The Order: 1886 is one of the most polarizing video game releases I have experienced. In 2010, developer Ready at Dawn began crafting their first video game based off something other than another companies existing IP. They had made more than a couple good PSP games, but these were always continuations of someone else's work. Their own small spin on someone else's ideas. The Order would be their first chance to provide something not only unique, but something their own.
Revealed at Sony's 2013 E3 conference, the hype was there day one. The trailer showcased gorgeous graphics, hinted at squad based gameplay, bizarre science fiction weapons for the late 1800's, and mysterious monster attacks. As time went on we learned RAD drew big inspiration from Naughty Dog and Uncharted 2. We also learned the game would be single player only, and instead of a typical 3rd person shooter, would be a story driven, more cinematic game. Some were let down, some were more intrigued. The game remained high on all lists of anticipated PS4 titles.
Ready at Dawn, finished by midday
The Internet is a hateful place, full of trolls, shills, and fanboys. Games get attacked for no good reason. Games get defended for no good reason. And people get ugly about it. Being one of the most anticipated PS4 games of 2014 (and then 2015 after the delay), The Order was certainly not immune to that. Being a cinematic game certainly did not help matters. So about a week before launch, when the first play through of the game founds its way onto Youtube, the hype for The Order hit an all time high. Discussion everywhere. Thousands of posts on GAF. Tons of threads on various message boards all over the Internet, this one included. People trashing the game, people defending the game, people attacking the Youtuber who uploaded the video himself. It got ugly.
Out of that though, some fair and interesting questions have come about.
Just how long is long enough to justify $60? Hell, I had people on here berating me not two weeks before The Order launched, because I had the gall to purchase Evolve. Some of these same people happily bought The Order. It's an entirely opinionated, but still interesting debate, in my opinion.
Another query, how far can developers go towards offering an interactive, story based video game, before it begins to come at the expense of gameplay? Cut scenes have come a long way since Pac-Man. Hell, video games as a whole have. But not everyone thinks games should be more like movies.
Sadly a lot of vitriol has been spewed regarding the games length, ignoring the games other achievements/flaws. So, almost entirely ignoring the length of the game, how is The Order? Spoilers ahead.
Knights of the Round Table & Generic Plot
Whether you agree or disagree about a games emphasis on story and cinematics, I think we all agree that if you're going to make a game revolving around those things, you'd better get the narrative right. This is the first flaw with The Order.
The game begins finding you atop a building in late 1800's London, overlooking the city. You are Sir Galahad, a knight in The Order. Which, you learn along the way, is the same fraternity of people that one Sir Arthur used to sit with at a spherically shaped table.
That order still exists. In fact, some amongst your order, might have even sat alongside Arthur himself. You see, they have this magical drink called Blackwater, which can extend a human life hundreds and hundreds of years. It doesn't grant immortality, but it does instantly heal wounds, except when you use it, for cinematic purposes.
What is the Blackwater? We don't know. Where does it come from? Who can say. It's introduced very early in the game but is never fully explained. This becomes a common trait among elements of The Order's story.
Where this cinematic/story driven game differs from something like a Metal Gear Solid or Bioshock, is that the narrative here is entirely generic, and just not that interesting. All of the potential is there. Monsters, sci-fi weaponry, knights. But it is deluded with half baked arcs of love, betrayal, and revenge.
We are to believe this is the same brotherhood that King Arthur founded. That they are duty bound with their lives to defend the innocent and uphold honor. And yet, as many reviews have already discussed, these same honorable "brothers" are extremely quick to turn on one another. These are people who have apparently fought side by side for centuries, putting their lives in each others hands. And when it serves them well, they have no problem shooting the shit out of innocent people.
You have a blissfully ignorant hero. His admirable leader who recruited and trained him, and thinks something with the system is amiss. His (forbidden) love interest. And a young hotshot rookie. You have a rich and powerful company with enough resources to overthrow many governments. And of course you have the scrappy rebels.
It's painfully generic, but without giving too much away, that's not even its worst fault. The story is presented in a manner that pretty much confirms a sequel is coming. There is no other explanation for the complete lack of explanation of many elements, and the many plot lines that just end with no pay off whatsoever.
Also, there are apparently vampires. Expect The Order 1892 to focus on vampires.
