When going into “The Order: 1886” there was a massive amount of concern due to the rumoured roughly six hour campaign. To many gamers this day-in-age that would be a very short game. To many, it is also pushing us for 10 USD an hour based upon the purchase itself. With that being said, it wouldn’t be strange to some however, for a movie that pushes the graphics and QTE (quick time event) moments like some other games before it, but where the controversy arises isn’t just over this, but how much of the movie is cinematic versus gameplay.
/-/ Cinematic vs Gameplay: Is it really that bad? /-/
It’s no surprise that Sony has wanted a game to press the limits of the PlayStation 4, but also to present itself in a magnificent way with graphics, gameplay, and mechanics. However, this is in a way where the game gets a little muddied and convoluted. Like many times before, it is no stranger to see games that are very story driven, very cinematic, and feature a well balanced resume of gameplay portions compared to its cinematic portions. Care for a few references? God of War, Beyond Two Souls, Heavy Rain, and even Remember Me. These games all tributed themselves upon their manner of storytelling via the cinematic scenes, but also through the gameplay mechanics as well as the simple approach to how balanced both systems are. For example, with God of War we saw multiple instances where players had to press Square, Triangle, X, Circle, R1, R2, L1, and even L2 in order to coordinate the proper responses from Kratos. With Beyond Two Souls/Heavy Rain (both developed by Quantic Dream), there is no surprise that the two games are cinematic masterpieces that look absolutely marvelous when put side by side with a PlayStation 4 game such as The Order: 1886. Each of the games mentioned by Quantic Dream were very thorough on their balancing of cinematic and QTE queues, but also the balance of how long the player had to play the character(s) before their time to enter another cinematic was given. This is something that SCE Santa Monica and Ready at Dawn have done with their game.
The Order: 1886 almost instantly opens up in video clips that explain the events (to an extent), but more-so giving us a Sir Galahad who has been imprisoned and is being all, but tortured. In these opening moments of the game, players are queued to respond to the events by pressing triangle in order to make Galahad fight his restraints and push back against his captors. This leads up to the events of the player learning how to control Galahad, move through the terrains, and even interact with it, but also against enemies that may present themselves. The tutorial given will teach a player how to hold down some buttons before having to smash on others (most commonly Triangle and X in this place). These little moments are something that will come time and time again throughout this title, which is meant to be a rather interactive cinema experience versus what we could consider a traditional shooter such as Gears of War, Binary Domain, and even that once forgot title Quantum Theory had used in their game approaches, which was story told through dialogue while controlling the character. There are times where players will aim as well as shoot in QTE’s, but also take full control of the character while exploring areas, fighting enemies, and even going through what feels like a cut scene.
So is this really bad? After reading numerous reviews, it intrigued me to see what all the disgruntled critics, gamers, and even other audiences saw. Their disgruntledness? At the heart of The Order: 1886 I got a very cinematic experience that was driven by rather minimalistic gaming mechanics, which actually drove quite a bit of the games uniqueness from the modern age of games where we have been plagued with games that focus upon shooting, blowing things up, and well – multiplayer. Instead, The Order: 1886 takes players on a wild ride through a steampunk-esque London where players will take on a rebel enemy, werewolf incursion, and well even mysteries that will befall them as the gameplay goes on. With the game focusing on both cinematic and audio-based queues, it’s not surprising that the game has one of the best scores I’ve heard in a long time, but also some of the most beautiful graphics that are on the next-gen consoles. Thankfully, the balance of cinematics and player controlled gameplay is well done, balanced, and deserves a decent applaud to both SCE Santa Monica and Ready at Dawn for their accomplishment in how well balanced the QTE’s, in-game clips, as well as combat mechanics work.
/-/ Gameplay: So… It’s linear? /-/
The one thing that anyone that purchases the title will notice is that this game is very linear. This means that areas are very set in stone, your hand is being held, and exploration is limited to the areas that are available for you. However, make a mistake, and you’ll be restarting the game once you complete it in order to experience the places you’ve managed to forsake in your first endeavor through London. Even with how linear the game is, I found myself taking the road less taken in order to find secrets that can be considered to be ‘cameos’ such as a Sackboy that looks rather drab and sad while finding a photo that had “Zelda” signed across the back of it, which attributed it to possibly Princess Zelda. I also managed to find hints at a few movies that were hidden within it. Outside of what little side exploration players can do, they will be restricted to preset areas, cutscenes, and even pushed forth to a place they may or may not have wanted to go in the long run. However, this kind of handholding actually made the games pacing felt rather well done, plotted, and helped drive the games story so that I felt immersed and poised to keep exploring.
While playing, however, I was entered into moments where fights were mandatory and unfortunately took away from how the games mechanics felt. Want to go stealth? Well, unless you are very good at it, and the game doesn’t force you into combat – SHANK AWAY! Just remember, even melee combat is tough as it is and will cause some to bash their heads relentlessly against a wall in order to cope with such a mechanic. However, it’s something that actually worked and had helped decide that there would be a future foray into the areas that had yet to be seen. Though one question arose – if this game was meant to be a cinematic experience, where is the exploring of Nikola Tesla’s lab since the rooms inside the closed doors are highly detailed and look as if Galahad should be able to go into them? That was something that plagued me through my almost (not yet completed) 9-hour adventure through The Order: 1886. This means that I did spend a good chunk of my time going through the games few moments of combat, exploring, and enjoying the sights that the game has for us to take in. This is one thing that games such as Remember Me, Dragon Age 2, and even Mass Effect 2 (can’t say it didn’t folks) tended to suffer from, but it helped drive the games pace when said and done.
