Video Games

Review: The Order: 1886

Does the next big Playstation exclusive live up to hype?

Review by Ted Wielinski

For years the video game industry has been fascinated with the idea of becoming more “cinematic.” Sometimes, however, it feels like the developers have no idea what that means. There are perfect examples of how one can accomplish this goal. Take The Last of Us, for example. It redefined how a game can feel cinematic by providing us with a world that felt alive and real in the way filmmakers strive to do. Is The Order: 1886 able to live up to the pedigree that other games have created with its own attempt at being cinematic?

Developed by Ready at Dawn (along with some assistance from Santa Monica Studio), The Order takes place in London during an alternate form of our history. Once upon a time, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table began an endless battle against the half-breed Lycan race. As it seemed like the humans would lose the battle, Arthur’s Knights found a mysterious liquid called Blackwater that greatly extended their lifespans and acts as a magical healing formula.

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The entire game, however, takes place in 1886. The player is put in the role of Sir Galahad and tasked with simultaneously combating the returning Lycan force and the rebel force opposing the current government. Galahad is not only accompanied by his fellow knights, but also by the infamous Nikola Tesla. Tesla designs and constructs all the weaponry and tools for the Round Table.

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The weapons in the game are easily one of the most interesting aspects of the
overall design. Take the M2 Flachion Auto-rifle, for example. It appears simply as a regular auto-rifle, however if you press R1 the gun releases a blast of air that will stun any enemy in front of you. One of the more fun guns to use was certainly the M86 Thermite Rifle. You can fire off a spray of thermite that can be ignited over cover and the various enemies you encounter.

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That brings me to the gameplay. The Order: 1886 plays like any other modern third-person, cover-based shooter. Controls are basic and simple. Fire from the hip or hold L2 to aim more accurately down the sight. Circle will put you in cover and aiming from there allows you poke your head out for some good shots. However, unlike most of the other games that adopt this play style, the majority of your time is not spent kneeling behind small walls and popping out to dish out a headshot now and then. Almost half of the time you’ll spend “playing” this game is spent watching cutscenes and performing quick-time-events that feel ripped out of Telltale’s playbook. Interestingly, a control choice that ended up being more useful than I thought was the inclusion of a bullet time mechanic called “Blacksight.” Blacksight can be activated after a small meter fills up from killing enemies without it. It feels similar to the mechanic that was in Red Dead Redemption where it will auto-target enemies and allow you to rapid fire your weapon and move onto the next one.
The Order: 1886 is definitely not without it’s flaws though. While graphically impressive and seemingly without glitches, the game struggles a little when it comes to pacing the action. Sometimes the gunfights are you versus a few enemies and other times it features too many for you to handle. More than once I found myself at the mercy of a shotgunner that plowed through the field to reach me while I was focused on the action elsewhere. In addition, the game takes a page from The Evil Within’s approach to making the game more cinematic by placing movie-like black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. This would be great if it were only during the cutscenes, however they remain there for the entire game. For the most part the only thing this causes is annoyance with the way they’ve decided to throw away a large chunk of their available screen real estate. Perhaps even worse is the way the game handles subtitles. The in game text suffers heavily from “Dead Rising syndrome” and displays the text in such a small font that it gave me a headache as I tried to read it. It really was a missed opportunity to not place the subtitles in those large black bars at the bottom and increase the font size a bit.

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In addition, some players might be upset to learn that the lycan encounters are few and far between. In reality, this is a positive thing. These encounters are tough and frustrating to work through, as it can be impossible to predict the movement of the lycan in front of you. This is made worse by the fact that you will never know how many lycans you are facing until you have managed to kill them all. Often times you will find yourself fighting one and unable to dodge out of the way with the button command that pops up before you’re attacked or you’ll be attacked by a second lycan immediately before or after your finishing move on another that you had downed.

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The Order: 1886 also features an impressive number of collectables to find in the game. These come in the form of audio diaries to listen to and objects, newspapers, and photographs to pick up and examine. While the audio diaries are all kept nicely in your menu to listen to at your leisure, there is no guide on all of the other collectables that allows you to keep track of which ones you found and which ones you might have missed. If you’re planning on grabbing everything your first run I highly recommend pulling up a guide as you play along.

This raises an interesting question that everyone has been posing since this game came out. Is The Order: 1886 worth your hard earned money? I would recommend waiting on this one. While it is a mostly solid experience from beginning to end, many gamers will feel cheated out of their money after paying full price for a game that averages about 6 hours in length and a little more than half of that are cinematics that are simply watched as the story progresses. Not to mention the pacing issues that takes place during some of the combat segments. The Order: 1886 is not something to be missed if you have a PS4, however you might want to wait until the price drops a little.

Final Score

Summary

Pros
-Incredibly beautiful visuals
-Engaging and interesting story
-Tight controls
Cons
-Forever stuck in “cinematic” mode
-Pacing issues
-Uninspired quick-time events

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