The Order 1886
The Order is a steampunk adventure and third person shooter set in an alternate Victorian London, and it’s been in development since 2010. We heard a lot about The Order around the launch of the PS4, then it was delayed for 6 months last year, so I was interested to finally play the game now it’s out. You play one of the senior Knights in an order which happens to be descended from the original Arthurian Knights of the Round table.
From the outset, The Order is visually stunning, and Ready at Dawn have created a beautiful Victorian world as a backdrop to their promising story. Every level seems crammed with impressive amounts of cinematically lit visual detail, from the clutter of period children’s toys in an attic, to the grimy London streets and shops, to the crackling Jacob’s ladders in a scientific laboratory. Things feel distinctly Assassin’s Creed at times too with a lot of historical architectural detail on show in every level. You’ll also see a lot of civvies in nicely crafted period costume. The main character design is superb and at times The Order really looks more like a Hollywood movie production than a video game. The voice acting is top shelf and the sound design is great, with The Order being quite a nice game to play on headphones so you can hear some of their subtle sound effects.
Everything looks slick and the high production values suggest you might be in for a treat. Unfortunately it’s very quickly clear that The Order is an empty, strictly linear game, which feels much more like an animated movie than something you interact with most of the time. During the game I could easily put down my controller for minutes while the beautifully rendered cut scenes played out in front me. There’s a sequence early on when you get minutes of cut scene followed by an empty corridor to walk down, followed by more cut scene, followed by another hallway to an elevator followed by another cut scene. Certainly a lot of these scenes are trying to fill you out on the back story, but other games can do this while you’re actually playing the game rather than just a series of long, talky exposition pieces.
Even when you are playing the game, the level design is very linear and the world feels strangely empty. Everything is highly detailed, but you can interact with almost none of it. The game will make it blindingly obvious when there is something you can pick up or use, by throwing up a marker you can see from at least 10 feet away. The levels, when they aren’t linear, might have a closed loop in them, or several curious dead ends that you can visit but contain nothing you can do anything with. At one point a character shouted at me “we should go through this door” which was ironic because every other door in the level was a painted on prop. In some parts of London you might run past a group of Victorians having a conversation, but it’s canned playback, nobody will react to your presence at all, and if you look closely nobody moves their lips outside of the cut scenes. The game even goes as far as to use these dumb mannequins to block of parts of the level you’re not supposed to return to. You’d think these folks would show a bit more respect towards a Queen’s knight carrying a selection of dangerous weapons.
You will get to use your dangerous weapons too, but the combat sections feel half baked, and also appear in strict linear order. Many of them are simple cover based shooting galleries where waves of enemies run at you, or just statically hold position and blaze away until you peg them. There are some more interesting gun battles with nice cinematic elements, but you’ve probably already seen these because suspiciously many of them appeared in the pre-release trailers. However what is worse is that every hand to hand combat sequence is done purely through dull quick time sequences, where you have to point your joystick or mash the right button at the right time. At no point do you feel any danger during these sequences, even if you’re fighting a freaky super strong werewolf who can throw your character around like a wet towel. This is because if you fail the worse you can expect is to have to play the whole sequence again.
The story The Order is trying to tell you is quite interesting, and it’s worth forcing yourself to play through to see some great cinematic moments that are really quite cool, although again some are potentially spoiled by being used in promo material. There’s some great banter between the main characters too and I grew quite fond of one of the sleazier knights who’s always quite ready to interview ladies who might need his help. Unfortunately the whole affair is dragged down by the total lack of well, actual game that’s fun to play. Everything you’ll do in The Order you’ve already played in other games that probably did it better. The Order also feels like an incomplete game. A good example of this is the way you sometimes find what seem to be clues, but discovering them has no effect on the outcome of the game because everything is linear and scripted.
The game also got a lot of bad press when people posted videos of a 5 hour play through. That was a speed run however, I’d expect the average player would take around 7-8 hours to wrap up the story. However once you’re done that’s it, The Order has almost no replay value, unless you really want to collect all of the audio tapes in the game, which are also the only collectible.
The Order is a beautiful but ultimately disappointing, shallow and even occasionally boring experience that could have been so much more.
Reviewed on: PS4
Rating: R16 Violence, nudity, sex scenes & offensive language.
Reviewed by: Stu