I would like to ask you fine readers a question about video games in general. Is a bad game defined as a broken or unplayable product, or is the definition of a bad game one that fails to "reinvent the wheel" as it were. There are plenty of games that we've all played that we didn't like, and that's normal, but that didn't make them "bad" in the strictest sense of the word.
The Order: 1886 is a PS4 exclusive that's been in the spotlight as of late for all the wrong reasons. Between a full play-through leak that lasted five hours, and a string of harsh reviews, this undeniably gorgeous gem has been put through the ringer. Is it justified? Could this truly be a "bad" game?
The Order: 1886 is not a game for everyone. What gamers like and love is as varied and diverse as the people on this planet, but despite what you've come to hear from other mainstream review sites, this is NOT a bad game . Allow me to elaborate as we explore an apparently different game than everyone else played, if other reviews are to be believed.
A Unique and Fully Realized World
Let's start out with a statement that borders on a complete fact: The Order: 1886 has a setting that is wholly unique and different than just about any other game, at least among the ones I've played in my 20+ years as a gamer.
I have to say with full disclosure in mind, that I did read a number of reviews prior to playing through the entirety of the game myself. Now, I am fully aware that this review does not exist in a vacuum, but I want to emphasize the fact that I am expressing my true and honest opinions of this game. Yes, I know I’m writing for a PS4 based website, but I play games on all systems and I take the objectivity of my reviews very seriously.
In essence, I went into it with my own opinions at the forefront, but I didn’t let my love of graphics blur the facts. What I write upon this digital paper of the internet is entirely my own opinions, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that many of the things I say will be going against the grain.
With the majority of mainstream reviews being vastly different in tone than my own, I felt the need to emphasize the open-minded approach I took with this game. Sorry for the intermission, let’s continue, shall we?
The setting here is an alternate version of London in the year 1886. You play as a member of "The Order" which is composed of King Arthur's knights of the round table, at least in name. Your character's knight name is Sir Galahad, and his real name is Grayson. As a faithful member of this group, he carries an air of bitter resolve.
The best way I can describe it is by saying that you can spend twenty minutes with this guy and know that he’s “seen things” if you get my drift. All of the characters in your squad have unique personalities that, while not overwhelmingly deep, do make them feel like real people. Some people will write off these personalities as either one dimensional or flat, but I would argue that these archetypes are incredibly authentic, given the time period and setting.
The writing is also beautifully genuine. While the elegant matter in which characters converse may drive some people crazy, I for one loved the throwback to a different time where people used words and phrases that you would only hear today in a Shakespearean play or maybe on an episode of Game of Thrones.
In any other setting, yes, it would come across as needlessly pretentious, but here it’s just another detail that makes this world feel so incredibly real. Now, I will admit that the story follows a plot line of conspiracy and intrigue that we’ve all seen before, but that does not make it generic in my opinion.
We have to understand that this is the beginning of a series. The first act in an ongoing story can only do so much to build and mold the world. You won’t find any twists here that make you drop your controller, but you will find a fully competent story that provides great set piece moments, hair-raising battles, and some truly incredible encounters with “Half-Breeds” the main enemy of both humanity and The Order.
To an extent, these Half-Breeds are indeed Lycans or Werewolves if you prefer. They come in a couple different forms though which I won’t spoil here. Needless to say, they are a capable foe and a nice change of pace from the mainly human enemies you face in the game.
Here is the first of several times I will remind you of my opening inquiry. This story has a setting that takes real figures like Nikola Tesla, and real settings like London, and puts them in an alternate version of history that mixes in supernatural and horror-esque elements.
What follows is a tale that we’ve seen in various forms, but a strong opening act nonetheless. Was the ending sudden like everyone says? Yes, but I for one knew it was coming and thought it was a perfect moment to end this first chapter. Do I wish it were longer? Yes, of course, but it wasn’t five hours like many would have you believe. That video that went up of the game before release was a speed-run in every sense of the word.
