with player expectations to an infuriating degree, and battles with much of what it set out to accomplish. Developer, Ready at Dawn, takes a swing and partly connects, yet sets no standard, aside from a few elements, for PlayStation’s next generation exclusive lineup.
The year is 1886 and you play as Sir Galahad, a member of The Round Table. The game is set in an alternate history version of Victorian-Era London, and features many cleverly portrayed technical advancements. From the looming Zeppelins that constantly keep watch over the city, to the magnificent design of the game’s terrific arsenal, the painstaking attention to detail Ready at Dawn has put into The Order is admirable and adds a terrific sense of polished atmosphere to the world they’ve created. Conflict between Human and Half Breeds has become a growing issue over the centuries and The Order (The Round Table) is tasked to remain in control of the situation. To make matters more difficult for Sir Galahad and his accompanying companions, a growing rebellion has revealed themselves, causing bodies to fall throughout the streets of London.
Battling my way through the just under 7 hour campaign, I found myself murdering my way through waves of enemy goons and finding out the secrets of the intriguing world. From a production standpoint, the game shines. The Order: 1886 is absolutely gorgeous and without a doubt, one of the best looking console games ever constructed. The motion-capture during the game’s many cinematics are on point, along with character animations that are both fluid and believable. The camera angles, lighting, set pieces, atmosphere and production design as a whole, are up to the quality of something you would see out of a movie, which leads me to my biggest problem with the game.
The Order: 1886 clearly struggles to find which medium it wants to belong to. It would make a great movie, brilliant book, terrific comic, or even a riveting television series, but a video game is not the place this story should exist. Presented in a completely different way, maybe, but as it stands directly out of the box, Ready at Dawn has created an interactive movie rather than a video game.
The Order tells an alluring story and exhibits interesting characters, yet as the game unravels, compromises for a cinematic experience are arranged above the necessity of basic game etiquette. Don’t get me wrong, I love cinematic video games. My favorite game of all time is The Last of Us, and it’s very cinematic in nature. Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece worked because it’s gameplay and cutscenes were balanced perfectly, something The Order didn’t even slightly wrestle with.
The pacing is terrible and finds itself all over the place. This giant and unfortunate misstep created contextually confusing moments throughout so much of the game. One minute you’re up to your neck in enemies, the next, walking mindlessly through linear set pieces with all gameplay mechanics restricted except for walking and looking. The Order: 1886 is so caught up in trying to tell the story it wants to, the player is forced to take a backseat. I felt like I was being dragged through the simplistic venture, rather than helping it, myself. At the core of all the game’s unruly issues is the pacing. Nearly every aspect of the game is affected, in some way, by just how poorly the short journey is layout.
It’s ideas are interesting right out the gate, but are eventually bogged down by the many video game sins The Order repeatedly commits. An atrocious balance between gameplay and prolonged cutscenes are inexcusable. Being forced into a world that is so blatantly, look but do not touch, was painful.
For gamers who have made their way through third-person, cover-based shooters before, disappointment is surely in store. The Order is no where near as fluent as Gears of War or Uncharted. On a number of occasions, I found myself frustrated in how the game played out, this is a far more linear shooter than a lot of people were expecting, myself included. There is hardly a moment of interactivity that isn’t handled with the implementation of QTE. The game does find it’s prominent feature of QuickTime events useful from time to time, yet those moments are few. For the most part, they feel like a way for the developers to wake up the player from falling asleep during excessively long cinematics.
Another feature in place to add a constant cinematic tone throughout the entire game, was the letterbox ratio. It showed just how badly The Order wanted to be a movie. This was a hindrance on basic fundamentals that made third person shooters operational. It would have been fine if the letterboxes would have come into place during cutscenes and disappeared during shooting. I found myself staying out of cover at every opportunity I got, for I had confidence I could see all my enemies. This basic problem is something that should have been resolved in development, long ago.
Summary: The Order: 1886 is quite simply selfish. It’s a beautiful game that finds itself conflicted between the story it wants to tell, and the one it hands off to the player. It’s terrific aesthetic, well-crafted world, and top-notch voice acting shouldn’t go unnoticed, but they don’t hold a candle to the game’s significant and infuriating problems. Aside from my aforementioned praises, I believe nearly every other aspect is flawed. Offering absolutely zero replay value and a trophy list as straightforward as they get, there is no reason to spend over seven hours in the game. Moving through The Order’s set path was a bland and occasionally thoughtless experience that left me extremely unsatisfied. The Order’s burdensome inaccuracy in engineering is due to the quality the developers settled for, not the controversial quantity the game bestows.
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