/-/ Interactive Cinema: Does it really drive this ‘movie’? /-/
There is definitely something that is to be said about the graphics and animations in The Order: 1886. These are by far some of the best graphics to this date, which makes The Order: 1886 one of the most solid looking games to date on PlayStation 4 and even triumphs that of the remastered Halo 2 by quite a bit. So what does this mean? When looking at The Order: 1886, it’s by far the most gorgeous game to date. The thing that many will find surprising is that there is not a moment of layer clipping on clothing articles, character faces, weapons, item collisions, or even particle effects. There were at times I wondered if I was watching a movie, playing a game, and or both at the same time. The answer to my own wandering? Yes I was doing both at the same time. The game itself can be considered just short of photorealism and possibly the best looking game in video game history. When needing to find a game to compare it to, it’s not hard to take a look at Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes”. When Ground Zeroes launched last year, it was by far one of the best looking games on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which puts it in a place of high regard. With the game following a path of semi-realism, there is a place where the game seems to show itself as a cinematic adventure that players were seemingly never supposed to take part of, which is where the graphics, the 30fps, and even the 1080p portion of the game play a rather large role for that matter.
When taking a peek at the game, I decided to revisit some of the games busiest moments where chaos ensued, enemies plagued the screen, and well – pressed the game to its max with particle effects. When the game did this, it was hard to not see that the game would begin to hold a players hand, guide them from scene to scene, and use quite a bit of small moments where players would take control of Galahad in order to fight rebels and werewolves, but where is the gameplay that should at least seem more tangible than the rest? That is something I found myself asking a few times when I leaned back while going through each of the games ‘cutscenes’, which use the in-game graphic rendering in order to keep everything looking rather well polished. Being as well rendered as it is, it has provided some of the best lighting, particle, shadowing, and even blending I’ve ever scene, which worked well in the 30fps area, which the game is hard locked at. After sitting down and having a lengthy discussion with another person who has played the game, it was unsurprising to come to the agreement that the game itself would lose that cinematic feel had it been set to 60fps with the letterbox look to it, which is what gives the game that movie like experience. This game has provided some details that many games could take notes from when it comes to character models, animations, particle effects, shadow effects, and even cinematography.
/-/ Story /-/
As another part of the game that is under fire is the story. The story places you, as stated, as Sir Galahad, known as one of the Knights of the Round from King Arthurs Court. You will also get to see several others known as Sir Perceval, Lady Igraine. The court also puts new recruit who is also an apprentice to Sir Perceval, frenchmen Marquis de Lafayette (for those of you that are history buffs, this game directly twists history to an alternate history) on this specially assigned team. The story involves a very different history than one we know. It is one where even Nikola Tesla has joined the battle that The Order has pushed against while fighting against a rebel incursion, a hauntingly menace enemy we can call “Werewolves” and a rather troublesome coup’de’tat that seems to be going underway the moment the game starts out. With the gaming starting with what is seemingly the beginning, it is not surprising that a few gamers may be just a bit disgruntled or dissatisfied by the events that will unwind before them.
With much of the story being lost, at times, in dialogue as well as hidden memo’s such as newspapers, letters, and photo’s, the game does seem to struggle at some point to keep some form of relativity into what is playing out before the viewer. Think of it as a narrative that gets lost within its own narrative, something that can cause players to lose pace with what the story is trying to tell, this can be even more confusing when players find the phonographs, which will give them a bit of a twist of the backstory that has unraveled behind them. The most perplexing part, one that they only have slightly explained, is the usage of Arthurian names such as Lady Igraine, Sir Perceval, and even Sir Galahad. Sure the names are to strike a bit of interest for those who value and cherish the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, but it leaves a bit of confusion for those who are wanting to know a bit more history behind the reasoning. While the names will be rather familiar, these are not the names of the true Knights that they characters are, instead they have adopted the names and carried them onwards with The Order.
As one plays through the story there will not be an uncommon questioning of who the real enemy is, why they aren’t focused upon, and why the story leading up to the current war that The Order is facing hasn’t gone into an in-depth story from the get-go so that players may understand the events that are going on at this time. What does work however is the formulaic path that the team has taken that will let characters and players become relatable in many forms and even have a wide array of personalities between one another. While it is understandable that they have taken this approach, it will leave some negative feedback to those who were wishing for a bit more story that leaves no current plot holes and fulfills the expectations that should occur.
/-/ Final Examination Before Review /-/
As I’ve began to prepare for the review there are a few things that I’ve been picking apart more-so than ever. After having spent more than ten hours in my single campaign playthrough, the game has a rather in depth story that can be misunderstood by those whom do not search around, but one thing is certain. It’s hard not to understand that this game, at heart, is a very cinematic experience that does have a few plot holes and places that it could have used some work. Till it comes time for my review, I’ve been keeping a rather open mind about this games approach to story and even the gameplay itself. Stay tuned for our upcoming review in the very near future so that we can cover all bases including an in depth analysis of the games campaign, story, hidden secrets, and even changes in difficulty.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, MMO’s, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable and can’t be softened by even the biggest names in the gaming industry. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. To follow Dustin, hit him up on Twitter over at @GamingAnomaly, find him on his Google+. Wanna game with him? You can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.