TL;DR: The Order: 1886 is a visual spectacle of a video game, packed with solid mechanics, a cast of personable characters that are easy to grow fond of, and quite an enjoyable plot. Any person who adores story-driven titles will be pleased with what Ready At Dawn brought to the table with this game.
That said, The Order: 1886 isn’t for everyone. If a short, easily consumable, linear single-player experience doesn’t sound intriguing to you, it will be difficult to fully appreciate the game for what it is. Either way, you shouldn’t leave 2015 without giving this game at least one good run-through.
It’s the same bittersweet urge that nagged me for weeks upon completing the original God of War. That pleasurable feeling that was followed by an abrupt stinging sensation, similar the one I felt when I finished Heavenly Sword. After vacuuming me into its rich environment and fast-paced, enjoyable narrative,The Order: 1886 ended much too quickly. I completed the game in a little over seven hours, with about 90 minutes of that being quick time events (QTEs) and cutscenes. But even so, the game was more concise than it was brief, and upon finishing the game, I’ve come to the conclusion that the PlayStation brand has notched yet another big time exclusive series on its belt.
The Order: 1886 was developed by Ready At Dawn, the same team responsible for Daxter and the God of War PSP titles. For their first foray on the big home console, the studio decided it would be best to focus all of their efforts on crafting an exhilarating single-player experience, as opposed to slapping on a lackluster — and likely incomplete — multiplayer component. Constructing a new IP is an unnervingly daunting task, and one could call Ready At Dawn’s decision to blend classic game elements together with linear gaemplay following a plot riddled with anachronisms a substantial risk from a business perspective. As a body of art, however, these decisions have proven to pay off in spades.
The story of The Order: 1886 is told through the perspective of Sir Galahad, an established member of the Knights of the Round Table, an organization whose sole purpose is to maintain order between humans and shapeshifting creatures called half-breeds. Galahad is joined by a cast of personable, exuberant characters throughout the game as the Knights and he hunt down the Lycans that are terrorizing the land. But we quickly learn that something is amiss, and the story spirals into many twist and turns, becoming an enjoyable roller coaster of mystery, fantasy, and impending conspiracy. I appreciated the fact that Ready at Dawn took liberties with the time period, tossing in an ample amount of anachronisms to put a fun, entertaining spin on 19th century London.
The plot as a whole could have used two or three more hours to flesh out the supporting characters’ stories. However, as opposed to ending abruptly and leaving a mountain of plot holes to be closed in a possible (screw possible, it’s inevitable) sequel. You know how apparent it normally is when you reach a final boss battle in a game? Well that feeling of reaching that pinnacle moment in the game was absent, and you were greeted with rolling credits just when it felt like the plot was starting to thicken. It didn’t help that The Order’s final battle sequence felt like just any other area within the game. In a phrase, it was disappointingly anticlimactic.
One of the beauties of the game’s London setting is some of the world’s gadgets and weapons. Nikola Tesla makes an appearance as Galahad’s weapon and gadget supplier in the war against the half breeds. Who better to provide our hero with his battlefield gear than one of the greatest innovators of all time? You’ll find yourself picking locks and breaking circuits using some his gizmos — all of which takes place within small mini-game sequences. As far as guns go, you have weapons like the Arc Gun, which shoots out a charge of chest piercing lightening that leaves gapping holes in its targets. There’s also the Thermite Rifle, which players can use to belch out a cloud of flammable gas on unsuspecting enemies with one buttonr and ingnite it wit the other. The unique artillery made for many good times and it’s a shame that the accessibility of the unique weaponry was as limited as it was throughout the campaign.
But what would these wonderful weapons be without a solid gameplay foundation to use them on? The Order: 1886 delivers smooth, intuitive cover-shooter mechanics. A normal issue that I run into when playing cover shooters is, when sticking onto walls, that I‘d prefer my character stay detached from the obstacle. Ready At Dawn alleviated this problem by implementing a soft cover mechanic that prompts Galahad to lower his head automatically when near a surface and being fired at. While in soft cover, players still have their full range of motion without being attached to a wall, and will remain detached from any surfaces until they press the circle button. This was essential in staying safe in heated arms showdowns, especially when having to evade incoming explosives being thrown in my direction. When gunning situations were looking extremely bleak, I activated Gallahad’s time-slowing, “Blacksight,” which operated similar to John Marston’s “Dead Eye” in Read Dead Redemption.
One cause for concern was the game’s excessive amount of quick time events. While I felt they weren’t as bothersome as they have been in most games, more of the The Order should hve played out organically within the gameplay, as opposed to in point-and-click QTE scenarios. With the game being as cutscene heavy as is, the QTEs only added to the amount of time spent away from actual gameplay. Additionally, the stealth portions of the game were easily its weakest areas. Patrolling A.I. was predictable and monotonous, making for time-consuming intrusions in the gameplay that I would have much rather skipped out on. Not that I was expecting any Splinter Cell-like stealth sequences, but these segments did very little to add any excitement to the game, and if anything, detracted from the plot’s sufficient pacing.
It’d be tough to ramble about this game without speaking of one of its stronger areas: the graphics. If visuals shown in preview and promo material for The Order: 1886 made you snarl and think to yourself, “psh, this is all just hype,” perhaps you should think again– this game is the most aesthetically pleasing console title to date. Everything from the lighting effects, to the detail of the environments, to the clarity of the character models is marvelously concocted. I was most impressed with the life-like animations and mannerisms for every living and moving object — carriages hobbled and bounced when rolling over cobblestone. Players bent their ligaments accordingly when traversing elevated stumps or stairs. Even the death animations were believable and not the over-the-top rag doll physics that many shooters adopt.
It took a long time for me to come around on The Order: 1886, dating back to when it was revealed as during E3 2013. There’s something about a game as graphically enhanced as this title that makes it seem untrustworthy from a gameplay standpoint. But from preview showing to preview showing, The Order:1886 grew on me little by little, finally emerging as one of the most refreshing PlayStation exclusives on the new console to date. If I was here to review the length of The Order: 1886, and just the length alone, I’d give this game a subpar rating at best. But given the fact that the game’s length is just one factor in the complete discussion, and the fact that The Order: 1886 was a solid title for what it was, I have no problem recommending that fans of story-driven titles go out and try this game. Most importantly, I think we can go ahead and add Ready At Dawn to the bolstering list of top tier PlayStation first-party studios.
– The cover-shooting mechanics are as smooth and accessible as any other game in the genre. Dispatching enemies feels immensely gratifying, and the assortment of creative weapons put into the players’ hands makes for some delightful action while progressing through the game.
– Easily the most beautiful looking game on home consoles to date. If you have an affinity for amazing visuals, The Order: 1886 is your dream come true.
– The story of The Order: 1886 explored everything from supernatural mythology, the history of innovation, conspiracy, humanity, and religion. Even with the shortness of the game, there were a slew of subjects covered that made for an enjoyable experience from start to finish.
– The game was not only short, but it ended quite prematurely. The final battle was very anticlimactic, and there were an abundance of plot-holes at the game’s conclusion, most of which practically scream “sequel!”
– Stealth combat sections in this game were basic, unimaginative intrusions to the rest of the game. I would have been fine skipping these altogether.
– The game could have used a few less quick time events, and a few more organic gameplay moments.
Rating: 3.5 burritos out of 5
This review was completed using a PlayStation 4 copy of The Order: 1886, provided by Sony Computer Entertainment America. The game hits stores Friday, February 20 on PlayStation 4 home console.