Despite a brilliant concept, gorgeous design and dynamic characters, The Order: 1886 is plagued by issues that insist on popping up throughout the experience. What developer Ready at Dawn does right with it’s foray into AAA games it does so with flying colors. The Order tells the story of Galahad, a longtime, respected knight. Galahad’s story is told with incredible graphical prowess and complex characters far from two dimensional. If it weren’t for the unimaginative fight sequences and puzzling pacing decisions, The Order: 1886 would be a masterpiece.
The main draw (for me at least) for Sony’s first 2015 PS4 exclusive is the fascinating world Ready at Dawn has crafted. London has never looked so beautiful and detailed. Every little detail from the different textures for each piece of a characters garb, puddles littering the ground and the foggy light dancing across our character’s face is a clinic on how to use the PS4’s power. The transition from cutscene to gameplay is seamless and done so without any noticeable FPS drops, even during the most intense firefights when the screen is a cacophony of bullets, fire and that classic London fog, The Order still looks gorgeous.
If only there were more to praise regarding the firefights. The Order: 1886 is a third person shooter and plays similarly to the likes of Uncharted and Gears of War. Galahad can duck and move around conveniently placed barrels and other such structures to eliminate his somewhat intelligent A.I. opponents. Enemies won’t stand out of cover firing aimlessly, but they won’t be attacking with much strategic diversity. The Order’s enemies rely on mass numbers to challenge the player, waves of enemies will crash into the player in hopes of getting that lucky shot in. The incredibly complicated set pieces give the opportunity to be creative with opposition strategies. Flanks, ambushes, any kind of strategy would have gone a long way in not only demonstrating The Order’s impressive set pieces but would have added a much needed layer of diversity to these firefights.
Of course humans aren’t the only enemies you will be squaring off against. The main threat Galahad and The Order face are the half-breed lycans, werewolves. The game does a good job at hyping the first confrontation the player gets with the half-breeds, maybe too good a job. All lycan fights work the same way, 2 or 3 are locked in a small corner filled room with Galahad, one at a time they will run at the the player from a long distance giving time to fire away, when the lycan gets too close the player will be prompted to a quick time event to dodge the half-breeds attack, the lycan then climbs away and starts the sequence again. Each lycan encounter works the exact same way. This is the most disappointing aspect of the game, the half-breeds are made out to be intelligent, blood-thirsty creatures and the biggest threat The Order faces, yet the encounters don’t try to convey that. The half-breeds are imaginative and terrifying creatures, in contrast the fights with them are repetitive, uninspired and a disappointment.
Fortunately the game makes up for the lycan fights with the elder half-breeds. Elders are highly intelligent, much stronger and larger and pose as the “boss fights”. One of the few times I felt The Order got a fight right was when Galahad fought an elder. These are one-on-one fights, Galahad loses his gun and must fight these monsters with nothing but his knife, quite epic. Galahad has a quick swing and a heavy swing to fend off the lycan, every now and then a quick-time event will prompt taking you through a brutal sequence between Galahad and the elder. As someone who doesn’t usually like quick-time events I found myself enjoying these. Instead of relying on the quick-time events to progress the fight they were used to show the struggle between both sides. The maneuvers being pulled off were a spectacle and were the only time we get a sense of not only how dangerous half-breeds can be but how mortal the knights of The Order are.
As with any game trying to tell an immersive story, pacing is everything. And The Order: 1886’s pacing is abysmal at best. Galahad’s tale is told through 16 chapters, each with a different length and varied amount of gameplay, if some at all. That’s because a handful of chapters only last 20 minutes, a few take over an hour to complete while some are entirely cutscene. The Order has an incredibly complex and intricate story, but almost all of it’s intricacies are lost in the pacing issues. Crucial plot points are glossed over and many times I wanted to play what was happening instead of being showed through a cutscene. The linear story will take around 7 hours to complete, if half of the cutscenes were gameplay that would easly bump that run time up to 9-10 hours. Hence, length is not an issue, rather Ready at Dawn dangles the carrot in front of the player by showing these amazing sequences but not let them play them out.
The Order:1886 is by no means a great game, by no means is it a bad game either, and that’s what is troubling about it. Ready at Dawn created one of the most imaginative, beautiful worlds available but failed to execute on so many ends. For every flash of brilliance we get an ugly mistake, ultimately dividing critics and fans alike. I can understand why someone wouldn’t like it all and why someone would adore it. Because the game is good, not great or bad, just good.