The Order: 1886‘s beautiful graphics and excellent world design juxtapose a horrendously dull and cliché romp through industrial London.
As wave after wave of men pour from the same bottlenecked position, I stand stationary firing a rocket into the same location for upwards of a minute until the game transitions to a cutscene. Halfway through this sequence, though, I had to pause the game to yawn and find a caffeinated beverage. Yes, as you’ve probably already heard, The Order: 1886 is just that dull. Never have I felt a greater burning desire to pause and nap than when I found my way in the mid-game slump 1886 slogs through. Lets break down the good and bad of this PS4 exclusive to find out what made it such a chore to finish.
Perhaps the greatest offender in The Order is the absolutely lazy gunplay and hand-to-hand combat the game offers. Joining the myriad of clones, 1886 attempts to mimic the near-perfect cover-based shooter mechanics of Gears of War. Unlike Gears, though, The Order has incredibly limited scenario variation and just barely a serviceable amount of enemy types to make gameplay, well, playable. Take cover, fire into bullet sponge enemies, move into cover a few steps ahead of you – repeat ad nauseam. There are, however, a few moments that shine. Every couple missions, you’re handed one of a few power weapons that crush enemies with visually stunning explosions.
When you’re not in the generic cover-based gun fights, you’ll find yourself in QTE (quick time event) city with a cavalcade of scripted events. While I don’t find scripted events to be a huge game design sin, repeating the same quick time events throughout the game to be incredibly lazy. Early in the game, there is a QTE fight with a Lycan (a werewolf-esque creature) that has you switching between light and heavy attacks. It ultimately boils down to a two button fight that focuses on timing. Early in the game, I wasn’t exhausted with this game design, so I managed to actually feel a slight degree of excitement from the dual with the beast. However, when developer Ready At Dawn decided to take the exact same fight mechanic and end the game with it, I found myself livid with the title. Many great games have been QTE-centric (most David Cage titles), but the way it’s delivered by the developer in The Order left me absolutely drained by the time the credits rolled. When a title leans heavily on combat to propel the story, blatantly repeating the same scenario layout is lazy and exhausts player interest.
To some it up, the gunplay is serviceable in the few circumstances where they allow you to use the more powerful fantasy firearms and the hand-to-hand scenarios are outright abysmal. Gameplay certainly isn’t a strong point.
Boiling down the exposition, you play as Galahad, a high-ranking member of The Order who works to protect the British Crown and its allies. Oh, and did I mention they apparently also operate as an expert band of monster slayers, too? As the game progresses, Galahad uncovers the unsavory doings of his Knight colleagues surrounding monsters and begins to question the doings of The Order.
To me, the story is where I found the most disappointment in 1886. The industrial London setting mixed with King Arthur fantasy had so much potential to be great. Ready At Dawn could have made a survival horror shooter, a monster hunting game, really the possibilities are endless. Instead, they decided to create a cliché story about the Knights of the Round Table fighting rebels of the government to protect the State. Things do elevate and get slightly more complicated from there, but in case you want to play this game for the sake of console justifying eye candy, I won’t spoil some of (painfully predictable) plot twists.
Graphics, Audio & Performance
If you’ve seen or read anything about this game, you’ve probably noted that the graphics are where 1886 truly shines. Much like the Xbox One exclusive, Ryse: Son of Rome, it seems that Sony have commissioned a studio to create a game that shows off the capabilities of their console. And in both cases, it worked with great effect. Much like Ryse, 1886 is incredibly linear and confines the player to small spaces to maintain visual fidelity. On top of that, there is an uncomfortable aspect ratio that places black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to boost visuals and performance. The portion of the screen that is an actual display offers up incredible scenes throughout, and from a visual perspective, The Order is fantastic.
I found the sound design to be pretty satisfying in 1886. Bullets make whizzing sounds as they soar by Galahad’s head, the comm units buzz and crackle like you’d expect primitive technology to do, and guns have distinct and empowering booms as you fire away at enemies. On top of that, when the plot attempts (and often fails) to reach a high-suspense moments, the game’s score reaches crescendos of monk-esque chorus pieces that many come to expect from fantasy games. One odd thing about the game’s audio design: during cutscenes, you could hear the characters breathing. While it isn’t unrealistic, it just felt somewhat jarring. I suppose that a life watching movies and games that don’t highlight people’s involuntary breathing makes a game that repeatedly makes a point of it felt unique if not distracting.
As mentioned before, the game compromises a full screen experience in order to sustain high visual fidelity and performance. Graphics are frequently stunning, and I don’t recall a single moment where the framerate stuttered to the point where it was obvious. It’s safe to say that 1886 felt rock-solid at the 30 frames-per-second mark.
The Order: 1886 was ultimately a brief experience that disappointed me greatly. Before this game, I would never of guessed I’d be bored exploring a world with such a rich backdrop. Simply put, developer Ready At Dawn dropped the ball in so many unforgivable game design avenues. A cliché story with bland combat force me to recommend gamers pass on 1886 unless you want a game to simply show off the kind of graphics your PS4 is capable of.
What did you think of 1886? What did you love or hate the most about the title? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter!