The Order 1886 Review: A Knight to Remember

The Order 1886 enamoured us with its impeccable visual presentation of a steampunk-esque Victorian London at E3 2013, but since then has received mixed critical receptions from the various preview builds and demonstrations on show. Ready at Dawn present the order as a title that seamlessly blends cinematics and gameplay into a game that’s blurs the lines between interaction and spectation to produce entirely new experience. Here we take a look at Ready at Dawn’s game, assessing the extent to which this title is successful in providing entertainment.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and with that in mind I’m certain that my words cannot do justice to any of the screenshots of videos you may view prior to playing The Order first hand. The game is simply gorgeous, and sets a benchmark for the capabilities of the Playstation 4. Everything from the environments at a larger scale, to the finer details such as those of a individual room feature a breathtaking amount of attention from the developers. While PC titles such as The Witcher 3 and Crysis may outshine The Order in terms of raw texture resolutions, Ready at Dawn are absolutely unmatched in regards to the amount of unique personalisation and attention they have poured into each and every individual environment, and subsequently The Order is a visual pleasure from start to finish.

Of course aesthetics aren’t the measure by which the quality of a video game is typically judged, at least not wholly. The Order 1886 features gameplay in the form of a relatively standard third person shooter and cover system, as well as occasional quick time events and what can be best labelled as ‘walking segments’. These gameplay segments are generally enjoyable and the aforementioned attention to environmental detail feeds into this as walking and shooting segments would be much less pleasurable if the environments they took place in were visually unappealing.

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Gunplay itself is relatively refined, with each weapon offering substantial and appropriate feedback thanks to considerable recoil and visible impact on the enemies subjected to their firepower. Dismemberment can occur with the games more powerful weapons, yet its performed more tastefully so than games like Gears of War where characters explode into pools of blood. Some environmental interaction is also present, with bullets shattering glass and interacting with other objects such as ornaments, although these typically have no substancial effect on the environmental layout or gameplay. The games more unique weapons are especially satisfying to wield, allowing you to blast through large numbers of enemies with spectacular effects. One such weapon, the thermite rifle allows you to shoot gas at enemies, while the weapons secondary fire can ignite the gas clouds. Watching hordes of your foes doused in the flames is terribly satisfying, and these weapons feel empowering compared to the otherwise rather typical arsenal of rifles, shotguns and pistols.

The foes you shoot don’t have an especially wide variety of combat styles, coming in two types; werewolf or armed human. Human combat is a pretty standard affair, you and they both take cover, you shoot them, they shoot you and this is repeated until one party dies. It’s made entertaining by the variety of weapons and aforementioned feedback of those weapons, but there are very few instances of surprise within this experience. Werewolf gameplay differs, as you have to dodge the attacking foes hit-and-run tactics and initially these segments can be quite tense and atmospheric, however unfortunately this doesn’t last as werewolf encounters are very similar from one to the next. It’s also disappointing that werewolf and human encounters aren’t intermixed, as it would have been interesting to see gameplay interactions between these two factions.

Unlike similar narrative driven, action orientated experiences such as Uncharted, The Order 1886 features an unprecedented level of linearity. While titles like Uncharted and Gears of War may be linear, they usually offer a decent amount of freedom in regard to which cover one may choose to take, or offer flexible gameplay styles such as stealth and gunplay. The Order 1886 offers very little of this variety, typically providing only a singular method of progressing forward at any one time. Stealth segments for instance are strictly stealth segments, with no room for failure (else you are reset to the previous checkpoint), and gunplay offers no opportunity for stealth, with enemies being presented and alerted via cutscene before gameplay takes place. This inflexibility allows the developer to cultivate a more focused narrative experience where each individual encounter and gameplay segment is explained within the games narrative, however its not clear that the games plot could not have been equally well told while providing the player with a greater degree of freedom.

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Narrative then is the games focus and justifiably so. The Order 1886 does a terribly good job drawing you into a believable, steampunk-esque victorian London setting, and its characters – members of The Order – are each individually interesting, offering well written, characterising dialogue. The narrative itself is unique and engaging, with a number of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing what’s going to happen next. In this regard, it’s not far-fetched to consider The Order appealing for similar reasons to a good movie, rather than a good game, and provided consumers go into the experience with the expectation of a narrative driven, largely cinematic experience where gameplay is merely a tool used to drive, and connect the player with that narrative, then it’s unlikely they’ll go away from the experience disappointed, even if it can be said that the games narrative leaves a lot unanswered.

It’s unfortunate then that this is all the game has to offer. The Order 1886’s world is fascinating, but although enjoyable the 7 hour campaign leaves much of it both narratively and visually unexplored. Devoid of multiplayer or co-operative components to promote replayability, no reason is provided to remain invested in this games universe any longer than it’s singleplayer duration, and given its quality, and fascination I found I had with its world, this comes as a disappointment. It reflects positively then, that I found myself with a strong desire to experience more from Ready at Dawns creations, but it’s disappointing that the experience on offer can’t satiate that through extended replayability or additional modes of play.

At the start of this article I made a point of highlighting that this review intends to assess the extent to which The Order is entertaining. Crucially this point was made because this is the games focus; to be entertaining as a whole rather than specifically as an interactive experience, and subsequently its important to judge the game accordingly, as a whole. When viewed individually none of The Orders component parts stand out as especially innovative, but the manner in which each of these components is contextualised within the gameplay experience make for a resoundingly enjoyable entertainment experience overall. Whether it’s the experience that the majority of consumers are looking for in today’s media environment is unclear, but for what its worth The Order 1886 is near flawless its execution of what it sets out to achieve.

Good

  • Visually phenomenal, with intense attention to detail
  • High quality voice acting and sound effects
  • Engaging and unique narrative
  • Satisfying weapons and combat
  • Fascinating world building

Bad

  • Tremendously linear
  • Lack of enemy variety
  • Lacks replayability

 

 

Ultimately, when The Order: 1886 concludes it will most likely leave consumers with mixed feelings. While everything the developers have sought to achieve achieve is met, with gameplay, narrative and cinematics all intertwined and each executed to considerable quality, those expecting more freedom or innovation may feel stifled by The Orders linearity and failure to try new things. Despite this, the game is beautiful, the voice acting is the best in its class, the is gunplay satisfying, the narrative is unique and interesting, the characters are well written, likeable and well characterised, and the world building is fascinating, yet believable. The Order 1886 ticks all the boxes, providing an especially enjoyable singleplayer, narrative driven experience. It’s largest disappointment then is that you spend so little time in its company. After the credits role there’s little reason to look back, yet ¬†everything from gameplay to narrative feels primed for further exploration. The Order 1886 is a promising start to fascinating franchise, it’s not ground breaking, but it’s entertaining, and the experience leaves us eagerly awaiting more.

 

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Author: Jozef Kulik

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