The Order: 1886 Review – A beautiful mess

The Order: 1886 Review – A beautiful mess

The Order: 1886 is rated M for Mature

**Some Spoilers**

The Order: 1886 was a game that I had pretty low expectations for going in. I knew this game was going to be a short, guided experience. This is a game on rails with very little exploration. It’s perfectly content with sitting back, telling you what to do, when to do it, and where to go. While this may be ok with some people, I had a hard time looking past these constraints.

Story

The Order is one of those games that starts from the near-end of the game, then rewinds to the beginning to have you play things out. The whole idea of a covert special ops sort governmental unit is nothing new, but the melding of steampunk style technology, Knights of the Round table werewolves, vampires and Nikola Tesla had me very intrigued.

I’ve always wanted Tesla’s cool inventions to be in a game, and steampunk is always welcome in my book. I was actually surprised by how good the story was. It was filled with interesting, conflicted, complex characters that seemed very real with their own viewpoints on the world around them. On top of that the story at large had many great twists and turns that kept me engaged, and while some I saw coming, most were pretty interesting and definitely helped to motivate me to see this story through to the end.

The fog is strong with this one
The fog is strong with this one

Visuals

By far, this was the best part of the game. Everything is exquisitely detailed, and 1886 London really comes alive. The sound design as well was superb, and each of the weapons not only sounded fantastic, but were a joy to use. The Thermite Rifle was an obvious standout to me. To use it, you have the primary fire fling out a bunch of highly flammable magnesium, then using the secondary fire you hear this “thwoom” sound of a flare sort of thing that sets the magnesium ablaze. This was satisfying to use because not only does it make cover irrelevant as you can shoot over it, but it sets your enemies on fire(i’m totally not a pyro) 😀

The werewolf transformations were also incredibly disturbing, as you see a normal human transform their body into a ghastly beast before your eyes. The incredibly dark sections looked stellar as well, and the lighting in this game is top notch. Your lantern flickers in the darkness as you strut towards the mysterious future ever so slowly, and you hear the scurrying of rats as well as other little creatures beneath your feet. It’s all really quite immersive, but what brought me out of this was the aspect ratio. The Evil Within is the only other game that i’ve played that’s done this, and it’s a fad that I would like to see die a quick, painless death. The Order displays in a  2.40:1 aspect ratio, which you can see below.

At least The Evil Within had the smarts to put the fullscreen option in a patch that was released later on, but The Order never wisened up. It creates a lot of problems that led to much frustration. It can be difficult to see over cover, and a lot of the time you just can’t tell what the heck is going on. It works for a movie because there are many different angles and you don’t have to control what is going on. It’s just not something that works for a game, and the whole “cinematic” argument for this is just silly. If you really believe in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio so much, fine. At least give me an option to play in regular fullscreen! I hope they make this adjustment in the sequel.

ARGG damn black bars
ARGG damn black bars

Gameplay

By far the weakest part of the game. There are many things that really ticked me off here, to the point that a couple times playing through the 7-8 hour campaign I had to put the game down and play something else. For starters, the only real incentive to explore is to find audio logs. Now pretty much every game in the last 5 years or so(some even before that) gives you the option to listen to audio logs while you play the game. Not here. You have to go into a menu, select the audio log, then wait as it plays it. You can’t do anything else. At first I was fine with it, but then over time I just wanted to exit out of the menu, and listen to it as I walked around. Whoever thought that was a good idea needs to get with the times. It’s 2015. If I pick up a goddamn audio log I want to be able to listen to it while I play the game. The voice acting is good, but the content of these logs was not so incredibly interesting that I wanted to sit at the screen and wait for it to finish.

Second, the game literally restricts when you can run and when you can’t. This is another issue that just grates on you the more you play it. Maybe I’m not that interested in the surroundings and want to just get on with the game?! Why the hell can’t I just run when I want to run? Is there a part of the The Order manifesto that says I can’t at least do a jog in a non-combat indoor section? WTF?

Third, the stealth sections are shit. Luckily there aren’t many of them, but they are the “get seen and die” sort that was also employed in Killzone: Shadow Fall’s epilogue that made me want to throw my gamepad into the wall. Somehow The Order manages to be worse than this by employing a QTE (quick time event) mechanic into the stealth, so even when you creep up on a guy and he doesn’t see you, you still have to press triangle at a certain time. This leads into my last complaint.

Oh man, the QTE’s! There a lot of them, so I hope you like button mashing! I’m sure I knocked a significant amount of life off of my gamepad just playing this, as there were a many section where I had to mush on X for what seemed like forever. QTE’s are something that should be used very rarely in a game, and it just came off as lazy here. They use it a lot, and I grew sick of it very fast just as I have in other games.

Now, this is a shooter at heart, that’s why I played it. In that respect, it’s ok! It’s not better than stuff like Tomb Raider or Uncharted, but it’s solid enough. The shooting feels decent and gets the job done, but little things like having to equip a grenade instead of being able to assign it to a shoulder button really make this game feel like a polished last-generation title. It could’ve been a lot more streamlined.

Lastly, this is more of an observation than a complaint, but local/online co-op was a huge missed opportunity here. In a single player only game, not having any sort of multiplayer really sticks out. You are pretty much always with an A.I. partner of some sort, so why not just have the ability for someone else to control them? I think this would’ve given the game a bit more staying power.

Verdict

Overall, The Order: 1886 was a bit of a disappointment. I can sadly add this to the pile of lackluster PS4 exclusives. This is worth a playthrough for the solid graphics that create a believable world and an ok story that keeps you somewhat engaged. If you can rent it or borrow it from a friend that would be ideal,  but don’t spend more than $10 on it. It’s pretty forgettable stuff, and i’m not sure they are going to be able to make a solid sequel to this without some huge changes.

Score: 6.0/10

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