Review by Nathan Miller
Exclusively on Playstation 4
The Order: 1886 is a cinematic experience hindered by poor pacing and mediocre story telling. The near perfect craftsmanship of the environments and characters do little to help every missed opportunity shrouding this game. At the beginning, The Order: 1886 outlined its reliance on quick-time events (QTE's) which each time they pop up seemed unnatural. The X or Triangle button popping up brought down the game's cinematic value just as much as its story did for its characters. Its alternate timeline was intriguing and had plenty of interesting ideas, yet the game often felt infatuated with itself each time it had you examine something. In order to keep its narrative, The Order: 1886 needed to spend less time showing off its wares and let you explore the world for yourself. The sad part of this whole ordeal is how polished the game is when compared to other triple A releases. I had no issues with the game mechanics other than the overused QTEs, and there is no other game currently available that looks as good as The Order: 1886. So let's party like it's 1886 and check out the story behind this pretty looking thang.
The Knights of the Round Table graced with a mystical "Blackwater," which extends their lifetimes and has remarkable healing properties, continue to serve the Queen of London during an alternate history of the year 1886. Technology is vastly ahead of its time as elemental based weapons, enormous Zeppelins, and wireless communications are normal in The Order: 1886. You play as Galahad as he battles along side his fellow Knights against an incursion of half-breeds (aka werewolves/lycans) and rebels. Not too long into the story, Galahad starts to unravel a larger more heinous plot occurring from under the Order's watch. As he takes matter into his own hands, Galahad finds himself in bed with the enemies which has terrible repercussions on his place with The Order.
The Order: 1886 is a third-person shooter reliant on its cover based system and QTE moments. The game has 16 chapters with a few that are purely cinematic scenes and one or two that are only QTE moments. Primarily the player will move from cover to cover as they make their way through swarms of enemies. It is important to be behind cover at all times, because if not, the player will die standing out in the open fairly quickly. When the player is drained of their life, they can drink "Blackwater" from a vial necklace Galahad has with him at all times. The player can only carry one heavy weapon and side arm at a time, so the player cannot use a shotgun and rifle combo in this game. There are collectibles on certain chapters of the game (primarily the ones you actually run around on) and small moments of mini-game type lockpicking and disrupting of locks. Lastly, there are parts of the game where stealth is required. You cannot be seen or miss QTE stealth kills within these areas, or you will die.
The production value behind The Order: 1886 is tremendous. The environments deliver their vision of an alternate year in history flawlessly, and they did a terrific job bringing their concepts to life. Their design team took an already memorable time period and successfully made it their own. Their weapon, character, and costume designs scream an originality that if combined with a well-written story could have turned this new property into so much more. I felt the gameplay mechanics worked as they intended and there were no notable issues with the game. The Order: 1886 was executed, at a technical stand point, well above average. I enjoyed the game for what it was trying to accomplish, but I did see many areas that needed improvement.
The Order: 1886 looked great and played well, but it lacked a story that was actually interesting. It felt as if they tried to shove too many ideas in too short of a package. If this was truly to be a cinematic experience, they should have taken more time to flesh out the story. It is a shame because The Order: 1886 had everything going for it. I was able to completely finish the game (collect everything and earn the platinum trophy) in 8 hours. I do not care if a game is short, but I do care if the game was memorable. I went through the beginning of the game once again after completing it, and I found myself questioning the logic of its introduction chapter. Galahad is being punished for a crime he committed, yet he was sentenced to death and not torture. These are knights of honor and integrity so drowning him without needing information out of him did not make sense to me. When a sentence was given during these times, it was generally executed then and there so this ruined what I thought to be one of the best moments of the game. What makes it worse is I could not imagine what other plot holes would arise if I did play through the rest of the game again. If the story matched the ideas and the visuals of this game, I would have had a good reason to recommend The Order:1886, however; the story (even though I have more head scratching examples of it) was not the only issue I had with this game.
The AI in this game was very subpar. I nearly never moved from an initial cover point during a gun battle. Whenever I would kill an enemy, a new one would come out and go to that exact spot. I never had to flank or use strategy during any of these moments. The only time an enemy would break from the normal routine was if they had a shotgun, but I would kill them as they ran straight towards my cover. I never moved during the half-breed moments of the game either. These occurrences usually had half-breeds stalking you from a distance then suddenly charge at you with a leaping attack. I always stood at the beginning of that area and let them come to me. I always shot them down before reaching me and executed them before any others could start attacking. All the enemies carried themselves the same and there were none that stood out as individuals. One last thing, I expected more exploration from this game and more interactions with the people within its world. There are no NPC's or real opportunities to learn more about the people of that time. When you roam a brothel for a little bit, you cannot engage with any of the patrons. You get a preplaced prostitute asking you about a good time, but you are not in control of that moment. The developer could have fleshed out that moment more, especially because it is a major focal point of the story, and let you interact with the bartender or other patrons around the area. That is the issue with The Order: 1886, it tells you what to do and when to do it when it should have given you more control and story related opportunities.
The Order: 1886 tried too hard to be a cinematic experience rather than a video game. That is not a bad thing, but it did not have the story to complement such a task. Take a game like Heavy Rain for example: the game was a QTE fest with horrible controls, but it had an amazing story that made any hinderance seem irrelevant to it. The Order: 1886 is (in ways) the opposite of that, it had unbelievable visuals and imaginative concepts with tight gameplay mechanics, yet the story was unbearable at times. The Order: 1886 has no replayability, and there is not a lot to explore when you are playing. I give Ready At Dawn credit for creating a very interesting world, but I just wish they could have done a better job with it.