The Order:1886, by developers Ready At Dawn and SCE Santa Monica, is the game we have long waited for and dreaded, at the same time. So many eager gamers have awaited a game that fully took advantage of the PS4’s graphical and processing power, while many of us wounded and cynical folks have been anticipating another next-gen PS4 exclusive let down. The word “letdown” can spark one’s imagination with thoughts of catastrophic failure on the level of a title like Aliens: Colonial Marines, but The Order:1886 never once approaches that level of deficiency. Instead, it offers a story and gameplay, where neither feel adequately fulfilled and sets itself in a world that offers huge implications, while limiting the narrative offered on that world.
Set in the alternate history version of 1886 London, The Order: 1886 tells the story of Sir Gallahad and his fellow Knights of the Round Table and their fight against half-breed werewolves, rebels, and a conspiracy set to unravel the world as they know it. I found the story did a serviceable job in keeping me engaged during my 10 hour journey. Yet, in a game that is primarily story, I kept hoping for some type of plot twist or occurrence that pushed me further into the game’s story, but unfortunately, I never found that moment. Granted, there were thrilling instances, like fighting my way through a town where seemingly every one of its citizens was intent on killing me or eviscerating my way through a huge blimp, set ablaze thousands of feet in the air. Much like how there are movies where we check our minds at the door and enjoy an hour or so of action-packed mania, I found the The Order to offer the same experience, yet with the cruel illusion that there was more that was left on the table. Don’t be confused, the story isn’t terrible. It just doesn’t ever deliver upon what it keeps alluding to. With that being said, I am proud of Ready At Dawn and Sony Santa Monica for creating a setting that is set apart from we too often see in video games. I suspect that the inevitable sequel will build upon this world and explore the vast possibilities offered by this unique universe.
It would be easy for The Order: 1886 to regurgitate the exact same armory of weapons and gadgets found in your typical shooter, but it’s quite evident that a great deal of focus was bestowed upon the machines of war and espionage. I enjoyed the strategy and diversity offered by a weapon like the M2 Falchion Auto-Rifle, which allowed me to shoot a blast of air, stunning my foes and followup with a barrage of bullets. The armament of The Order: 1886 is still full of short-range and long-range pistols, the always effective shotgun, and sniper rifle. The most refreshing battles were when using weapons like the Thermite Rifle that has players spraying magnesium which can then be set aflame, burning through cover and basically all forms of flesh - human and werewolf alike. Another fantastic gun was the Arc Induction Lance, that let me utilize a tesla coil to shoot bolts of powerful electricity at my unfortunate victims. Where things go sour is when the game presented me with set moments when I could only use these weapons. Otherwise, it was the same repetitive mix of weapons. By the time I had a handle of my tool of destruction, it was taken away from me.
The Order: 1886 is a heavily cinematic experience. In fact, its developers went as far as to add letterboxing and a light film grain to give it an added cinematic quality. There is a remarkable balance in the visuals, and the cutscenes and gameplay are indistinguishable from each other. There are a few instances when the letterboxing interfered with my aiming, but for the most part, I never minded its presence. I was blown away with how well the voice acting was and how somebody was finally able to sync the lip movement with the dialogue. Character models show a wide range of convincing emotions. The flaw with this “cinematic experience” is that there are too few precious times when I truly felt in control of my experience. I felt as though I was being lead through the entire game when the world around me dangled a carrot of exploration.
In the end, The Order: 1886‘s ultimate flaw isn’t its lack of imagination, but rather its lack of vision, and no, I don’t mean the kind with your eyeballs. All of these great ideas seem like the groundwork for an outstanding game, but each of these ideas don’t feel fully realized. The grand visuals catch our eye, but never our hearts. Its combat provides moments of empowerment, but too often, the game dictates when we can have those moments. The world begs to be explored, but you are pulled by the hand into a specific direction. Still, I enjoyed the story it told and universe it is set in. After all this, The Order: 1886 isn’t a bad game, but a good game that could have been much better by delivering upon what it constantly teased me with.