Reviews// The Order: 1886

Posted 2 Mar 2015 16:42 by
Some of the pre release criticism of The Order 1886 irked me a little.

Iím not a fan of bashing games before theyíre out in the first place, but most of the negativity towards this game was based around what it was trying to be rather than whether it achieved that goal or not.

That mentality can be more damaging than you might think. If we want videogames to be considered as a form of art alongside film then we have to drop these preconceptions of what a game should and shouldnít be.

Developers must be free to explore new ways for us to experience narrative or emotions without fear of their game being attacked by a baying mob before their work even hits the shelves.

Itís been clear for a while now that gameplay wasnít Ready at Dawnís main focus with The Order 1886. Thatís not to say that the bits we got to play wouldnít be any good, just that cutscenes and heavy hand holding would be a big part of the game in order to create that ďCinematic ExperienceĒ that they kept referring to.

Of course you donít have to like that approach to game design. The idea of a game that focuses on story over gameplay might anger you and Iím not saying that you shouldnít feel like that, what Iím asking you to do is accept it because without it we wouldnít have the likes of Gone Home, The Walking Dead or To The Moon.

Ready at Dawn makes it clear what sort of game youíre getting into from the very start. Opening with a long cutscene, only asking the player to punch a few QTEs in to continue, is a clear indicator that this is less of an action cover shooter and more of a David Cage game with a few action sequences here and there.

When the bullets do fly though, itís actually an entertaining shooter. Weapons are interesting, shooting feels looser than the likes of Call of Duty with its Ďsnap to aim systemí and the environments make for some great gun fights.

It also offers a challenge in an otherwise unchallenging experience. Galahad can only take a few shots before he drops to the floor, so you have to use your cover well. You canít just wait around outside of cover hoping that the enemy is stupid enough to pop his head out and to see whatís going on.

If you do get caught out, you have the safety net of ĎBlack Waterí, a substance that when drunk can heal your wounds and in this case give you a second chance at taking down the enemy before returning to a checkpoint. Itís a shame they didnít use Black Water in a more interesting way other than just a life line. When Galahadís health is low you simply wait for it to regenerate, making Black Water seem irrelevant in terms of the plot.

The story is passable, but isnít quite what the setting deserves. Set in Victorian London, The Order 1886 tells the story of The Knights of The Round Table and their battle against beasts that are half human/half wolf, and are slowly but surely taking over the country.

Gamescom 2014
Gamescom 2014
As you would expect things start to unravel pretty quickly as you learn more about the Knights and the Council that control them. However, it isnít the main plot that kept me playing - it was the characters themselves.

Excellently voice-acted, interesting and each having a believable relationship with each other, the game shines when the characters are interacting from going toe to toe with one another in an argument or subtly showing compassion.

The setting helps too. London is a beautiful city that, despite being a place that Iím completely familiar with, manages to set the tone of a story where lightning guns and werewolves exist perfectly. From underground stations to the dirty streets of London, everything feels believable and if it wasnít for Mr Hinley (my old History teacher) I could have believed that this time existed. Well, maybe not, but The Order does an excellent job of making the world solid.

The locations you visit are incredible too. Each looks stunning in their own way. Some make use of the famous London skyline while others use mechanical engineering to convince you that anywhere you find yourself was built rather than coded.

However, when I see such incredible-looking environments, all I want to do is explore and although exploration is not what The Order 1886 sets out to achieve, I canít help thinking that letting you off the rails once and a while wouldnít be a bad thing.

Other games that drive you down a path have the same problem, but itís not as evident as it is here. Take Call of Duty, the flagship title for linear games, for example. In that, although youíre being forced down a single path, youíre constantly involved in action. In The Order 1886 there are moments where youíre just walking from A to B with no deviation or choice. Youíre in a hallway full of doors, but only one of them opens.

That sums up the major problem I have with this game. Itís not what is there, itís what is missing. What it does, it does well. Fantastically well in some cases. But there seems to be a lack optimism.

The enemy AI is as bog standard as you can get, which is passable but not inspiring. There are collectables, but only in the form of over-acted voice memos. And although the story is decent enough it does nothing to stick in your mind.

When The Order 1886 shines, it shines bright. Chapter 9 in particular excels at world building, adding depth to character and being genuinely fun to play, but overall you canít help but feel as though this game could have been something more had the developers taken a few risks here and there.

As for Ready at Dawnís goals for this game, it achieves them, but when theyíve set the posts so far wide apart it wasnít exactly hard to do. It may be more Heavy Rain than it is Gears of War, but without the flexibility of narrative that Cageís games have. What weíre left with is a decent stroll through a decent story.

Some will enjoy it for what it is, but others will be left feeling as though it had the chance to be something so much more.

Pros:
+ Looks incredible
+ Shooting is decent
+ Characters are fantastic

Cons:
- Lack of anything to do off of the rails
- Story is too safe
- Poor enemy AI

SPOnG Score: 6/10

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