The Order 1886 is a PS4 exclusive game released in February 2015. It is a game with cover based shooting mechanics, an occasion dose of platforming and a good measure of cutscenes. A lot of cutscenes. Set in a Victorian London backdrop, the game tells the story of Sir Galahad, a member of the Order. The Order is a group of pseudo immortal knights engaged in a millennia old battle against the Half Breeds – Lycans and Vampires who could transform into human form. As the story progress, Galahad fights rebels, rescue lords and ultimately uncovers a conspiracy that goes straight to the upper ranks of the Order.
The Order is developed by Ready at Dawn, the studio that made a bunch of Sony PSP spinoff titles such as God of War: Chains of Olympus and Daxter. The Order is the first time the studio has worked on their own IP on a home console that isn’t a port or a remaster.
One thing that the Order does best is presentation. Everything from the dark, smog covered streets of Industrial Revolution London to the atmospheric accompaniment that fits the scenes to a T. Graphics are also some of the best I’ve seen on the PS4 which is especially obvious when seen on a 21:9 screen, although admittedly not everyone has one. This however leads to the game having black borders when played on a 16:9 screen which is what most gamers have. This needs some getting used to, and I honestly can’t say whether it’s worth it.
The story hints at a deep lore. Everything from the Order’s origins to their relation with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. And from the origins of the Half Breeds to the history of their millennia old war. However, ultimately it’s all just hints. The story itself is solid but I felt that it lacked a certain edge, especially in the final third. Things just happened and there were a few roles that could have been played better by other characters to create more impactful scenes. That aside, the story sure could benefit from an extra hour or two. At the end of day, the story was decent enough and is perhaps the main star of the game.
The shooting mechanics of the game felt raw. The crosshairs are also slightly bigger and takes a while to get used to. Aside from the start of the game, it didn’t felt like the Order exhibited the usual “oh, that’s a lot of covers, battle time!!” thing that other cover shooters have. Though I think this had more to do with the fact that a lot of the game is played in tight areas and corridors so it wasn’t as obvious that the covers were coming up until the battle itself started.
The short length of the game by itself wasn’t a concern. There are after all games that are shorter that were awesome. I can understand why they would charge the full retail AAA game price. There’s likely a lot of high level tech involve in the creation of the game and the studio needs to regain some of the costs. However, while the length itself is not a concern, the player’s involvement in the game is. There isn’t much to do besides traversing an area (usually walking, sometimes platforming) to the reach the next battle or the next cutscene. There were barely any puzzles to change up the tempo of the game. Worst still are the areas where you could only walk. Developers seriously need to remove this from their games. If you want some dialogue to be finished in a certain period of time before reaching the next area, just make the corridor longer.
Oh, and about picking up collectibles. Some of them were somewhat interesting, but a lot of them are just plain junk. Maybe I was spoiled by the Last of Us, but I expected to get some sort of story by picking up these collectibles. I don’t give a damn about a smoking pipe in the middle of the room that I’m just crossing to reach the other side of the building.
I find it interesting that the Order is in many was like Ryse. Both are exclusive games developed by a third party studio. Both have high quality graphics. Both are set in a historical time period but has supernatural elements included. Both are short, and has problems with player interactivity and rely a lot on Quick Time Events, though Ryse has a whole lot more. A WHOLE lot more. But I think both have a lot of potential and both have captured me enough that I’m interested in seeing a sequel. The Order is especially set up for this, since the story ended with a lot of loose ends. With an overall improved product, and less time needed on the graphics and game engine, I hope they will be able to overcome the weaknesses of the first game. Perhaps Weerasuriya stepping down as CEO and taking up a Chief Creative Officer role will allow him to concentrate more on the next game.
The Order 1886 has a lot in common with previous narrative driven cover shooter such as the Last of Us, and has the potential to be something more but never raises up to it.