The Order 1886 - Review by Andy Urquhart (PS4)
Ok lets get it out of the way right at the start, The Order 1886 is a short game. There I said it now lets move on. Coming in as the first big exclusive of the year on the current gen consoles is never easy, but with the lack of competition out there at release The Order did at least manage to shift a fair number of copies (and yes I am writing this review some weeks after release).
I first played The Order at EGX 2014 and was absolutely blown away by what I played. Cool guns, great cover shooting, interesting characters, some short QTE’s (which I personally liked) and simply breathtaking graphics all made this game a day one purchase for me, I had a blast playing the demo and couldn’t wait to play more. It left me with a feeling of Ye Olde Unchartede (extra e added for Old Timey vibe).
My excitement for the game wasn’t even dwindle by the poor review scores or short play time as we know reviews are simply one persons opinion and even if a hundred reviewers hated it, there’s still a good chance that I would love it. So I went into the game pretty hyped and as far as the length of the game goes, it’s really largely irrelevant if it’s a fantastic game, particularly if it has replay value via score chasing, time attacks, difficulty modes trophies etc. Many of my favourite games have had short campaigns, Sonic 2 for example immediately springs to mind (number 4 on my top 100 games of all time) despite it’s relatively short campaign, it’s worth playing through again and again, finding chaos emeralds, improving your time and it even had a small multiplayer element with Tails as a co-op partner and the short 2 player race levels, which were enormous amounts of fun. Now I’m not directly comparing the two games here just saying short games can also be very very good games if done right. (Gaming History 101 has a superb piece on short game lengths here check it out).
Right from the opening moments of the campaign, it’s clear that something is wrong with the game, strangely The Order 1886 opens with a prison break, that tried and tested game trope of imprisioning your main protagonist for reasons unknown (and in this case half drowned and limping like a shambling corpse). This section is particularly frustrating as openings go as all it entails is QTE’s intersperssed with walking very slowly (due to injuries) down dank, dark corridors. It is neither visually impressive, nor fun to play. At all. In fact as opening sequences go it’s probably one of the worst I’ve ever played as not only does it fail to introduce the characters and story adequately, it also skimps on even having any actual gunplay and to top it off after slogging through this section, the game flashes back in time a few months, before protagonist Galahad is imprisoned. Now this move in particular rubbed me up the wrong way as personally I like to play through a story focussed game like this in chronological order and unless your going to do something like Beyond: Two Souls level of storytelling via jumping around a timeline or a flashback sequence part way through a game to flesh out the characters then there is no real need to do this. This particular section of the game should have been left in it’s proper place within the game as when you do actually get to that point the game forces you to watch a cutscene summerising the events anyway and after a few hours playing as a badass it would have been a nice change of pace to play through a slow section like this, hopefully lessons will be learned for the inevitable sequel and as far as the story goes the game ends on a very open note leaving it set up to segway straight into a sequel (or possibly DLC).
Just to be clear if you don’t want the story spoiled then stop reading now!
Some parts of the story are actually pretty interesting and well crafted the fact that The Order are basically the Knights of the round table and that each Knights title is passed along to someone new when they die were both interesting and really cool plot points. Sadly these interesting avenues are not explored thoroughly enough through the game as it instead chooses to focus on werewolves and conspiracies within The Order, oh and vampires, yep there are vampires in this game. Galahad is a valued member of The Order who basically stumbles upon a conspiracy while trying to track down and kill werewolves and pesky rebels, finds evidence of said conspiracy (a warehouse full of vampires) and then burns it all without collecting samples or recording his findings (doh!). And when he breaks into the heavily guarded home of the dude he works out is the major player in the conspiracy? Well he’s actually a vampire for one but clearly Galahad is acting outwith his jurisdiction here and on top of his B & E charge, he’s probably guilty of several counts of murder as well. As such he is arrested and we are treated to the oh so terrible and utterly pointless (it’s not like anyone has forgotten this as these events only happened a few hours ago for us players) flash back of the prison break from the opening of the game. Galahad obviously lives to fight another day and the story wraps itself up with Galahad killing one of his former brothers in The Order, who shock horror is actually a vampire. This also left me with a very sour taste as we were introduced to a pretty interesting (dick swinging) villain heading up the conspiracy only to have his lackey turn out to be the final boss in the game with the main villain seemingly getting off scot free.
