The Order 1886 is spectacular in graphical fidelity and world design, but in an era where gameplay needs to be outstanding to push new games above the crowd it falters and falls. I know this is a very two-faced statement, but the oddity of how it sounds matches my feelings for the oddity of The Order. The game is one of the best looking I’ve ever seen, yet with gameplay that I’ve seen forever. The most disappointing thing is in reaching such high highs with art and graphics, it makes the lows of the gameplay feel that much lower, even when most of the game is mechanically sound.
The Order is set in old-time London (1886 obviously) in a time where diseased community members are turning into werewolf-style Lycans. You play as Sir Galahad, a knight of The Order, and are tasked with taking out Lycans and dealing with rebels that would threaten the crown. In order to fight these Lycans, The Order has developed (with the help of Nikola Tesla) some fun gadgets and also have discovered a mysterious black liquid that each member keeps in a vial around their necks allowing them to extend their lives and heal at a rapid rate (think Wolverine-style). I don’t want to say too much here, as the game is mostly story, so you’ll want to experience it for yourself. Overall the story is one of the better parts of the game. It’s not drop-dead amazing, but it keeps you interested and the world studio Ready at Dawn has built is intriguing enough to keep you pushing through, even though what you are pushing through are mostly narrow corridors. If you’re a gamer that loves story in games, and didn’t hate games such as Heavy Rain, or the Telltale game series’, and didn’t mind the cut-scene length in Metal Gear Solid IV then you should be fine here. The characters are all pretty well fleshed out (though I could have done with more backstory on them), and the dialogue is snappy and to the point.
Gameplay. This is an odd subject to discuss for The Order. I have very mixed feelings overall about how the game actually plays, during those few moments when you are not watching cut-scenes. The gameplay from a technical standpoint is very sound. It’s a third person cover-based game, and the shooting, cover mechanics, and movement all work great. Think of a Gears of War mixed with a bit of Uncharted’s wall climbing. Everything works well, and I never had issues aiming, or moving around, or shooting the enemies. On the other hand, that’s all the gameplay is, a third person cover-based system that we’ve seen a thousand times before. The world and backdrop of The Order has so much depth that it’s disappointing to see that Ready at Dawn seemingly limited the gameplay to something so… ordinary. There are small segments that pop up in which you use items like lockpicks and devices designed by Tesla to bust open electronic doors but these segments are much fewer and more far between then they should be. Why bring an awesome character like Nikola Tesla into the game and tout his crazy gadgets and inventions then only let us use a few of them for a tiny segment of time? Also the in-between gameplay is mostly searching areas and looking for clues and little items you can pick up and rotate around. I actually enjoyed these parts of the game, as it gives you a chance to take a breather in between fights and truly enjoy the environments that the studio put together, because all of them look amazing. Finally, most of the gameplay consists of corridors followed by a bit bigger open space, with a few Uncharted-style wall platforming segments in between. I know this is kind of status quo now in some games, but with how great the city of London looks in the game I’m a bit disappointed you don’t have some much larger areas. Something like Dishonored did would have worked well here too possibly. There are a handful of quick time events as well, but none of them were egregious and upset me. Most were along the lines of “tap X to escape!” or move something, etc.
I don’t want to drag on too long about The Order: 1886 because the game itself isn’t that long. I think, with a decent amount of wandering, I finished it in around 6.5 hours. Pretty short by today’s standards. Overall the game is very polarizing. Ready at Dawn did so many things very well (graphics, the mechanics of the gameplay, the world, the story) but they also lacked heavily on many areas (gameplay, level design, encounter design, depth of content) that it’s one of the oddest titles I’ve ever played. I enjoyed my time with the game, because I could get past the standard gameplay and I’m a fan of games like Heavy Rain and the likes, but I could easily see where the minimal and slightly-boring gameplay could turn others off. My suggestion to you, the player, is to wait for a sale or give this one a rent if the above text sounds appealing to you. The Order is a very well made game, it’s just marred by a few bad decisions that make it one of the most polarizing games of the year. I will say this, however, if you’re any kind of visuals and themes lover, it’s worth it to give this game a go for that stuff alone. If you decide to play The Order you might be disappointed at what you find for gameplay, but at least it’s not bad gameplay, and the world, story, and graphical fidelity at least provide some incentive to see it through.