Game Review: The Order: 1886
By Andreas Charalambous - 21st February 2015
Since the announcement of the PlayStation 4, Ready at Dawn’s The Order: 1886 is a console exclusive title that I have been awaiting with much anticipation. Those gloriously rendered graphics that demonstrated the next leap in gaming processing power, and the slick presentation that promised to blur further the line between films and video games, had many – myself included – very excited about this release.
Unfortunately, some of this eagerness was dampened just a few days prior to the game’s official release. Negative reports of the game’s length and other issues with the gamer’s experience were being touted online, which raised concerns that maybe this game would ultimately be a massive disappointment. As any proud gamer would testify, a few negative comments prior to a game’s official release does not necessarily mean that you should write it off completely. After all, it is one person’s opinion of that game – as this is mine. I lived in hope that my experience would be better than some others have suggested elsewhere.
Firstly, let’s establish what a review of The Order: 1886 is doing on this horror website – the narrative. Set in the Victorian London of an alternative history, you take control of Sir Galahad; a member of an old order of knights descended from those of the famed round table. This order of knights are charged with keeping the world safe from half-breeds – which are essentially werewolves. The best way to describe this game is; think of a steampunky Victorian Underworld (minus a leather-clad Kate Beckinsale…. *sigh*). Given its PEGI 18 rating – and the aforementioned incredibly detailed graphics – you can expect some equally incredibly detailed violence in this third-person shooter.
It is probably best to cut short the description of plot here, because it is one of those games where the less you know about the intricate details, the better. This is also an opportune moment to explain that the entire plot (and game) is played out and completed in around 6 hours – suggesting that some of the comments regarding game length and value-for-money are worth discussing. The limited edition of the game that I was playing, retails at £55 – that works out at just over £9 an hour to you and me. It has been suggested that the game does not offer good value-for-money, and that it should not have been released as a full-priced game when you consider such great episodic games collections as TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead cost a whole lot less and last a whole lot longer.
So why the steep price tag? Let’s not forget that this is an exclusive title that showcases the graphical capability of the PS4 – remember when the BluRay player (and the DVD player, for that matter) first entered the home entertainment market, and in addition to buying the hardware for upwards of £300, a film would set you back somewhere in the region of £30 a go? It could be argued that this is a similar scenario in video gaming – as it was with the Xbox One exclusive Ryse: Son of Rome - and if one thing can be taken from all previous reviews, you will not find a more gorgeously presented game for your money. Ultimately, yes it is short, but no less than the annually churned-out Call of Duty and Battlefield games – although these two titles do offer fans more hours of gameplay through the online gaming experiences on offer. The Order: 1886 does not offer this, bizarrely.
Moving on to the gameplay – if you do not enjoy games featuring Quick Time Event (QTE) button mashing, then I can tell you that you will not like this game. Admittedly, there is a little too much of this, including whole boss battles that are played out using a QTE system. Some of the QTE sequences are puzzling in how unforgiving they are; mistime your button press during a sneaky stealth kill and it results in instant death. Mistime during a boss battle and you take your damage but live to continue your fight. This can be quite off-putting. Equally, if you do not like your gaming experience to resemble that of the (now clichéd) interactive movie, you will also not like this game. There are many cut-scenes between the playable portions of the game, but The Order: 1886 had always set out to be a ‘playable’ film experience, so how else would you expect this to be achieved in current game design conventions? It is worth noting that this approach does not reach the heights of impressive execution as that of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, but would be more appropriately comparable to Heavy Rain (both very well-respected PlayStation exclusive IPs).
I do have a couple of gameplay gripes, however. Being a next-gen third-person shooter, it is quite disappointing that the controls and cover and aiming mechanics are nowhere near as slick and engaging as those of last-gen’s Gears of War. I have found this to be a little frustrating in parts during gameplay. The biggest objection I have is the enemy AI. Without spoiling anything for you – there are some cut-scenes showing how nimble the lycan half-breeds actually are, and yet when you encounter them in gameplay, they attack and retreat in a straight line, causing very little panic in the player. Line them up in your gun sights and plug that trigger (or complete the QTE to duck out of their way, and await their next attack).
Finally, a word on replayability. Considering that there is no online gameplay option and that as gorgeous as the Victorian London environment is, this is very much a game on rails rather than a sandbox game that lets you explore your surroundings. There is no real incentive to play through again upon its completion. Unless you are a PS Trophy obsessive, your second experience of the game will be identical to the first.
Overall, your own verdict on the game will depend on what your expectations are before you pick it up. If you truly are expecting a film-like experience, then this would put you in good stead. If you are looking for a AAA gaming experience similar to something as epic as the Uncharted series, then you will most likely be frustrated by the fact that you are somewhat held back and not constantly in the thick of the action as the plot unfolds. Admittedly, I didn’t like the game as much as I was expecting to, and it is a little rough around the edges in certain aspects already mentioned – but I did like it. All indications lie in that this won’t be the last we hear of The Order. Maybe the kinks are ironed out by the time The Order: 1887 comes around and makes for a few more positive reviews than those that this game has been getting on release.
The Order: 1886 is available now on PS4.