The Order: 1886 Review – Great Expectations

Posted February 23, 2015 by Sean Mesler in Video Games

The Order: 1886

Developed by: Ready At Dawn

Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment

Release date: February 20th, 2015

Watching the credits roll on The Order: 1886, I felt exhilarated, satisfied and a bit frustrated. Actually, this is how I felt throughout my playthrough of Ready At Dawn’s console debut – it’s stunning in its presentation and staggering in its polish. It’s also as safe as a shooter can be, never truly going above and beyond established mechanical tropes and, quite frankly, predictable in its storytelling.

Set in an alternate universe London, The Order: 1886 puts players in control of Grayson, aka Sir Galahad, Knight of the Round Table. For centuries, Galahad and the Knights of the Round Table have fought against the “half-breeds” or “Lycans”, which, in case you have never seen Underworld, is short for lycanthropes, also known commonly as werewolves. Yes, that is a lot of “aka”s, which is just about the most needlessly complicated thing the story will provide. Beyond the interesting setting and access to technology it provides, the story is incredibly predictable. I knew exactly who was going to betray whom and that nothing the narrative sets up was as it seemed. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in an of itself, but when the basic premise and world is so interesting and Ready At Dawn seems as if they were hell-bent on telling a story and putting a game into it, it’s a little bit of a disappointment that they couldn’t come up with something a little more surprising.

The Order Sky

Thankfully the presentation is so jaw-droppingly good, I could easily forgive the narrative shortcomings. Presented in a widescreen format of 2.40:1 ratio, everything on display in this game is absurdly rich, detailed and well executed. By this point, everyone reading this already knows how good the game looks, but man, seeing it in action is something to behold. There were times when I thought the game was on autopilot so I eased on the thumbstick only to find I was actually controlling it. And I’ll admit, I got a kick out of it every time.

That’s a true testament to how much detail and work Ready At Dawn put into this engine. The lighting is nigh flawless, creating textures in clothing, and faces that every character model looks as good in game as it does in its seamless cutscenes. Load times are nonexistent, not even a minor cut to black between action set pieces and cinematic. Any cuts to black are done artistically for either effect or a passage of time. And thank the video game Gods, that the lip-syncing is point. Every character’s voice and facial animations conveys the right emotion so that there’s never a disconnect between the two. It really works to serve the emotions of each scene. The Order: 1886 is truly a showpiece for current gen consoles.

Sound design is yet another marvel in The Order: 1886. Every single sound is perfectly rendered to provide atmosphere and ambiance to the steampunk version of Victorian London and the heavily sci-fi guns and technology. The score, by Jason Graves, is yet another standout in a growing oeuvre of stellar piece (for those that may not know, Graves also composed the score for the equally impressive Tomb Raider reboot). While the writing itself isn’t anything above adequate, the ultimate standout is the voice acting. Every single cast member nails their roles and each are utterly convincing in their performances.

The Order Airship

While many have made jokes about The Order: 1886 being more movie than game, that isn’t entirely accurate. Early portions of the game may give that impression with fire fights and action sequences being few and far between, but about midway the game really takes over for a large portion of the experience. Most of the gameplay is standard cover based shooting, with enemies popping in and out of cover, flanking and trying to flush you out of cover so they can end you. The controls are tight and responsive, and shooting is actually a lot of fun thanks to some of the more sci-fi weapons.

If any complaint can be leveled at the core gameplay, which is cover based shooting, is that it’s not overly special or unique. It’s simply an incredibly polished version of what I’ve played before for the better part of a decade and it’s the least ambitious part of the game. It’s also somewhat of a bummer that the really cool sci-fi weapons don’t stick around in your arsenal for very long and most of the combat is with pistols, rifles and other standard weaponry. I did, however, very much appreciate the narrative explanation for Galahad’s regenerating health – the Knights carry a vile of “Black Water” around their neck which is water from the Holy Grail mixed with their own blood. They can take some relatively superficial damage and heal, but more severe wounds require drinking from the vile.

The rest of the gameplay is mix of button prompts for actions like opening doors, turning cranks and the like, some incredibly light and automatic platforming/climbing, as well as QTE’s in hand to hand combat sections. Oddly enough, the QTE’s didn’t bother me nearly as much as they usually do, and that’s probably because there is some element of timing involved in most of them. Forgiving timing, but timing nonetheless. There are also a couple of stealth sections that are solid, but felt more like a box was being checked on a feature rather than being a really meaningful portion of the game. A half-hearted attempt if you will. Again, lacking true ambition to match the presentation.

The Order Shooting

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Order’s length. While scouring nearly every possible nook and cranny of the levels, only missing a few, I completed the game in about 7 hours. The replay value comes for only those that seek the Platinum trophy, which would really just be clean up. At the end of my initial playthrough, I finished with 62% of the trophies available and that was acquired simply through playing the game and searching the areas. I mention this because at $60 USD, the game might be pricey for something that can be completed in a weekend or in one decent sitting (full disclosure; I traded in some games so I only paid just over $6 which may have made the playtime a bit more palatable). As an odd omission, there isn’t a progress tracker for collectables will make going back and finding out what you missed a bit difficult. Revisiting this game would, ironically enough, be like re-watching a movie I really like. Mileage may vary.

Brief to a fault, but nonetheless engaging throughout, Ready At Dawn’s The Order: 1886 is both a remarkable achievement of what we can look forward to this generation as well as a vestige of what was. While the game does suffer from some a lack of ambition at times, I came away being entirely satisfied with the experience and can easily recommend that anyone with a PS4 and doesn’t mind watching nearly as much as playing at least give it a shot. All in all, it’s a solid start for a new IP and I hope Ready At Dawn heeds the criticisms for the sequel and injects just a bit more game into it. It may not do much in the way of innovation, but what it does do, it does well and that’s more than enough for me.

About the Author

Sean Mesler

Sean is a semi-retired hardcore kid, semi-grown up and transplanted from his original home of New York to Los Angeles. A lover and critic of movies, music and video games, Sean is always quick with an opinion, a heaping dose of snark, and a healthy dose of pragmatism. PSN & Live Gamertag: N2NOther