I took roughly 8 hours to finish the game on normal myself. Not an overwhelming number, I get that, and while the story could have delved deeper into some of the plot points, it left me with a voracious hunger for more and a very strong bond with the world and characters that were introduced to me. I felt emotionally satisfied, but also practically begging for more. Some games will lavish you with open ended worlds and 40+ hour stories, but they are, in many cases, just like fast food. They are satisfying in the moment, but ultimately wear out their welcome.
This isn’t always the case, but it can be. The Order: 1886, in terms of story and the world it has built up from nothing, is a fillet mignon. I wished it had more collectibles and backstory to better flesh out the incredible world, but what is here is nothing short of unique and well-realized. It is concentrated, pulse-pounding, and delicious (not that I would know that last one). You just wish there was more of it.
Familiar Gameplay Polished to a Mirror Sheen
Here’s where the main bulk of this game’s flak has been targeted. The Order: 1886 combines third person shooter combat with interactive cutscenes that utilize QTEs (Quick Time Events) to keep you engaged. This combination is something we’ve seen done plenty of times, I won’t deny that.
The process of pressing buttons or swiping in directions during cut scenes is one that has been met with fiery debate since it began appearing. Some people think they are a waste of time, others think they are a good way to keep the player engaged during a cinematic moment.
I’ve seen good QTE’s and I’ve seen plenty of bad ones. The Order: 1886 utilizes this mechanic in top form. Rarely are you asked to mash the “X” button repeatedly to do something like open a door. No, instead you’ll press a button to deliver the finishing blow, or make a narrow escape.
Whether you like these events or not, the fact remains that they are as unobtrusive as possible in this game. In my opinion they serve to merely keep you engaged without taking away from the events on screen. Exactly as they were meant to, a supplement, not a distraction.
The third person shooting gameplay employs a cover system we’ve all seen plenty of times before. I won’t try to tell you that it’s innovative, but I will fervently defend the fact that barring very few moments, it works perfectly. Popping in and out of cover is great, and for once the button to take cover and every other action are different than one another.
This means no annoying moments where you’re trying to give chase and you stick to a random wall. Thank you Ready at Dawn for finally changing this severe issue with just about every cover-based shooter.
When Galahad goes down in combat, you’re able to revive yourself by consuming Blackwater, an elixir that heals grievous wounds. It won’t, however, bring you back from the dead. If you get shot again while down, or you suffer a fatal blow, you will be forced to respawn. Luckily, checkpoints are forgiving and fair. Yes, I know that dilutes the challenge, but we’re not all Dark Souls fans here.
You also have an ability known as “Blacksight” which allows you to slow down time and pop off several shots across any enemies within your view. It’s something I found myself using in only dire situations, but it does provide a very cool visual effect.
MINOR SPOILER AHEAD There’s a major issue with the game that’s been sweeping the internet that the boss fight is identical to an encounter earlier in the game. This is not entirely true. Yes, there are two encounters with very similar enemies but they are in fact different in terms of the story.
The formatting of the encounter is the same between both fights, but the setting and the individual moment-to-moment gameplay is different. Same structure, different animals so this claim is blown out of proportion in my opinion. END OF MINOR SPOILER, READ ON!
I think the biggest takeaway from this portion of the review is that the gameplay of The Order: 1886 is composed of things we’ve seen before, probably many times. I won’t argue that, but what I will say is that everything in place here, down to the QTE’s works flawlessly.
I haven’t played a damn game in the last six months that didn’t have some kind of breaking glitch or a hundred updates to make it work properly. You know I’m right, especially if you’re one of the poor saps who played Assassin’s Creed: Unity on day one. What industry do we support where a polished and perfectly playable product is chastised for not fixing what isn’t broken?
Yes, the length is a little short, and yes, there’s no multiplayer, but think about something for a moment if you will. You pay $30 for a two to three hour movie on blu-ray. To those who say The Order: 1886 is more of a movie than a game (a compliment in my opinion) I ask where the robbery of your value takes place? If you bought a television series or a mini series on blu-ray, you would probably spend $60 or more for the same amount of entertainment, only you would have zero interaction with it.
