After much hype and action-packed trailers, The Order: 1886 finally made its debut on the PlayStation 4 (PS4), but can it really claim the title as the best console game for the latest generation?
I’ll try and not make this the shortest review ever, but the answer is no, definitely no, but let me give a bit of background on the game and what made it seem so appealing to me when I began watching the trailers last year.
For one, the game is set, obviously, in the year 1886 in Victorian London but with the addition of fantastical science fiction technology, gadgets and weapons that are the very definition of what the ‘steam punk’ genre is.
However to add another element of weirdness to the game, this alternative universe has been battling werewolf-like creatures known as ‘half-breeds’ for centuries, but held back by a band of almost immortal knights who have been around since the days of King Arthur, round table and all.
You take on the role of Grayson/Sir Galahad, a mutton-chopped knight who feels all’s not quite right in the kingdom of Denmark (well Britain actually) and looks into why half-breed attacks are on the rise in the city’s slums amidst a revolution against royal rule.
Sounds pretty neat, huh?
Visuals: check out those polygons!
You have to credit The Order: 1886’s developers Ready at Dawn and Sony Computer Entertainment, they’ve managed to make one hell of a pretty game.
With the power of PS4’s hardware, the designers were able to create incredibly detailed surroundings that goes far into the smoggy distance of the city with giant zeppelin airships flying overhead.
The interior lighting is equally as impressive as you aim your lamp traversing through tunnels, or seeing the sunlight pierce through the curtains but what stood out the most to me were the licks of electricity that seemed to shoot out of not just weapons, but from generators that are run by a rather famous scientist and inventor who makes an appearance in the game (I’ll leave you to guess who that might be).
All of the characters’ faces show emotion quite well too and outshines almost all of the currently available games on the PS4, but this could soon be challenged.
Gameplay: What is this? I don’t even …
Now that we’ve gotten the good stuff out of the way, it’s time to move on what is essentially a pretty interactive movie that borrows heavily from successful franchises and does nothing to improve on them, even regressing in some points.
The game is played entirely in third-person and immediately you get the overwhelming feeling of déjà vu, that is, until you realise that it’s effectively Gears of War but set on Earth, and the endless waves of monsters are replaced by bumbling policemen and private security.
In Gears of War, the action was definitely all-guns-blazing that required you to duck behind cover a lot.
In The Order: 1886 however, the same rules apply but with a cover system that was frankly abysmal. You’d run and press O to duck behind a pillar, that would sometimes work depending on whether you hit the sweet spot or not.
Perhaps most astonishing however is the fact that none of the designers thought that having a game in widescreen with a narrow box might limit your ability to view over cover which leaves you constantly moving out of cover to see who you’re shooting at.
For the most part, the enemies are pretty standard fare: not stupid, but not exactly smart either, and bar the odd hardened enemy, are just cannon fodder to your ‘wunderwaffe’.
That is until you come to the half-breeds which are more challenging, sure, but are so few and far between that you question whether this steam-punk world is actually infested with them.
Game progression: Quicktime be gone!
For the love of god developers, please stop putting quicktime events in your games; it’s not exciting and it’s destroying the flow of your games. For those unaware of what quicktime actually is, all you need to do is play a major title of the last 5 years, like Call of Duty, and you’ll know.
Essentially, actually-challenging maneuverers in-game have been replaced by ‘press triangle now’, or ‘rapidly press X’ to make your character do something that then cuts into an un-controllable action sequence.
These bloody things are littered throughout the game as you’re guided on a wire through the pretty but totally in-active streets.
What’s the point of having beautiful interiors if you can’t do a single thing with them? Taking the example of The Last of Us, which too followed a somewhat similar format as The Order: 1886 with quicktime, but allowed the player to at least interact and scavenge the incredible backdrop.
In this, all you can do is pick up sheets of paper that add no relevance to the actual game. “Oh, a Victorian photo of no one in particular, how spiffing!”
Even the major boss battles have as much creative freedom as a North Korean journalist with just a few buttons able to be pressed in drawn-out, boring tête-à-têtes.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, there’s a slow-mo mechanic that exists in the game that is reminiscent of the one used brilliantly in Red Dead Redemption, but in this game, I think I used it once given that they never really go into how best to use it or prompt you on when the skill is available, despite explaining every single other mechanic no matter how basic it is.
Verdict: A next-gen waste
For something so beautiful, The Order: 1886 is a game you certainly wouldn’t plan on entering a long-term relationship with, especially given the single-player game lasts only a matter of hours.
Having popped into a second-hand game store not long after I received a copy of the game, it didn’t appear to bode well for PlayStation’s hopes to see dozens of copies lining the shelves ready for the next person to blast through.
It’s such a shame that a game with such potential can fall victim to lazy game making, and I certainly hope, if there is to be a sequel, that they cop on and actually make use of the tech available to them with the PS4.