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It’s fairly common knowledge that most video game launch titles are nothing special. Though some launch games have been amazing, usually the power of the new system hasn’t been fully realized yet and as such the games are underwhelming.
Enter The Order: 1886, a PS4 exclusive that wowed audiences when announced, and had many gamers hoping it would be the must-have game that made waiting for a PS4 worth it. Is it that landmark title? Read on and find out.
[Content Warning: The Order: 1886 is rated Mature and this review contains clips of graphic violence and strong language.]
Meet The Order
The Order: 1886 takes place, unsurprisingly, in the year 1886. However, it’s an alternate version of the past from the one we know, and this portrayal of London is under constant threat of Half-Breeds, creatures that are both human and animal. The centuries took their toll, and the humans couldn’t overpower these beasts.
We’re dropped into the story of The Order, an ancient group of Knights founded by King Arthur that have the upper hand against the monsters thanks to Blackwater. This mysterious liquid not only heals wounds at an incredible pace, but also allows those who drink it to live for far longer than normally possible.
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, The Order has further gained ground in their quest for protection – in The Order‘s imagining of the age, engineering has advanced more quickly, providing wireless communication, electricity-based weapons, and fully automatic weapons.
You control the current Sir Galahad (The Order’s Knights pass their names onto those who succeed them), whose real name is Grayson. You have a few fellow members that accompany you along the way, but like Galahad, they’re mostly forgettable. You won’t find any relationship-building or major character development in The Order. Galahad, while generic, isn’t quite as bad as the string of angry dude protagonists we’ve seen in recent years of gaming (Aiden Pearce of Watch_Dogs is the perfect example of this), but he comes close.
Obviously I won’t go any further into the story here, but suffice it to say that The Order plays it safe when it comes to the tale. Nothing particularly exciting happens, the ending isn’t satisfying or epic, and I honestly had trouble keeping some of the similar-looking characters straight. But story doesn’t make a game, as long as the gameplay is solid. Unfortunately…
The Cutscene: 1886
There’s no way to put this nicely, so I’m just going to say it: The Order boils down gameplay to its absolute minimum, making it hardly recognizable, and this is its biggest offense. There are 16 chapters in this game, and four of them (that’s 25%!) consist of only cutscenes. To be fair, game cutscenes can be enjoyable and add to the atmosphere – the Uncharted series does this quite well. But while Uncharted keeps a fine line between movie and video game, The Order goes way overboard.
Besides the fact that a quarter of the game’s chapters involve just watching cutscenes, the cinematics are pervasive through the entire game. For instance, you might start a chapter (after watching eight minutes of cinematics from the previous chapter’s ending) in a sewer right in front of a ladder. As soon as you walk up to the ladder and press Triangle, the game takes over while you watch Galahad climb up and then exchange some dialogue with his comrades. I’m not kidding: this game is ridiculous with taking the reins away from you. At most, 50% of the game consists of you actually being in control; some of the cutscenes run for ten minutes straight.
Speaking of pressing Triangle, let’s talk about what the actual gameplay consists of. Previously mentioned Uncharted is a good comparison: The Order is a cover-based third-person shooter like the former. Both are extremely linear, meaning there’s not a whole lot of exploring to do; you’ll be following the path and shooting enemies the entire time.
The gunplay is fine and while the weapons aren’t that varied, there are a few standouts, such as the arc-lightning gun that lets you zap enemies and the blaster that shoots thermal gel than can then be ignited. It’s standard content that anyone who’s played a third-person shooter before won’t be amazed by, but it isn’t bad. Nicola Tesla provides many of the tools you utilize, which is a neat little historical bit.
Press X to Do Stuff
When you’re not shooting enemies from cover, you’ll be put through endless quick time events (QTEs). If you’re not familiar with these, QTEs require you to press a button when the screen tells you to or else you die. Typically, you have limited control when you’re in one, so it’s about as engaging as playing Rock Band with a controller.
For some reason, The Order‘s developers thought that it was a good idea to build their entire game around QTEs, and it shows. Nearly every action you perform, including moving debris, opening boxes, and pulling chains, involves you mashing the X button to help Galahad along. The game’s pathetic excuse for a boss fight (and the “final boss,” which is a clone of the boss about halfway through) is one big QTE: you have to press buttons to attack when told, and tilt the control stick to dodge when the screen says so.
