The Order 1886 is probably one of the most disappointing games I have ever played. Understand that “disappointing” does not correlate to mediocrity per se, it just means it didn’t live up to its potential nor my expectations. The Order 1886 was one of my most anticipated games of 2015 and it’s a damn shame that it won’t see the light of my game of the year consideration. For every one thing The Order 1886 does right, it does another three wrong. Yes the game is a visual marvel, but pretty graphics and polished environments can only get you so far; especially when all other integral elements of immersion are poorly executed. With only a single player campaign to offer, The Order 1886 is a disjointed look on history that is only worth visiting once.
Ready at Dawn have been boasting about The Order’s cinematic quality since its reveal back in 2013, and in this regard, The Order does not disappoint. Although the phrase is constantly repeated at length, The Order 1886 feels like an interactive movie. Subtle elements such as lighting and camera angles mirror the cinematic quality of motion pictures and transitions from cinematics to gameplay are seamless, ultimately crowning The Order 1886 as the most cinematic game to date. However, alongside the benefits of its cinematic touch, certain cinematic qualms have plagued The Order. The Order 1886 presents its photo-realistic world in a Museum-like manner, having a frustrating “look but don’t touch” mentality. Players are restricted to a clear-cut, linear path and will rarely have the opportunity to stray and explore the gorgeous world. Unfortunately there’s not much to do in this wonderfully crafted world; players will have the luxury of monotonously walking along 19th century London, surviving extremely brief or over welcoming gunfights, or participating in mindless investigation segments. Since The Order heavily emphasizes its cinematic quality, it’s with no surprise that story and characters play a key role in the overall experience. Luckily the core story is handled fairly well and characters, in particular Sir Galahad, are fairly complex and are successfully brought to life. The story is the crux of The Order 1886’s cinematic experience and the main contributing factor as to why many, myself included, would purchase this game. The Order 1886 tells the tale of a company of the Queen’s Knights and their century long battle with the half-breeds, the Order’s take on the mythical lycan. Chock full of elements of brotherhood, honor, betrayal, desperation, horror, and conspiracy, The Order 1886 has the potential to tell a phenomenal tale. Core elements of the story are well done, and there is definitely great material to be found, but unfortunately it’s all presented in a poor manner. Poor pacing and inconsistent distribution hold the Order back from its potential. 50 percent of the game is spent watching cutscenes or walking down linear corridors. The core structure of the game is broken down into inconsistent chapters. Some chapters will throw players into heated gun battles for 40 minutes while others will have players mindlessly watching a cutscene for 3 minutes. Hell, one chapter consisted solely on the player moving Galahad forward for less than 3 minutes. Ready at Dawn keeps players on a tight leash, stripping them of any sense of freedom and/or exploration. Players can only slightly branch off the beaten path when presented with monotonous investigation segments. Players can pick up and observe irrelevant objects and rummage through insignificant cupboards. These segments don’t reward any sense detective work and only exist as redundant filler. Characters, on the other hand, are a different story. Characters are brought to life thanks to the fantastic animation and stellar voice work. Historic character Nikola Tesla in particular has too little screen time and Paul Gregory does phenomenal work as the Lord Chancellor of the Order. Galahad’s bicker between his trusting crew and their remarks pertaining to the Rebel and Half-breed threat are noticeable high points of the experience. The Order’s graphical fidelity and attention to detail is immaculate. Trivial detail such as dust particles flying off a rugged object or the impeccable lighting of a simple puddle of water amplify the Order’s fantastic sense of realism and immersion. Now game length has become synonymous with the Order 1886 after its recent debacle, and I’m here to report that it took me about 7-8 hours to complete it. Honestly, length is the least of The Order 1886’s problems. If anything, the game would’ve overstayed its welcome if it were any longer. The Order houses some questionable design choices; cutscenes are not skippable and gameplay is littered with tutorials, even if it’s your sixth time performing the specific task. The game’s presentational problems lie within its story and its horrendous pacing. The ending is abrupt and doesn’t resolve anything, leaving a plethora of unanswered questions and myself unsatisfied. It’s abundantly clear that Ready at Dawn want this to be an established franchise, and judging by its ending, are already planning a sequel.
The Order 1886’s gameplay is just as jarring as its disjointed narrative. On a positive note, I personally liked the cover based shooting. I know many were lukewarm about its derivativeness, but I found it rather enjoyable. The controls were tight and the shooting itself was very responsive. Ready at Dawn even included their own slow-mo mechanic called Blacksite, which is extremely satisfying to observe. Unfortunately, the occasional shootouts are spread between extensive, monotonous walking segments and banal cutscenes. The gunfights are fairly bipolar; they could either be extremely brief or far too extensive with endless waves of enemies closing in on you. Since this is an alternate take on 19th century London, with the help of Nikola Tesla, the Order is equipped with advanced weaponry to survive against their supernatural threat. Unfortunately there are only two Tesla developed weapons in the entire game: the arc gun and the thermite rifle. This is a shame as I was hoping for a wider selection since I had already seen the two weapons in trailers and demos. At least the two weapons handle differently from the rest and are extremely satisfying. However, just like how RAD restricted player freedom and exploration, they also restrict the weaponry used to certain segments. Besides shooting your way through the London Rebellion, you will also fend off the half-breeds, and these fights are disappointing at best. For what I thought would be a thrilling, intense battle of survival turned out to be a mindless dodging segment. You shoot the half-breeds as they charge at you and roll out of the way when they pounce, then just rinse and repeat. However the biggest gameplay problem of all is the Order’s excessive use of quick time events. Now I normally have no problem with QTE’s, I love when they serve a purpose and are tasteful, as is such with the God of War series, but when they are gratuitously added with no moderation whatsoever, then we have a problem. QTE’s litter even the most mundane tasks such as Galahad counting down, each number spoken being a QTE, to signal his brother on when he’d lob a grenade into the next room. It’s just a bizarre and questionable gameplay decision. Even the two lonely boss fights are reduced to mindless quick time events. The Order 1886 is a mixed package in an identity crisis; when it wants to be a compelling cinematic experience, it fails to do so and when it wants to be a competent third person shooter, it’s hindered by boring walking segments and gratuitous QTE’s. The Order has a basket full of great ideas but unfortunately is unable to successfully achieve a satisfactory amount of them.
Is The Order 1886 a bad game? No, it is not. Its realized setting and ambience is remarkable and the game is drop dead gorgeous. The orchestral music is dark and somber and complements the aesthetic nicely. The characters are extremely well done and some are criminally underused. The cover based shooting is responsive and satisfying and is nicely paced thanks to brief mini-games such as lock-picking and old-fashioned hacking. However, its disappointing story, abysmal pacing, inadequate set-pieces, and excessive use of quick time events hold the Order back from being the experience it desires to be. With only a 7-8 hour disappointing single player campaign, no multiple endings or altering decisions, and no cooperative or competitive multiplayer, it’s really hard to justify The Order 1886’s $60 ($70 if you live in Canada) price tag. The Order 1886 had the potential to be something great, even something amazing but unfortunately, it was too ambitious for its own good. I do hope that Ready at Dawn get another chance at this new franchise and fix and build upon their foundation. The Order 1886 has a fantastic premise and since King Arthur’s knights have prolonged lifespans, I can’t wait to see where RAD will take them next in history. If you were hoping that The Order 1886 would be the PS4’s salvation or be its first must-buy exclusive, like myself, then I’m afraid you’ll still have to wait, for the Order is nothing more than a polished container of good ideas.