The Order: 1886
It has been a while since a game has caused a good ole’ internet uproar from gamers but Ready at Dawn’s The Order:1886 certainly did just that. When footage of the game was leaked showing that it could be completed in about 5-6 hours gaming forums, twitter and YouTube comments went mad. Game length became the topic of the moment and people everywhere were prepared to write off The Order based on its short amount of gameplay. Well I am here to tell you all right now that The Order has 99 problems but the length ain’t one.
But before I get to those problems I want to talk about the things The Order gets right. The first thing I noticed was how good this game looks. Stunning doesn’t describe it. The sheer amount of minor details in the world was staggering. Victorian England has never looked so good. The game is presented in the old style CinemaScope, with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The developers claimed that these bars were left there to create a cinematic feel but I have a feeling that by reducing the screen size they gave themselves more resources to be able to create such a lush and detailed world. It is a sacrifice I am prepared to make to get a game that looks this good but it is certainly something that may divide gamers.
The shooting in the game is also exciting and engaging. This is helped by some wonderful steam-punk weapons that combine traditional arms of the era with more fantastical elements (in the game created by none other than Nikola Tesla). I was particularly fond of a machine gun that had a small scope but also had the ability shoot a cloud of compressed air to stun enemies that got too close to me. These weapons were all exciting to use in what would otherwise be a standard 3rd person cover based shooter. I can safely say that the shooting and combat are the best features the game has to offer and made my time with the game worthwhile.
This leads me the first of The Order’s major problems and that is story. I was really looking forward to seeing a Steam-punk Victorian England with a fun action story but what I got was a boring drudge of a tale which took itself way too seriously. At no point in the game did I actually care what was going on, I just wanted to be able to get to the next shooting bit. The characters are unlikable and at no point did I ever feel any empathy towards them during their plight. Perhaps the biggest sin committed with the story is the inability to ignore it. Cut-scenes, slow walking exposition and boring monologues are all un skippable meaning I had to sit and wait to get to the enjoyable parts of the game, all the while my interest in the game waning and frustration setting in.
The story is unfortunately not The Order’s biggest problem. That dubious honour goes to the constant overuse of quicktime events. Perhaps this is a left over from Ready at Dawn’s previous work on the God of War series. The biggest issue is that unlike God of War the quicktime events seemed to be random, illogical and they added nothing to the game at all. If used in the correct manner I think a quicktime event can add a little bit of impact and interactivity to the game’s story, the recent Tomb Raider reboot is perhaps the best example of that, but in the case of The Order they seem to exist for the sole purpose of extending gameplay. They didn’t add anything to the game except for increased levels of frustration. I felt like a major proportion of the game was simply waiting to press the triangle button at the correct time. It is something that Ready at Dawn need to fix as a priority if they ever get a chance at a sequel because I am sure if it happens again it will kill the franchise.
I can’t really write a review of this game without talking about its much maligned length. I must say I felt the length was just about right for me, I certainly wasn’t left wanting more but at the same time I didn’t feel that the game overstayed its welcome either. It took me about 6 hours on hard difficulty to knock it over and for the most part I didn’t even think of how long I had been playing. If the game had consisted of large amounts of the high quality shooting with the occasional cut scene I don’t think the length would even be worth mentioning. Unfortunately I feel I have to bring it up because so much of that 6 hours was in boring exposition and annoying quicktime events.
In the end I feel I am probably coming across overly harsh on The Order. Perhaps its biggest sin is that it feels like a Launch title that didn’t get released at launch. It has stunning graphics and some entertaining gun play that would have made it the perfect game to show to my friends when bragging about my new consoles. The problems with the game would have been easy to forgive at launch and I am sure people would be generally more positive about the whole experience. I really don’t want to be too harsh because I genuinely enjoyed a lot of the game. The combat is a blast and the setting has massive amounts of potential, it is just a shame that the rest of the game isn’t quite up to snuff. I really hope that Ready at Dawn get a chance to make a sequel because I think there is a really great game buried here somewhere, it is just going to take some digging to get there.