The Order 1886 is a misunderstood beast. Gaming has evolved, simple experiences have been eschewed in favor of bigger world maps, myriad side quests and in between that whole mix, a story, all in the name of innovation. If you're looking for that in The Order 1886, you can stop reading this review right now.
I feel Ready at Dawn did not express what they were actually making to their audience, which has led to a lot of disappointment, hate-talk and confusion over a game that uses a lot of the mechanics that have made others succeed, but it's trapped inside a bygone era of straight forward storytelling. Still, when you dissect and look at all the elements that are encapsulated in this game for some it's going to be a masterpiece (not a GOTY winner of course), while for others will simply be an experience that will end and make you say…"It's that it?".
The game is in fact as was advertised by the developers, a "Seamless Narrative Experience". The strongest point it has in its favor is the presentation and how you jump from gameplay to cut scenes without even noticing sometimes, and other times really noticing the jump.
I played the game from start to finish with a headset. The sound in the game is amazingly well-done; the growls of the wolves, how every gun sounds differently from the other and the top notch voice acting made this a game I wanted to listen to. The voice acting is professional, it made me feel every emotion portrayed by each character, especially when certain main character got very mad over some events, made me angry also, and that's powerful, a game that makes you feel what their cast is feeling.
It's not only the guns and voices, steps, doors opening, rain, in fact, no sound ever feels out of place, the team has done a superb job.
The Order 1886 was built using some of the best graphics I've set my eyes on. You must know by now that the cinematics are all made in-game with no pre-render being used at all. Every time I watched a trailer of the game I wondered, "Is it really not pre-rendered," I refused to believe, but from the point you first see London and start walking, you get this feeling that you are not playing a game but moving a CGI scene with your controller. This in my opinion is the best looking game visually until now.
Steampunk London's scenery is gorgeous to look at, but keep in mind, it's a look-but-don't-touch scene, I found myself staring at the amount of details Ready at Dawn has put into it, they even added a zoom button so you can use it and say "Hey, where are the jagged edges and low textures? I don't get it", this is be a phrase you will be able to say if you decide to get the game. From the artifacts on Tesla's lab to the clothing textures on the Knights, it has to be the best looking game I have laid my eyes on.
Now it's interesting how easy it is to miss how amazing the visuals are, the lighting and shadows, for example are so well polished that you forget it's a game. Where are the horrible pixelated blinking shadows, and the lightning not bouncing where it should? That is not part of this game, there must have been some severe cases of stress at Ready at Dawn to make this game be as polished as it is.
Don't even get me started on the animation, motion capture you ask? The Order sets the bar pretty high by supposedly not using all the processing power of the PS4. Faces move in ways I never thought to see in a video game, at least not at this point.
A Well Told Story
The story has its cliché moments, in fact you could guess many of the major events just by watching some of the trailers, but the strongest point is how this great story is told. It starts out in a point where you would not expect and grabs you from the beginning and never lets up. You want to know more about Sir Galahad and his life as a Knight of the Round. It's a re-imagination of the Victorian era with Lycans and weapons that should not be there at that point in history, but believe me, the will to survive in humanity is powerful. In WW II we had so many advancements due to war, so why not have arc gun prototypes to fight huge Lycans that need to be knifed like 40 times to die.
Now, it's important to know that this is a story based on King Arthur and his knights. When they discovered the Holy Grail, they found Black water, a magic and powerful catalyst with capabilities of healing wounds and prolonging life, so I recommend that before you play the game, read a bit about Le Morte d'Arthur. It has its pacing issues and the last chapters feel a bit rushed and at the end I had a feeling of needing more closure. But it's fine, and leaves a lot of doors opened for a strong sequel, which I'm expecting soon.
The guns are pretty to look at, but what was most impressive for me was actually the design they went for, every time you see a new gun you just want to pick it up. It doesn't even matter if it's a less powerful one, you need to see how this thing kills. The strongest points of course are the Arc Gun, Thermite Gun and the Three Barrel Shotgun. Now when you fire these things, they will leave a mark. The gore bar is pretty high on this game, every time I fired the shotgun, no matter the distance I saw enemies turn into pieces, it's the best gore I've seen in a long time, which off course will be offensive for some, but I'm ok.
Activate this thing every time that bar fills up, don't save it just use it, you will understand…ohh and try to hit a flying grenade also, trust me...
