The Order: 1886 Review – You Got Game in My Movie

The cinematic experience and excellent writing don't make up for the fact that this is barely a game.

It has often been hard for owners of next-gen consoles to justify spewing out cash for their shiny new hardware. Although the PS4 has seen a decent amount of releases (finally), it has still been lacking in the sheer “wow” factor in terms of graphical excellence save a select few titles. Ready at Dawn’s controversial addition to the AAA market: The Order: 1886, in my eyes, seemed like an exception from the outside looking in. Unfortunately, the great visuals hindered the game, making it quite literally the best movie I’ve ever played.

The plot explores a steampunk alternate reality of the late 1800s (Victorian-era) and The Order, an ancient brotherhood of knights sworn to protect the English crown. This order is an extension of the Knights of the Round Table who fight to protect mankind from the horrors that dwell around them. Humanity has been locked in a war lasting centuries against half-breeds (essentially werewolves) and up until the industrial revolution, have been losing. With technology on their side, the knights endeavour to turn the tide of the war and snuff out the existence of the half-breeds and restore the earth to the control of humans.

During the time of King Arthur, the knights discovered Blackwater, a mysterious liquid that can extend the life of a human immensely and give them incredible regenerative/healing powers. This becomes the game’s subconscious plot support as well as its excuse to let you regenerate health by ducking behind cover in what is now classic AAA shooter style.

The player takes the role of Sir Galahad, a knight amongst the Order that begins to notice that their fight for justice and dominance seems to be hindered by an infiltration of their ranks. From this you must travel all across London in hopes of uncovering the truth behind your suspicions of the Order itself, the half-breeds and the rebels who fight against you.

Although my brief plot explanation should get the point across, it most certainly doesn’t do the writing justice. After The Order’s hype train not just derailed, but flew in completely the wrong direction thanks to a YouTuber’s gameplay leak, I expected the game to be mediocre at best all around. Surprisingly, it is excellently written (for the most part) as the characters, events, plot points, etc. are all a joy to learn about and watch develop. Everything from the quick-witted humor to the most depressing of experiences are all very believable and that has to be commended.

Ready at Dawn managed to work in (streamlined I might add) a slew of interesting and memorable characters and places. From Jack the Ripper and Hyde Park to Whitechapel and Nikola Tesla, everything was not just referenced or parodied, they all had depth in the story that was created.

Writing aside, however, this game suffers greatly from the fact that it is barely what it is advertised as: a game. Right from the get-go, I found myself wondering when the damn opening cut scene was going to end. It is one thing to give visual exposition as to what is going on, it is another to start a game with about 10 minutes of video before you’re allowed to gain some believable level of control over your character.  Even with that, I started a timer when I began the game and had to tread through 20 whole minutes of video and tiny movement sections before I got to actually “play.”

I had hoped that this was just a rough start and that I would be able to move on freely to play the game at my leisure. I was wrong. I wish that I was joking about this “game” being a movie but I’m not. In the eight hours I spent with it, I guarantee about five and a half of those were spent in some kind of cut scene or another.

Every action, every jump, every door you open is almost always turned into a cut scene of sorts. Even when you do get to operate Galahad, you end up either being treated like a complete idiot by everyone around you like you are in Call of Duty games, or your are just forced down narrow corridors making the world around you entirely a “look, don’t touch” experience.  The amount of times I was told to complete an objective that I was not already trying to do, but had begun doing far earlier than the AI that was patronizing me, was astounding.

Even the item/collectible viewing mechanic was token and became extremely irritating after the 15th time.

Even the item/collectible viewing mechanic was token and became extremely irritating after the 15th time.

The thing about this game that makes me worry most is that I wonder if this is going to always be the result if a game looks as good as The Order. I personally had hoped that I wouldn’t have to sacrifice gameplay for pretty pictures, and the way that this game railroads you along seems to only feed my worry.  Every time you got lost you could just look around for pigeon poop, (yes that’s right, pigeon poop) and that would mark where you needed to go. Along with that, most of the instances where you would normally feel that exploration would reward you would end in blocked doors, empty rooms and solemn disappointment. As a bronzing of that turd, I also found myself, even late in the game, just being a “dude shooting at dudes,” never really finding that kick-ass feeling the trailers had boasted.

Alas, my noble knight's exploration was halted by the Order's greatest enemy: knee high chains.

Alas, my noble knight’s exploration was halted by the Order’s greatest enemy: knee high chains.

A specific example early on that instigated my frustrations was a point where you are given an “arc gun” (a kick-ass insta-kill lightning weapon) and are tasked to chase down a half-breed. The first thing you do is blow an iron gate right off of its supports to initiate the chase, which left me smiling like an idiot, only to realize that your metal-shredding beast of a gun only works on the one gate  and none of the hundred copies of that gate in the vicinity. Every time I was let down like this, I realized that I was just playing a movie.

Amongst the confusion of movie and game lies the most "what the hell?" run animation to date.

Amongst the confusion of movie and game lies the most “what the hell?” run animation to date.

Saying that you control Galahad is like saying you’re directing The Walking Dead because you turned your television on. Yeah, you’re responsible for having yourself see what is happening, but you don’t really have any control over what is going on. Every tense moment in the game is just one interpretation or another of a quick-time event and it gets so out of hand that you find it re-using the same concept more than Resident Evil 6.

This movie wearing a game as a cape at least has merits in not only the writing, but the voice acting, sound design and overall atmosphere. The game sections do control soundly, but they are barely more than filler to drive the plot along. As the friend I started this game alongside said so perfectly “this game is getting in the way of my movie.” The most unengaging parts of The Order: 1886 were when it tried to be what I bought it as, and that is something that truly disappointed me.

The reason this game was so uninspiring when it was truly being a game is because it committed so much thievery and sin that I found myself enduring the playable sections only so that I could get back to my eight hour long movie. Mandatory, unskippable stealth sections with insta-kill enemies, barrage of pointless quick-time events, little to no reward for exploration, horrid AI, obnoxious and limiting black borders on the screen; the list just goes on and on. The greatest sin, however, was that Ready at Dawn had the audacity to ruin their own impeccable writing by assuming this game justified a sequel.

I wish by all that is good that I could recommend this game, but I can’t. If The Order: 1886 had just stuck to its guns and committed to being a movie, or hell, a TV series, then it would have done a hell of a lot better than it did as a game. There was a lot of controversy surrounding how long this game was, but now that seems irrelevant because it all amounted to an utter waste of time.