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Review by Dustin Murphy
+The best graphics engine to date compared to other releases this generation
+Characters that are easily relatable to and sit almost true to their timeframes
+Werewolves, Vampires, Corrupt Knights in an Arthurian like tale
+Gunplay mechanics are pristine and well rounded
+Voice-acting is on par with a high-end Hollywood production
+Creative and intuitive ways to use quick-time-events
–Cutscenes, even if in-game, tend to sometimes take away from player immersion
–Linear pathways leave little room for players to explore
–No backtracking through previously visited areas
–Characters at times seem out of place whether in combat or in cutscenes
–Quick-time-events can sometimes seem out of place are repetitive, could use work
Editor’s Note: Before reading this, please note the review is an expanded version of our hands-on-impression and includes a final take on The Order: 1886. We apologize if this is an inconvenience, but it was decided this was the best way to approach this review due to how lengthy it would be if we included both looks at the game.
The Order: 1886, as stated in the hands-on-impression, is a interactive cinema experience. It is a game that pushes the blend between movie, game, and storytelling to a level you may have only seen in games such as Beyond Two Souls, Heavy Rain, Binary Domain, Gears of War, and even God of War. Unlike a few of the titles, however, The Order: 1886 at times almost seems to have an identity crisis with what it wants to be. Starting out in the game, players are introduced within the first few minutes of starting up the game, to a quicktime-event that introduces our character ‘Grey’ or rather more-renowned as Sir Galahad. Upon this introduction it was more than clear this game was not going to disclude them from the overall experience. Allowing players to partake in this type of setup would have actually been a better choice than going between interactive movie and playable game.
After being introduced to the first chapter or two, players will get to meet their full blown entourage and begin their exploration into an alt-history London where Werewolves, Vampires, and a zealous Order have taken rule. The Order’s job? To keep London safe and act as London’s ‘special operations division’. Doing this, they work closely with Nikola Tesla (can we just call him father of modern electricity?). Tesla acts as their weapons engineer, inventor and even the guy who helps out with scientific findings when needed. However, players will not be seeing much of him outside of his lab, instead they will get to know Marquise de Lafayette, Lady Igraine, and Sir Perceval. These characters are ones that the game tends to focus on in order to build the story that flows around them in regards to a rebel incursion that has a rather frightening background, but with this game, all is not what it seems, which leaves quite a few plot holes for players to dig through in order to understand what the real story is. Something that can be quite interesting to keep track of in a 68% or higher completion rate (yes, we’re talking trophies here, and it’s not going to be easy in just one playthrough).
With much of the games story hidden through background conversations, cut scenes, and even hidden documentation (phonograph recordings, newspaper clippings, photo’s, and even found artwork), players can find themselves a bit confused at what the entire plot is. Even for those who are sharp as a well sharpened knife, it’ll still be hard to piece together at times since the game doesn’t offer just a whole lot in the area of background stories. All that is known up to this game? Is all that Ready at Dawn and SCE Santa Monica wanted you to know. Unfortunately, this is where the outcry from fans can be understandable as the story itself is minimal, gameplay short (our review playthrough clocked in at 14 ½ hours with a 68% trophy completion and no breaks). Much like the out of place QTE’s even combat seems to be out of place at times since players will, at times, hop between cutscenes that are rendered using the games in-game graphic engine and a rather large scale shootout where players will take on enemies who are not scared to fall back and hide. Unlike enemies in Gears of War or other shooters, enemies do not seem to be programmed to come out from hiding after a certain duration, instead there were times when the most opportune weapon to use was a grenade in order to wipe out any stragglers that decided to hide behind a crate or wall.