More Like Gears of Bore
Metal Gear Solid is, in my opinion, the ultimate example of a game that can overcome average at best gameplay with a good atmosphere and story. And there are plenty of games with entirely forgettable stories, that keep you coming back for more thanks to great gameplay.
The Order has no chance of being one of those games, because the story and cinematic approach to the game is engraved into its very DNA. There is literally no way to play the game without experiencing the story. Rather than build up to perfect spots to place story elements in the game, The Order feeds you constant, unskippable story elements and then sprinkles in a little gameplay here and there. Gameplay that, with a good story, would be kicked up a few notches. But when the story falls flat, the gameplay falls even flatter.
It doesn't help when the game does virtually nothing unique. It's a third person shooter. It has all the tropes you'd normally associate with a modern TPS. It has cover, it has kill boxes. You can roll. Unfortunately it also has most, if not all, of the negative stereotypes of the genre.
The controls for cover are incredibly clunky. You'll struggle to move in and out of cover. The AI are bullet sponges. And even worse, they literally have one mode. Your standard enemy will hide behind cover, pop his head out every now and again. Your close quarters enemies, "shotgunners", will try to flank you, completely ignoring cover and common sense. Your "boss" enemies are typically armed with one of the two or three cool weapons in the game, have armor, and will sit back raining fire from that weapon on you. Sometimes in the game you fight Lycans, aka werewolves. They come at you, you hit X to dodge, you shoot them. That's it. They don't ever try to attack in groups, they never use terrain or high ground to their advantage. They charge and retreat.
In fact, the strongest AI in the game might be the stealth mission AI, and they basically walk the same patrols over and over. But they do listen for you, and sometimes they will catch you off guard by taking a second or even third look your way, just when you think the coast is clear. I didn't find the stealth sections anywhere near as crappy as other people, because they were actually the couple times in the game where slight exploration and open ended gameplay were not only encouraged, but required.
Probably my biggest disappointment with the game is the weaponry. You know what else didn't have outstanding AI design or enemy variety, but was great? Wolfenstein: The New Order. That shotgun though. Playing through that game was awesome because the guns all felt unique, had their own purpose, and had some kick. 95% of the guns in The Order are pea shooters, have no impact, and were not satisfying to shoot. There were three guns in the game I found joy in using. There is a lightning gun, a sawed off shotgun, and the thermite gun. Two of those were only fun for a couple enemy encounters before their gimmick wore off on me. The sawed off I enjoyed a bit longer, because it was the only gun that seemed to feel good when fired and left an impact on the enemies. The lightning gun and sawed off are also the only guns that resulted in any kind of gore, whatsoever.
The combat has a melee element, though unless you're playing on Easy, the firefights take place in such predictably tight corridors, that using the melee on any enemy other than the last one is nothing but a guaranteed death.
Who Knew 900p Could Look So Good?
As we all know already, The Order is a gorgeous game. It really is the PS4's Ryse. The environments look incredible, the textures are amazing. I never once noticed or cared about the black bars on the screen. Also like Ryse, there are some fascinating facial expressions going on. Characters will squint and brood and exert energy noticeably. It also has some of the best reload animations that shooters have ever seen.
Sound wise, the soundtrack is amazing. The voice acting is top notch. The sound effects do not disappoint, though some more powerful sounds on some of the guns could have helped the gunplay a lot. On a technical level, the game is a showcase. If you purely want eye candy to show off your PS4 to family and friends, there isn't a better game than The Order.
Length Is Irrelevant
The criticism of The Order has been pretty ugly, but the ugliest part about it is that while people are harping about play length and value, there are much deeper flaws with the game that have resulted in its lower than expected score on Metacritic. One of the developers likened his game to a $100 steak. It plays more like the steak you'd find on a McDonald's breakfast sandwich. It's just not good. And in this regard, it's probably a good thing that you can explore every inch of the title, collect all trophies, and be done in less than 7 hours. As pretty much every single The Order defender has claimed, nobody likes a long and bad game. So RAD gave us a short bad one.
Lackluster, generic gameplay
Probably the most linear shooter I have ever played
Constant unskippable cut scenes and QTE's interrupt game
Laughably short, I was able to platinum on Hard in 6.5 hours. I would guess maybe 4.5 of those hours were actual gameplay with me in control
Seems built to simply build steam for a sequel
Replay Value: 0