Adding to the problem is the fact that this game doesn’t graphically differentiate between cutscenes and “gameplay.” Unlike most games, where you can tell when you’re in a cutscene and aren’t expected to be doing anything, The Order will randomly require you to press a button or align your control stick with a point on an attacker’s body in time to defend yourself when you aren’t even expecting it. This leads to frustrating deaths and a constant nervous feel during cutscenes, and it’s just plain irritating. For more on why QTEs are awful, JonTron’s video is a must-view (language warning).
Little things about The Order make it even worse. Since the game is linear, there’s almost no reason to explore. However, the best linear games, like BioShock Infinite, still give the player different ways to plan attacks and have secrets hidden off the path. All you get in this game are objects that you can tilt the control stick to look at, along with some newspaper headlines, documents, and audio recordings that you won’t care about. While BioShock made you want to discover its audio logs to learn more about its fascinating world, The Order‘s “collectibles” serve as mere distractions and don’t add anything to the environment.
When I reviewed The Evil Within, one of my gripes was the game’s odd decision to use a widescreen aspect ratio, meaning that black bars take up the top and bottom parts of the screen. Amazingly, The Order does the same thing! I can’t begin to understand why game developers are doing this, as it makes turning the camera awkward and it makes it hard to tell where threats are coming from – not to mention it utilizes less of your screen. Another small pain is that you can’t change the safe area of the heads-up display (HUD), so every time instructions come on the screen they’re cut off. Why wasn’t this made an option?
The game is also way too easy, even on Medium. Deaths were usually due to control issues or stupid cutscene QTEs I didn’t realize were happening, but even so, I died no more than a dozen times.
There is absolutely no replayability with this game, something I also criticized The Evil Within for. While that game at least has a New Game Plus mode and an unlockable super-tough difficulty, The Order gives you nothing. You don’t get challenge missions, a harder game for the second time through, multiplayer; nothing. Once you finish this game, you’ve seen it all.
And don’t worry, you’ll finish it quickly. A week before launch, a clip of The Order surfaced showing someone finishing the game in five hours. While he was simply rushing from cutscene to cutscene, a normal playthrough isn’t much better. I finished the game in roughly seven hours; for a full-price game, this is absolutely pathetic. A game doesn’t have to be lengthy to be great, but for a game with nothing other than the main course, The Order needed to be longer. If this game featured no cutscenes or quick time events, you could probably finish it in less than three hours.
The Short Order
The Order: 1886 isn’t a bad game; the problem is that it’s not a good game, either. The shooting is solid, but it’s not exciting. The plot is generic. You’re shepherded through the entire experience, even to the point of the game placing an icon on the next door you need to open. The game is so stupidly short that it’s practically over before it begins. It plays like an interactive movie. There’s just nothing fun about this video game.
It’s not all bad. The graphics truly are a sight to behold (there’s a reason you can’t tell the difference between cutscene and “gameplay”), the voice acting is well-done, and the technologically advanced London is interesting – it’s definitely not a period games are typically set in. Seeing Tesla’s inventions is cool, and little touches like Galahad holstering his weapon and putting his hand on his blade when preparing for a stealth kill are neat.
The problem is that these details are overshadowed by the poor “gameplay” – to perform a stealth kill, you have to press Triangle at just the right second based on a prompt. It’s frustrating to die not because you weren’t stealthy, but because you didn’t know when you’d be required to press a button.
This scene really sums up why the game fails so miserably. Everything looks great on paper, but The Order is essentially you moving a character from cutscene to cutscene using quick time events, with some shooting thrown in as a distraction. It’s a shame, and it seems that 2014’s terrible trend of over-hyping games that end up as major disappointments (Titanfall, Watch_Dogs, Destiny) is bleeding into 2015. Let’s hope it ends.
It’s been said a lot by this point, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it here: please stop pre-ordering video games. Publishers try to get everyone excited to play their new game before they even know anything about it, and the pre-order bonuses are supposed to make buying the game six months before it comes out worth it. It isn’t, as anyone who pre-ordered this game now knows. Wait a few days until reviews come out; you really aren’t missing anything and you could end up saving big. Let’s join together to stop this trend.
What do you think of The Order? Were there any redeeming qualities that demand a second look, or does this game serve only to kick off a disappointing 2015? Give your thoughts in the comments!