The Order: 1886 Review Overview
+ An interesting steam-punk inspired world has been created
+ Possibly the best looking game on the PS4
- Cover-based shooting becomes repetitive, with boring quick time events the only break
- Not enough supernatural encounters
The Order: 1886 INFORMATION
Release Date: February 20th, 2015
Developer/Publisher: Ready at Dawn Studios/Sony Computer Entertainment
The Order: 1886 was not well received upon release. Despite being a AAA first party release when the PlayStation 4 was struggling with only a handful of launch games and last generation ports, The Order: 1886 did not sell well. It was supposed to be the system seller that every console craves (although that didn't seem to matter with PS4 sales). Previews of the game looked gorgeous, as was the entire concept; Arthurian knights fighting mythical beasts such as werewolves and vampires set in a steam-punkish version of London, but gameplay previews were ho-hum and rumors of the game's length doomed it prior to release.
Story - The Order: 1886 Review
The Order: 1886's setting is wonderful. It's set in dreary London, but brought to life by the architecture, advanced technology and zeppelins filling the air.
The Order refers to an order of Knights of the Round Table that has existed since the days of King Arthur and his men, insofar that the names of Arthur's knights have been passed on through generations. There are only so many spots at the table, and when a knight has fallen, there is someone new to take their place (The film Kingsman: The Secret Service uses this same concept). You play as one of the knights in the middle of what essentially boils down to a street war when conspiracy begins to linger. The story and plot is told and developed well, but it's about what you'd expect. It is relatively short, but it is engaging. In no way does the narrative detract from the overall experience and it was thoughtful enough to help drive past any monotony the gameplay offers (we'll get to that later). It's told so cinematically, combined with some of the best dramatic voice acting in a game, that the simplicity of it all isn't apparent until the story has come to a close. It does however take a little while to get going, but this time is well spent establishing the characters relationships and motivations. One of the better gameplay touches is that of Nikola Tesla as the quartermaster, a la Q for James Bond. There is a bit too much anonymity among the antagonists that could have used some fleshing out mostly due to the multiple factions involved from altercation to altercation. It becomes clearer as the plot opens up, but early on the player isn't exactly sure who they're fighting or why.
Technical - The Order: 1886 Review
Despite the dreariness of London, which is represented well here, The Order: 1886 is possibly the best looking game on the PS4 (still). It's not full of vibrant colors, but the detail is fantastic. Because this isn't an open world game, the linear path has been painstakingly crafted. Every object, whether you can interact with it or not is impressive. Each weapon is especially original, designed to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The overall aesthetic is more interesting, still. The influence of Arthurian legend is made natural despite the time and place of the 1880s. The medieval garments of the knights, the 1880s inspired cobblestone streets lined with lights and the steam-punk zeppelins that fly over head are all integrated flawlessly. Even more, the direction of the cut scenes lend itself well that they are of film quality. The entire game is displayed in letterbox format, which during gameplay shrinks screen but otherwise gives prudence to The Order: 1886's cinematic style.
Music - The Order: 1886 Review
In any film or game, the music helps to set the tone or feel. In that sense, The Order: 1886's music accomplishes that. But rather than a common musical theme that plays up certain aspects of the game, it seems closer to that of the Peter character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall with his musically absent ominous tones. It's effective, but hardly noteworthy.
General sound effects however, are designed well and this may be part of the reason that the music is so subdued. Just as the visuals have been meticulously crafted so to have the sound effects, specifically with the weapons. Each gun has a significantly different sound, which really helps to differentiate the weapon functions in total.
Gameplay - The Order: 1886 Review
The mechanics of The Order: 1886 are completely solid, there are no complaints. The character controls well, the hit detection is right on and taking cover, moving from cover to cover and popping out and shooting from cover are all stellar. There's even nothing to complain about in terms of the level design. In many action pieces there is enough cover to approach the fight in multiple ways. It's just all rather repetitive with nothing to differentiate it from any other cover based shooter, and that's really the biggest gripe against The Order: 1886.
One of the attempts at differentiation is the quick-time-events, but these mostly serve as a way to break up long stretches of slogging gameplay (read: getting from place to place) or are occasionally used when fighting a few different enemy types. In many ways the quick-time-events take away from the strongest gameplay feature; cover-based shooting. The lack of enemy types (there are essentially two) make fighting monotonous, and outside of fighting, there isn't any other gameplay that is worth playing (exploration amounts to approaching something and an icon appearing, with no rhyme or reason to of why). Again, it's not bad, but you're either fighting soldiers with guns that offer up no differing types of strategy, or werewolves (not often enough in my opinion). The werewolf fights offer variety but are too often interrupted by quick-time-events or simple evade, shoot and repeat gameplay sections that besides being repetitive, are frankly not fun to begin with.
There are several instances of what can be considered "boss fights" and one in particular that is 100% a quick-time-event laden fight. It's a really disappointing moment, because it's a big part of the game, with tremendous build-up and the player doesn't even get to use the shooting skills they've been honing the entire play-through up to that point. It's a major flaw, and one that detracts from the overall experience.
The Order: 1886 Review Roundup
Some of the critiques against The Order: 1886 are fair. The length of the game is not one of them. The story isn't cheapened by the length of the game, and in fact, the shorter than average length helps alleviate the games' biggest problem; monotony. The shooting gameplay is good, but it never evolves as the game carries on. The plot becomes more gripping and the world built around your character is ever-interesting, but the gameplay just doesn't keep up. The setting and beauty of the game are its most interesting facets, and a further dive into this world may help to bring more fans into the game, but without a vast improvement in gameplay variety, The Order: 1886 part 2 could end up being a wasted vessel.