Seamless Experience… I guess?
It's hard to follow up on when you have to actually start controlling Greyson, sometimes it would find myself controlling cinematics since the experience makes the transition from gameplay seamless, I felt this actually broke the immersion I had in the game and its story. I remember at one point the main character was walking in a cinematic and I was still pushing the joystick forward for like 5 seconds until I realized I wasn't doing anything at all.
You don't actually notice the black bars as much as The Evil Within, in fact I found myself forgetting them from the start and the very casual use of UI for the gun you are carrying helps in not breaking the experience. This was the main point of The Order, for you to feel a new way of narrative experience, but in the end I actually didn't feel anything new in it; it's been done before by many games, shutting down the UI I mean. Besides that I didn't feel anything revolutionary in this seamless experience, in fact on many occasions it changed from my viewpoint to a cut scene breaking it, for example on chapter 3 I climbed a rooftop with Lafayette, instead of the game taking control and starting a cinematic, it changed to another camera angle and took control from me, if it's supposed to be seamless, that should not happen, and something tells me that in the sequel it will be like what I'm trying to express.
Let Me Run
The world is beautiful and that's an understatement with how amazing Victorian London feels, but more than once I found myself clicking the R3 button to run in some forced walking segments. I can watch everything beautifully while running, too. I know, I know…running where a normal person doesn't run would break the cinematic but come on, I know that I'm not alone on this one, I WANTED TO RUN whenever I felt like.
Well, what can I say, is this the revolution of cover shooters? Nope. Is the gameplay bad? Nope…but it's scarce. You can play the entire game from behind the box and kill everything without picking any other gun, or you can create your own cinematic gameplay experience, by trying to use everything at your disposal, grenades, automatic side arms, combo rifles, arc guns, melee, attacks, etc. I found myself more than once running to an enemy, killing him with melee attacks and entering Blacksight which of course made me feel pretty badass. But for some it will simply be the same old cover shooter formula.
This is Ready at Dawn, you did not forget right? They are experts in QTE, don't forget they made GOW on PSP. So why not have them in The Order 1886. The last part of the game is reduced to a QTE, but I actually feel it was one of the best QTEs I've ever played in my life, very high tension on that one, and also on Chapter 4. I don't think they we're an actual problem but, I do feel they were overused where there could have been more shooting or pure fun segments like the "Rocket Launcher of Mayhem" section as I like to call it. In general QTEs did not hinder my experience but if you hate this type of events, stay away from the game.
Rushed & Stealth Chapters
One thing is a cinematic feel for the game, another is using four whole chapters to only show you 10 to 12 minute cinematics. This could have been better used, even if they were merely for exploration, I think it was a crime to use them for cinematic purposes. Even if those were some of the most highly climatic moments in the game I wanted to take control in each chapter, I feel the length problem which everyone is concerned about would have been fixed instantly.
Stealth? No, thank you, I wanted more Termite and Lycans please. The Stealth sections always left me wanting them to end so I could start shooting again. Nothing special about them and if you fail, its an instant death.
Basically playing it on hard doesn't make it that much harder, in fact I consider The Order a fairly easy game. I died around 4 or 5 times for being too bold and not staying in cover like a wimp. I would not have minded an arena or other kind of mode to play more with this gorgeous world, but that's a side note, the campaign length is okay, this games tend to last about that.
"Oh, hi shotguneer, I totally wasn't expecting you there…just kidding, I totally was". I said that in my mind more than once on my first play through. I felt there was just not enough enemy types, why not include a heavier breed of Lycan that simply walked slowly while you shot at him and then had to dodge even in the same manner as the other lycans, its fine!! the point is, variety will always make the experience richer, and I really hope to see a lot of variety on the sequel, which by the looks of it and how it ended…there will be :)
In the end as I said from the start, The Order 1886 is not a game for everyone, in fact its a game for a minority of gamers around the globe, which I find its a shame because for me, it was a beautiful ride from start to end, and one I'm gladly playing a second time at the moment of this review. I find a bit disturbing by how many people are angry as to how this game has a $59.99 price tag, but when you grab the lore, the graphics, the good gameplay (except for stealth) and the amount of detail and polish the developers have put into it, I got to say, its worth every penny if this is your kind of experience.