However, that’s not the most troubling part when it does come to this games combat system, instead it is Galahad’s ability to slow-down time in-combat and diminish any remaining enemies that seem to be within range. Granted he switches to his pistol to do so – players will still find a bit of an eyeroll towards this, which does seem to reflect on the idea that these knights are the badasses that Ready at Dawn wanted them to be. Even with this being so, it is unsurprising that players will find themselves getting downed once in combat, which leads to, guess what? Another quick time event where players will find themselves pressing triangle only to return to smashing on their X button, but if they are not quick enough to do so those pesky enemies will come around and quickly dispatch any chances of returning to combat. If players die it won’t be uncommon to hear a bit of outcry in annoyance due to the awkwardly drawn out checkpoints that will set players back to the original checkpoint before combat started. This is even more-so troubling when combating the games rare-to-see werewolves. Fighting these ugly four legged beasts are more than a hassle. Players will become best friends with their X button when not hosing down one of these rather ugly creatures. Pressing X will allow players to quickly dodge out of the way and find some relief in doing so when not shooting the living heck out of a werewolf. Though some of these guys are not fought by just a shooting scenario, instead the combat for some of them is broken down into a QTE based scenario where players will find themselves dodging using the right analog stick while also hitting R2 for heavy attacks and L2 for light, but quick attacks. This set of combat is lucrative, out of place, and unfortunately does draw away from the games overall immersion since players will possibly be reluctant to even partake in these events. For those wanting a more-immersive cinematic experience, this may be right up your ally, for others it is going to be a bit of a hassle and a frustrating one at that. At least stealth kills and melee don’t seem that out of place when it comes to basic combat situations.
Outside of picking apart a rather awkward combat system that seems to try and take from a seemingly familiar Uncharted when it first launched on PS3, The Order: 1886 also offers up a wide array of weapons. These weapons include an arc gun that shoots electricity, The Order’s assault rifle that offers a nice little enemy stun, a massive array of pistols, shotguns, and even single shot rifles for those who want accuracy over firerate. Unfortunately it is not up to the players what weapons they use from the start of each chapter since the game has a preset weapon selection that sets players up with a choice of armoury that Galahad seems to be at peace with. This means that sniper rifle you found in Chapter IX? It’s not going to reappear in Chapter XI or Chapter XII. This is something that seems to more-so be within the developers array of weapon loadout and is unfortunate since there are weapons that players would undoubtedly want to tote around. However, to solve this issue, the development team did allow for enemies to carry an immense amount of weapon loadouts. This means those of you who want to change up your weapons can gladly do so while some might find themselves a bit more satisfied with the standardized setup that Galahad will come into combat with.
When stepping away from the negatives of the combat system, loadout and diluted immersion due to QTE’s and combat scenarios, The Order: 1886 is something profoundly solid, which is something to be said as one of the first exclusive launches in the second year of the PlayStation 4’s lifespan. The game boasts one of the best graphics engines to date, which works well for a game that shoots to be an interactive movie, which is something even the Game Director Dana Jan had to come at the defense of with original claims putting the game at five hours in length. So were the claims right? As part of the review playthrough it was time to press the games duration when moving through each of the games difficulties, which meant that would be hit at multiple difficulties, which we had to select ONCE the game started through the options menu. Timing the gameplay it was time to grab a stopwatch in order to track the gameplay length without hunting down trophies. So how did we manage to play out? With the game on easy the first playthrough clocked in at roughly six hours, second play through at almost six and a half and hard at a massive eight hours, which meant that the game took up quite a bit of time to hammer out regardless of how fast we hammered out. Do note that in those playthroughs I was not allowed to hunt down collectibles and was forced to play through the game as if I were someone just wanting to explore the story. With that being said, it isn’t surprising there have been reports of the game being no longer than five hours, which was pushed for in the speed playthroughs that left with few deaths, and a whole lot of annoyances when fighting against the werewolves whom were determined at slowing down the pace that was being aimed for. With that being said? The game does deliver itself as a movie based game, but does that justify the cost for those who aren’t collectible hunters? In the experience that was played through, the answer was a yes, but it was taken by note that the shortcomings began to outweigh the positives of the title with each passing minute in the speed playthroughs.
Even while boasting some solid, but at time weak mechanics, and minor irritations – The Order: 1886 does one thing most games haven’t, which is to try and set a pacing for a medium as an interactive movie. This interactive movie experience is something that Ready at Dawn and SCE Santa Monica has seemingly almost mastered if it hadn’t been for the QTE’s that popped up out of nowhere and seemed quite a bit out of place at times. With a little bit of polishing, focus on the combat scenarios, and even fixing the out-of-place combat locations that do tend to pop up for dramatic effect the game could easily place itself with a masterful series in the ftuure. With all this being said, The Order: 1886 is a designed masterpiece that could’ve used a bit more polishing, but like all masterpieces it was not meant to be perfect and has room to improve with future installments to a could-be franchise if Sony is to pick it up for a sequel. The next time around we just hope that combat is a bit more polished, QTE’s are a bit more well placed, and we do see more of those frightful enemies we’ve been introduced to.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
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.