The Order: 1886. This PS4 exclusive has garnered an alarming degree of hatred and controversy prior to its release. A walkthrough was released online that saw a player complete the campaign in just over 5 hours and gamers weren't happy. It was filled with cutscenes and quick time events but what was The Order: 1886 really like? Were these rumours true and was Ready At Dawn defending the runtime in vain?
All of these questions were buzzing around in my head prior to picking up my review copy of
, and one can hardly choose to forget about them before downloading that patch 1.01. But now, I believe I've come to an equitable and sincerely objective opinion as possible on the first PS4 exclusive of 2015; Ready At Dawns' The Order: 1886.
The Order: 1886 Review on PS4
Visuals & Design
From the outset, we've all had it made abundantly clear that The Order looks fantastic. I can honestly say that I've never seen such stunning in-game visuals on a console, PC or otherwise. The character animations are breathtakingly realistic, with certain moments in the game showing off a protagonist in a kind of light that would have even the most avid gamer confuse The Order: 1886 with a film.
The environments are seeping with remarkable attention to detail. Its a game that feels like it wants you to take in its surroundings, and it seriously deserves it. The lighting effects are genuinely beautiful, and seeing characters hair move in the wind and react to rain water is the kind of thing that we expected to see on our NextGen consoles. Though the fact that it runs at 30FPS is noticeably distracting and feels like a missed opportunity.
Much like The Evil Within, Ready At Dawn have opted for the more cinematic look, in that two black bars are horizontally stretched across the top and bottom of your screen for the entire game. I have to say that I never found it distracting or impacting in any way upon my experience with the Order.
It's a highly cinematic experience and presenting The Order: 1886 in this way saw no complaints on my part. The game seamlessly blends between its impressive cinematics and gameplay moments without a loading screen in sight and I can feel how proud the developers are of how this title looks.
The game knows that it looks great and there are numerous moments throughout the campaign where we can pick up something in the environment and stare at it. We can move them around in our hands just like officer Cole Phelps did in L.A. Noire, only here we're not looking for clues, but rather admiring the attention to detail on these items from pieces of paper to weapons.
But I must say, that after a while this became irritating. I was aware that The Order: 1886 was a stunningly beautiful game, but there are several moments that force you to look at these items and then hit a button prompt when you've found the right spot to examine. Not because you've discovered something, but purely because Ready At Dawn wanted you to appreciate their work.
Believe me, I was impressed. But being constantly reminded of the visual prowess on show became seriously irritating and quite intrusive upon my immersion into The Order's world. I'm not someone who praises a game simply for its visuals, in fact they can be pretty unimportant. But I thought it was vital to have quite a long section on these visuals seeing as it seems to be The Order: 1886's greatest selling point. Because from here on, I don't really have many positive points to make.
Story & Gameplay
The Order: 1886 plunges us into a dark mystery story around an order that has existed since the days of King Arthur. We play as Galahad, a devoted knight who primarily works in a team of four with Igraine (a kind of love interest), Marquis de Lafayette (a cocky, young Frenchman) and Sebastian Melroy (a bad-ass old man with centuries of experience in battle). The leader of this organisation has been alive since the days of this great king and sat around his round table. This tradition has carried on into the 19th Century, with these men and women able to live for centuries after their discovery of the power of Black Water.
Drinking this liquid from a vile around their neck heals their wounds instantly and allows them to continue to serve in The Order for hundreds of years to come. The story is engaging, with a lot of great characters and some stellar voice acting and performance capturing. The Order: 1886 certainly leans heavily into its cinematics, with some of them lasting over 10 minutes, only to be broken up by you walking for 10 seconds and another one continuing straight after.
I have no issues with long cineamtics, and these are certainly well directed and orchestrated, but I only fired a gun once in my first hour with the game. But then suddenly after this hour I was plunged into a fire fight that lasted something like ten minutes, and had me frustratingly bored by its conclusion.
The Order: 1886 may certainly have some pretty cool looking weapons, but they are not all that enjoyable to fire. A lot of the time their sound design is really lacking in giving me the sense of power in my hands. Some pistols saw you spraying useless rounds of three bullets at a time, while some sniper rifles can kill your enemies by hitting them in the hand. I did like using the sniper though but weapons like the powerful electric gun really lacked in effective sound design or punch.
Its combat feels like filler. I was never that engaged with any of the fire fights and though they can be pathetically easy at times, if one shotgunner gets near you, you won't stand a chance. You could say that this contributes a degree of suspense to The Order, but it really doesn't. The whole campaign sees you crouching behind cover and then looking over it trying to land a headshot. The enemy AI is reductively simple. They hide behind cover too and occasionally pop up their heads to see what's going on. They can shift around the environments sometimes but it's really only the shotgunners that are a threat as they run towards you.
Upon being hit one too many times, Galahad will be forced to crawl around the floor for a little while, helplessly attempting to get behind cover. Then you will see the triangle button flash on screen as he takes a drink from his vial followed by you hammering the X button till he stands back up. The next time you're downed though, you restart from a checkpoint.
This system was irritating at best as it gave the player a false sense of hope, or most of the time you were standing in a place that you knew Galahad couldn't survive and had to wait for you enemies to shoot you again while you were down. In terms of replay-ability, The Order: 1886's combat is far too functional and uninspired to bring me back for more.
Other gameplay moments see you picking locks with a system akin to that of Bethesda's Oblivion, only its far easier and can't be failed. You've also got a mini-game where you have to stop two mercury balls inside the correct parameters which you can see above. Like something at the arcade. The game is also filled with the most obnoxious degree of quick time events I've ever experienced. You can't open a door in The Order: 1886 without it being a quick time event and that's not an exaggeration.
The game feels far too heavily scripted, forcing the player to play the game the way its creators envisioned it. There's no room for individuality as you are pushed down these linear corridors. I even had one moment when I was asked to fire at an enemy in a slowed down section, I fired at him and a gate near him blew open as apparently that's what I was supposed to have shot at.
Its QTEs are supposed to immerse you in the story and keep you interested, but continually hitting triangle for everything saw me wandering around locations just pressing the button in the hopes that I interact with the correct item. I'm all for my linear games, but there is absolutely zero content outside of the main campaign.
There are several little rooms that Galahad can walk into next to the corridor he's supposed to traverse, but the rooms never have anything in them or feature a lengthy audio recording pickup that doesn't help integrate me into this world any further. And I must say, I never found quicktime events to be that off-putting, but in The Order: 1886 they take over the entire experience as the player is forced to follow the director's vision in this tightly contained campaign.
If you enjoy cinematic storytelling, then The Order: 1886 does have a good and enjoyable ride for its players. Their are a few good twists and some likeable characters all presented with stunning visuals and attention to detail. But in terms of being an actual game, there's very little that could persuade me to return to this title. The gameplay was nothing I'd want to engage with again, and there is only the promise of a higher difficulty setting with The Order: 1886.
Ready At Dawn focused too much on the story and visuals for me to feel immersed in this world as a player. I felt like a pawn, one that had no options left to itself as I pushed down its very linear corridors. And yes, I died a good few times and tried to take my time, but ended up finishing the title a little under 7 hours. All in all, I'm counting on Bloodborne being the first great exclusive for the PS4, The Order: 1886 hasn't done it for me.
The Order: 1886 comes out for PS4 on February 20th.