Gamersledge Video Review – The Order: 1886 (PS4)
The Order: 1886 is a beautiful, albeit flawed entry into new territory from Ready At Dawn and Sony for the PS4.
There are many positives and negatives, but one thing that struck me as I played the game was the sense that I could detect the business motivations behind some of the choices. While it’s neither necessarily good or bad, it did pull me out of the experience.
It should be noted that I went into the game without reading any other reviews or opinion pieces. I had seen and heard that negativity was rearing its head before the game’s release, and I wanted to give the game a chance to stand on its own merits or flaws.
The results are a gorgeous, cinematic experience with a well-written story that takes place in a soulless, by-the-numbers setting.
The Order: 1886’s two main mechanics fall into one of two categories: Cover-based shooting and Quick Time Event (or QTEs as they are known in the industry) combat.
The cover-based shooting is pretty generic, with waves of humans throwing themselves at you. There is combat against werewolves, which is at least different and slightly less predictable, but three quarters of the game will be spent gunning down humans. At one point, I was expecting a floating steampunk Dinklebot to tell me he had accidentally tripped an alarm, and to hold them off until he had unlocked it.
There are some new-style weapons thrown into the mix, like the Arc gun and a gun that throws phosphorous powder, which you then ignite. The problem is that they are few and far between, and there are even times where you battle for a few minutes against an opponent to finally get these interesting weapons, only to have the next section arbitrarily remove the weapon from your inventory and force you to use generic sniper rifle instead.
The QTEs are prevalent throughout the game not just in combat, but in interacting with just about anything in the environment. If you don’t like QTEs, The Order: 1886 may not be your cup of tea.
One of the sloppiest and least-fun game design choices is in full effect throughout the game, which is the ‘you’ve screwed up once and now must start over’ trope. This, to me, was one of the biggest detractors from the game overall. There was a portion where I was to sneak Metal Gear Solid style through an area in pitch black, rainy conditions — yet any enemy with a lantern, even not looking directly at me could spot me and put a bullet through my brainpan, squish. Cue restart of level.
Isn’t it about time that AI opponents aren’t omniscient, can determine what direction I am approaching from and draw a direct bead on me instantaneously? The Order: 1886 does nothing to alleviate this design flaw.
One other detractor is actually the letterbox presentation. The third person camera is so close to your character, that the extra inches covered by the letterbox could have actually made getting a bead on your target in the shooting sections easier.
Lastly, the most sad design element that unfortunately resonates throughout the game world is the world itself. While beautiful, your ability to interact with it is so limited it creates a sort of sterility and instills a laissez-faire attitude in the player. You feel completely disconnected. There are a few times in which you are given a task, and the illusion of choice is given to you. You quickly find out that you are guided on rails down a singular path, with no variance or choice involved. Each and every time.
Pros: With a few exceptions, the cover system works well. The game has fun and unique new weapons to play with a few times over the course of the campaign
Cons: Not enough of the new weapons, AI ‘sees’ you to easily, game design elements to force restarting, wave-based combat that’s fairly generic, camera positioning during some combat sequences, ‘on-rails’ world traversal, ‘illusion of choice,’ no real interactivity with world. No replayability. In fact, use a FAQ so you get the platinum on the first run. Really.
Although it takes a couple hours to get the story rolling, it’s actually a fairly decent one. Set in an alternate history where King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table actually existed and found a path to immortality, this Order keeps the world safe from underworld beings like Werewolves and Vampires. Your story focuses on Sir Galahad (not THE Sir Galahad, but the Knight who inherited the name for the last several centuries), his comrades and the state of the world in 1886.
We start the game by seeing that Sir Galahad is in prison, and it’s playing through the events that lead to his imprisonment that make up the majority of the game. The characters are mostly interesting, and the plot is decent enough. Where the game suffers, however, is in pacing. Because you have some long story-driven cutscenes in every chapter of the game, you start to play, stop to watch, play or traverse for a bit, watch more story unfold, and it creates a very stop-and-go experience. I honestly think this is not that pronounced an issue if you are used to JRPGs, but some people may not like how the pacing unfolds due to it.
Pros: Interesting characters and world building. The facial features show a depth and range of emotion.
Cons: Lengthy cutscenes can create a feeling of stop-and-go action.
If this was an RPG, Ready At Dawn spent all their skill points on the Presentation layer. The graphics are stunning, and there are a few scenes where I actually forgot I was looking at something rendered. There will be many times during the game where a cutscene will end and gameplay begins with such a seamless transition that you will stand there for a few seconds before realizing it’s time to play.
The lighting effects are fantastic, and shadows play in real time as light sources dance off objects realistically.
The soundtrack is rich and deep, appropriately fitting the mood of the game, and was one of the more enjoyable portions of the game. Voice acting is very well done throughout most of the game and most of the characters. When tied to realistic-looking characters, it creates a very ‘real’ character portrayal.
Pros: Graphics are rich and beautiful, sound and voice acting is well done.
Summary and Verdict:
The Order: 1886 is a beautiful, lush world that is also sterile, removed from your control and ultimately both fulfilling and frustrating at the same time.
I mentioned business decisions I could sense kept pulling me out of the story — I’ll mention them here. While I enjoyed the story, a shot would frame in the engine, and I’d be amazed. And then, I could hear Kaz Hirai in my head shout “Only on PlayStation 4!”
And that’s when I realized that it doesn’t matter what the critical reception for this game is. These graphics can be thrown into a trailer video and pointed to as a “Only on next gen (current gen)” experience. After completing it, I’m almost inclined to say it’s an interactive tech demo that showcases the power of the hardware, and Ready At Dawn might be smarter to license the engine and generate revenue streams that way. But my guess is that this was their proof of concept to Sony, and that a sequel will be much more interesting than this initial foray.
It would not be fair to judge this game on those merits, but that is what was going through this reviewer’s head as he played this game.
If you enjoy single player games with a rich cinematic look and feel, and aren’t so concerned with replay value or deep gameplay — or even looking for that eye candy WOW factor to impress your friends, then The Order: 1886 will be a must-buy. Just don’t give them the controller.
6.5 out of 10 Wax Cylinders.