Oh The Order: 1886. It’s been many years since your first trailer when Sony announced the PS4, and holy shit were gamers the world over blown away by your visuals. Then you finally got released after many delays, only to get shit on and end up in the bargain bin for £12. Was it gamers expectations that let you down, or was the criticisms against you valid? Well lets take a look as over the course of the last week I finally managed to play through this gorgeously astonishing game.
One thing can be said about The Order from the offset: it’s aimed high in it’s setting. You play as sir Galahad, a knight of a secret order that protects Great Britain and all it’s domains from mythological creatures that see fit to kill innocent people. Set in 1886, the world is going through turbulent change, with the British empire ensuring rule over India, all whilst trying to get the upper hand over America. It’s alluded to many times throughout the campaign, but knights of the order are a lot older than they first appear: some are rumoured to be so old in fact that they used to rule alongside King Arthur.
This mix of elements seems like a genuine thrill from the offset, with the stage and setting a true wonder to behold. It’s a shame then that the story never quite pans out as you’d hope, with the setting of 1886 rarely actually being used. Throughout the campaign you see glimpses of this wonderful world, with streets looking gorgeous, signs looking authentically victorian, and even photographs and items looking authentic, but for the most part you’re confined to corridors, sewers and back alleyways; never a great way to fully explore a fantastic setting like the victorian era.
The reason I say that criticism is two-fold: 1. It takes time away from the absolute marvel that is The Order’s graphical fidelity 2. It affects the gameplay when you’re constantly in small corridors fighting off waves of enemies. Onto the first reason, the graphics. Holy shit is The Order a sensation to look at! Every nook and cranny of the aesthetic seems to have been meticulously fawned over, so much so that even when I completed the main campaign, I came back just to show my other half the splendour that is The Order’s graphics.
Snippets of the victorian error look absolutely sublime in some area’s, with lighting, textures and models all combining to something that you could swear was real-life at times. It’s a shame then that, like previously mentioned, you spend a great deal of time in linear corridors or sewers. I understand the complications behind making a fairly open world: the amount of assets that would have had to be made would be staggering, even with the support of Sony behind a team, but even so, to have so many reused and boring locales is annoying and down-right shocking considering these segments don’t make use of the setting. 1886 was a fantastic year that the developers could have genuinely shown more of, instead we’re left with a game that really could have been set in any time period: for the most part you wouldn’t tell.
Then there’s the gameplay, which turns into a simple case of running to the next area down linear corridors, ducking behind cover and killing endless hoards of enemies until you can move on again. At least when this is done in Gears of War the developers mix things up by giving you multiple ways to take on enemies, where as The Order sticks you in a confined area, a nuisance in later levels when enemies start bombarding you with grenades. Then there’s the fact that these small environments don’t leave much to be discovered. If entire houses were modelled we really could have explored this beautiful and fantastic victorian setting: instead we’re given stones and tiles as far as the eye can see, with multiple doors that can never be opened.
I will say that one criticism levelled against The Order 1886 wasn’t deserved: it’s length. Many reviews and gamers online said that the game could be completed in 5-6 hours, making the game extremely short and poor value. I noticed that in my play through, which was fairly rushed, I completed it in 8-9 hours. Granted, this isn’t much more time than others were quoting, but it felt like just the right length, not too short, but not over-staying it’s welcome.
Gameplay again was a little annoying when it comes to mythological creatures. For a game all about the knights of the round table and lycans, you’d expect there to be a lot of creatures to kill. Not so I’m afraid, with the vast majority of the game encompassing you taking out many, many human foes. There are a few warehouse scenes whereby you take on lycans in a confined area, but these are few and far between, and don’t do much to change up the gameplay. It’s a shame, as the lycans and other creatures could have helped in mixing up the core combat loop, with some enemies maybe charging you or flying overhead at times. It would have certainly made the combat more engaging, and if anything, made the game as a whole more replayable.
So as a whole, The Order 1886 unfortunately did deserve many of the criticisms levelled at it. Whilst the setting was interesting, and the graphics absolutely sublime, the rest of the game falls apart when stretched to 8-9 hours. I hope the developers at Ready at Dawn get another chance to make another The Order, as there were hints of greatness here, the rest of the game just needed the same level of polish the graphics had.