Poor pacing and limited amounts of gameplay hinder this otherwise wonderful game.
The Order: 1886 tells the story of the titular group of agents working in an alternate history version of Victorian-era London in, obviously, 1886. The Order itself spawned from King Arthur’s Knights of the Roundtable, and has grown over the years as protectors of the crown, from both traditional threats, as well as an underground uprising of Lycans, or werewolves. Using a magical liquid known as “Blackwater”, members of The Order can heal themselves when wounded, as well as extend their lifespan – many of The Order are centuries old. Players play as Sir Galahad, as he becomes deeply involved in both Lycan attacks, as well as uncovering the agenda of local rebel group.
Coming from developer Ready At Dawn, and an exclusive PlayStation 4 title, The Order: 1886 has been pitched as the ultimate “cinematic gaming experience”, which unfortunately creates the games greatest strengths and weaknesses.
I’ll start with everything this game does right, which despite what is trending online, is actually quite a lot. To start, this is the best looking game I have every played. It’s utterly gorgeous, with a stunning fidelity to every aspect of the game, from character models, environments, and weaponry. Lighting effects, reflections, refractions, and texture work are all fantastic, creating an experience you can’t help but to be sucked into. It also is technically solid – I didn’t experience a single framerate hiccup. This same fidelity translates to the audio work in The Order: 1886. Voice acting is excellent, giving life to characters, and the score is one of the best I’ve heard in recent years. Every gun has is own unique set of effects, making each feel beefy and satisfying.
The beefy and satisfying gun effects translate to the gunplay within the game. Taking half a page each from Gears of Wars and Uncharted, the gameplay is solid and entertaining. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but the variety of fun weapons makes it interesting to kill everything coming at you.
The most interesting element of the game, however, comes from the story being presented. I was honestly really into the tale of The Order, with it’s rich and layered history, as well as the clever uses of real-life people and places, only in this alternate timeline. Sir Galahad feels like a real person, and his interactions with his small band of Knights and the rest of The Order is what kept me playing the game.
Unfortunately, with all the great things listed above, Ready At Dawn decides to squander some of it. The most-talked about element of The Order: 1886 is it’s length. While I cherish excellent brief experiences, such as Gone Home of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, The Order: 1886 uses it’s short experience to cheat the player. Of it’s 15 chapters, around half of them are either exclusively cutscenes, or simply playable cutscenes, where you guide Galahad from exposition to exposition. This leaves for an underwhelming amount of actual gunplay – for a game with such well-throughout and creative weapons, give me a chance to use the damn things! Many opportunities to create interesting action beats are shot in the face with the overuse of quicktime-events.
Also, the game is a very linear experience, meaning that replay value is almost non-existent – there’s nothing new left to explore one the credits roll, and there’s only one set of collectibles you can access after picking up to enhance the experience. When it was all said and done, I finished the game, including picking up a Platinum Trophy, in ~7hrs.
That brief length leads me to the greatest sin of The Order: 1886 – it should have been even shorter. The pacing is absolutely terrible is certain sequences, leaving me often forgetting what had just happened because what should have been a 1-2 minute story beat is dragged out much longer. Nothing points this out stronger than the first 15 minutes.
One final minor nag, is that the game’s letterbox presentation makes it occasionally claustrophobic during close quarters combat. But it does make the rest of the game look totally badass, and I imagine must’ve helped with the rock solid framerate.
I can’t wait for the inevitable sequel to this game. The game’s engine is spectacular, with excellent writing used to build great characters and story. Unfortunately all of that comes in lieu of extended core gameplay, leaving limited “game” actually available. I can’t deny that I enjoyed my play through, but it definitely left me wanting for more. I’ve been thinking about the experience since I completed it, but why can’t I just have more of it? And I guess that kind of answers my question – the game was designed as an experience, but marketed as a badass 3rd-person action title. I walked in expecting something, walked out enjoying something entirely different, but kind of wishing I had gotten what we were promised.
This score might seem high, as it’s hard to justify this as a $60 purchase for many people. While I’ve listed a lot of disappointments in this review, I can’t let that detract from my overall experience, minus the upfront cost – if you’ve got disposable income or access to it, give it a shot. If not, subtract a full star from my score.