I get it, some people don’t like a game that leans more on cinematic storytelling and QTE’s. It’s not for everyone, but that design choice is not a flaw by any definition of the word. It does not create a bad game, it just doesn’t. A bad game is one that does not perform to the specifications of a quality product. It is fundamentally flawed in a number of ways, be it through a combination of story, playability, or functionality.
You may not like the formula that The Order: 1886 puts forth, and that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion as a gamer and as a person. Keep in mind though, that just because you hate something yourself, doesn’t mean that it’s a universally bad thing. I get the feeling that the game industry has become self-entitled when it comes to games like this. They want a polished experience, but they shun anything that isn’t multiplayer and a total reinvention of standard expectations.
They want new and fresh ideas, but they also want them served with a formula that breaks the mold. News flash people: revolutionary ideas aren’t made to order! Call of Duty is pumped out each year, but when has it ever been anything more than a first-person shooter? I'm sensing a double standard and I realize that I’m using this game as my soapbox, but I truly felt offended by the flack this beautiful game has been getting, even though I had nothing to do with its development.
Generic is not a word that describes this game, it’s simply not. You could argue that the gameplay is overly familiar, but you can’t name three games that have ever been set in an alternate history of 19th century London and star the knights of the round table. It hasn’t been done, and I think that in and of itself is worthy of praise.
A New Standard in Graphics and Presentation
Looks aren’t everything when it comes to games, that’s something we can all agree upon. However, if it does present a beautiful and pristine looking world, you can’t help but feel pulled into it. That’s immersion in a nutshell and by extension of sound and music, it builds atmosphere.
The Order: 1886 is, hand down, one of the best looking and playing games I have ever experienced. The developers, Ready at Dawn and Sony Santa Monica, sought to give the game a truly cinematic feel. This involves the black bars you see in movies, a lower frame rate, (albeit a steady one) plenty of graphical touches, and a slick depth of field.
It’s all technical jargon, but when it comes together you get a visual and auditory experience that cannot be matched. A firefight in any other game is just a firefight, but here you feel the bullets fly past, you see the patches of blood on your uniform where shots hit, and you see the cover you thought was invincible shatter before you.
The level of quality to the graphics and presentation is what makes something like standard third-person gameplay so intense. It has to be seen to be believed, but it is truly an experience I will come back to again. Replay value is a moot point to me because I think any game has the potential to be good enough for subsequent playthroughs.
People will nitpick the graphics for days on the internet, but sit down, take it all in, and realize that when it all comes together, you’ve glimpsed the true power of the next generation.
Final Thoughts: A Plea to Sensible Gamers
You have to decide my fellow gamers. Do you want the same damn games every year? Are you satisfied with your yearly check-up consisting of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed? Do you honestly feel fulfilled as a gamer with the same old formulas and the same old stories? You may now, but you won’t in the future. There is a hunger for new frontiers and new experiences in all of us, no matter how deep you bury it.
New ideas are the lifeblood of this industry, and if we shun a game that looks and plays perfectly just because it’s not multiplayer or its not innovative enough, then what are we telling the industry as a whole? That we’re satisfied with the same old games? We’re not, clearly, because new ideas are coming out all the time in the Indie game scene.
Let that innovation bleed through to our AAA titles. Tell Sony, tell the world that we want new and exciting stories and games! We won’t settle for the same old routine anymore. This game may not be for you, but I’ll be honest, a game like Evolve wasn’t for me. It was still different, and for multiplayer-focused gamers, I saw a lot to like.
If you don’t like the idea of The Order: 1886, don’t buy it, simple as that. Don’t bash it either though unless you’ve tried it. If you have the money to spare and you love a new and fresh story with glitch-free gameplay, then I implore you to take the leap.
You could go through your life as a gamer and never touch a game like this. It’s frighteningly easy to do so actually, but you would be missing out. You’ll live your life just as anyone else, but what is a life that is defined by the same old routines if not boring and unfulfilled? Sony tried something new with this game, and I think it’s high-time you did too. Like it, love it, hate it if you must. One thing is certain though: you’ve never seen anything else exactly like it.
Final Score: 9.0/10
Game Category: Action / Adventure
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 2/23/15