Gameplay wise The Order has so many issues it’s almost funny but when it works it is fantastic. Like the segment which was in the demo for example, the particular highlight for me however was the segment aboard the airship. This section has been lambasted somewhat on the internet for it’s opening QTE absailing down the side of the airship. I personally enjoyed doing this, it provided a sense of scale and immersion not present in most of the rest of the game. The stealth section feels relevant and plays reasonably tightly and the gunplay section is probably the strongest in the game, opening with taking out fake guards with a sniper rifle and taking out waves of rebels thereafter, making your way through the kitchens killing more swathes of enemies (this time with your AI partner) and ending with the airship exploding and falling out of the sky, with Galahad left to crawl out of the Ashes. An awesome spectacle of a set piece overall well crafted (aside from the Bioshock Infinite inspired flat fruit textures) and really shows the potential of what this game could have been. Sadly the rest of the game really pales in comparison to this segment, either focusing on walking through streets enfolding the story, killing a bunch of enemies at set points, and walking more. It all feels very guided and while there are some areas to explore 90% of them are empty and when you do find one of the collectables in the game it really adds nothing whatsoever to the overall experience, examining a hammer you can rotate in your hand for example and yes the game will also force you to rotate many objects and guns in your hand till you find the magic pixel so you can progress the scene. The fact that these areas of the game are largely empty is very jarring and makes the whole game feel vapid and devoid of life. Several chapters in the game are so empty that they do not even have a single second of actual gameplay.
Shooting and cover mechanics are pretty tight and generally one of the games stronger points. The weapons also are very cool (obviously as they were created by Tesla) and give off a steampunk type vibe, however just as you start to get used to a weapon it is taken from you as part of the story and you are given another entirely different weapon, I understand that yes you need this weapon for story reasons but at least let me use the weapons more than once or twice in the game. Most of the game you spend with a machine gun and a pistol, which is a real misstep considering some of the other awesome weapons in the game (the Thermite Rifle was a particular favourite of mine).
Also included is a bullet time time mode which I personally hated as it just felt too random due to the fact that there is very little aiming involved thanks to auto targeting. Occasionally you will find yourself challenged by the sheer number of enemies thrown at you relentlessly giving you little time to heal and reload both of which are very slow actions, but overall most battles are easily beatable without giving too much thought to and when you do die it is very frustrating as you will die alot during these few occasions, mostly due to not having enough clear time to reload, heal or collect more ammo.
Where The Order really shines however is graphically. It is a beautiful game. Personally I still think Infamous Second Son is the most impressive game graphically on PS4 due to it’s lighting effects and colour pallet, but The Order certainly runs it close. The cutscenes are by far the finest I have ever seen in a game, with the lip sync finally being spot on and actually believeable, instead of looking like someone eating an invisible sandwich (Amazing Spider-Man 2 I’m looking at you). Facial features of the main characters are also superb, their eyes, teeth and wrinkles all look believable and the way the cutscenes blend pretty seamlessly into actual gameplay is to be applauded as the transition is pretty flawless. Yeah the game doesn’t have too broad a colour pallet, being very dark and brown overall, although it does have excellent shadow technology and very good lighting effects overall.
The Order has almost zero replayablity and unless you want to collect all of the trophies, there is absolutely no reason to replay the chapters to pick up the collectables you missed. In most I enjoy collecting trophies and finding all the squirrels (collectables) hidden away within games, however finding all the nick nacks The Order was a frustrating annoying experience. Mostly this is down to the fact that although the game tracks which ones you have found for the trophies, it does not display this to the player anywhere. At all. I understand having minimalist HUDs etc but they could easily have stuck this in the menu system. So the only real way to make sure you get them all is to watch a video of someone else finding the collectables and playing through each level in turn picking up all of said collectables, this coupled with the unskippable cutscenes make this an utterly joyless experience. No score chasing, time attacks or multiplayer mean that if you aren’t interested in trophies, once you beat the game, that’s it your done, might as well trade it, sell it on etc as you will never play The Order again.
Overall The Order is a major disappointment, a graphical behemoth with a boring flacid story and mostly poor gameplay at it’s core. It took me 8 hours to beat the game (with another 2-3 to mop up the collectables I missed and this only took me so long as I had no idea where I had missed them) but I did explore most of the game during this time and really found it wanting in terms of overall experience. If the game had been good I wouldn’t have minded the length at all, but as it is a full priced game the quality really does not represent value for money when you take the quantity of the game into question. I agree with their being no competitive multiplayer element here I don’t think it would have fit in well (however maybe real players would have been able to do something more interesting with the werewolves rather than just having them run at you over and over till you kill them) but this game screams co-op, through most of the game you are accompanied by one or more AI companions, it almost feels like they were going to implement this and then removed it at some stage during development in order to ship it in time. The Order 1886 had the potential to be an awesome co-op game but wasted itself being a short and largely forgettable single player game.
42 Level One
Overall Score - 48%