Available on PlayStation 4 (tested)
Back at E3 2013 when The Order 1886 was announced, I was pretty damn stoked; a PS4 exclusive developed by Ready at Dawn (PSP God of War series) with collaboration from SCE Santa Monica Studio (God of War series, among lots of collaborations), set up in a steampunk victorian England with dashes of Arthurian mythology? Count me f*cking in! I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right? Right?
Ok, so yeah, things went wrong and the game has its evident flaws: repetitive gameplay, boring QTEs and a story that it is irrelevant until you are playing the last few chapters. But hey, it also has its strengths and I think that the game, as a starting point for a new franchise, is acceptable.
Making a good fist of steampunk England
Visuals and design are the things the game absolutely nails. This is a bloody beautiful game, which makes the alternate take of England almost believable. From the characters design to their surroundings, everything is perfectly crafted and runs at 30fps smoothly. The one thing that I have
to say about this aspect of the game are the irremovable horizontal black bars; I understand the need to give the game a cinematic look & feel, but an option to remove at will the bars would have been nice.
In regards to cinematic experience, we can’t overlook the voice acting, which makes an overall fair job, although sometimes is kinda stiff. Music is symphonic heavy, having some change of pace based on the situation we are facing at the time; fast, epic oriented themes for shooting parts and
slow, tense pieces for the game’s dark places.
So let’s talk about the game’s story, an aspect you would think the game totally succeeds at. Well, it does, but towards the end of it, which is kind of a disappointment. You start the game as Sir Galahad (Grayson), a knight of an old holy order, which dates from the time of the crusades. Most of the order’s knights are centuries old thanks to something called “Blackwater”, which is some kind of brewage that extends life and heals wounds almost instantly. Amongst these other knights we have: Sir Perceval (Sebastien Malory), which happens to be the one who inducted Grayson into the order; Lady Ingraine (Isabeu D’Argyll), Galahad’s protege and Lord Chancellor’s daughter; and Marquis de Lafayette, Sebastien’s apprentice and a veteran of both the American and French revolutionary wars.
Through the first chapters of the game, we are told how the order has been defending the Queen’s lands from different type of evils. This time, the enemy is presented in the form of a rebel army, whose objectives are not very clear (besides the fact that they are rebelling against the queen because they are… well, rebels) and seem to be working together with lycans (yes, the game has lycans). I know the mixture of all these elements sound really cool in theory, but the slow pacing at which the story is told prevents it to unleash its full potential. And just when you
say “hell yeah, now we are talking!” the game abruptly ends.
And let me talk about this matter a little more in depth. As it is known, the game got it on the neck due to the fact that it falls a little bit short in regard to the length of it, at least for today’s standards. However, I don’t mind about it, if a game is good, it doesn’t need to be 15+ hours long.
The thing with The Order 1886 is that it’s plain as a pikestaff there will be a The Order 1887, that I assume they slowed the pace through the first and second acts in order to have a game that doesn’t say much until the very end, has a “decent” length” and leaves everything cooked for a sequel. I honestly would have preferred a game called simply “The Order”, cut some parts of the first two acts and have the story continue for a couple of chapters. That would be an awesome game story-wise, but well, business is business I guess.
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Gameplay-wise, I am as torn apart as I am with the game’s story. I know the gameplay should be fun, I mean, it is a cover-based shooter with steampunk weapons developed by no other than Nikola Tesla, and these weapons are awesome. Controls are tight and responsive overall, which is key for a shooter to be successful. But still, it gets so repetitive after a while, that it stops to be fun after a couple of chapters. From the previews we got I thought the sequences with the lycans would be more in the vein of survival horror games and that these sequences would serve as a change of pace from the shooter parts, so when a shootout happened, it would feel fresh again. Instead, lycans are treated almost like any other enemy, except for the weapons and a QTE that lets you dodge their leap attack. Bloody hell, they even repeat a “boss battle” for the final battle, and I’m not exaggerating; it’s the freaking same battle.
Should you play it? I have described The Order 1886 once as a game that should be played if you can borrow it from a friend’s collection. I strongly think this game will be one of the first “triple A” to go free with PlayStation Plus; at that time, you should pick it so as to be ready for the sequel. The game has such a cool premise, that it is kind of disappointing to see what they have done with it. If they take note of their errors for the eventual The Order 1887 (remove QTEs, more gameplay and weapons variety, better use of lycans) and add it to the chunk of story that is left to tell, I can see Ready at Dawn having a winner there.