The Order 1886 is at the front of much controversy due to its single player only narrative, straight line play style, and length of game versus the justification of the price tag. The modern day gamer certainly needs not just pretty graphics to make a game and has to have something to cause the game to be much, much longer than the run time of watching both Kill Bill movies back to back, right?
Well, yes and no. The Order is a game that feels a bit of a time capsule. Back to a time when multiplayer was not a requirement, some tacked on feature that was barely worth the time that was taken to program was left to the burner, and wowing players with the ability to tell a story reigned supreme. Back to a time when Call of Duty 1 & 2 were known for their amazing single player story and multiplayer was an afterthought. Unfortunately today, this is to the game’s detriment with the wants and demands of the modern day audience. Which is a shame because this is an exceptional foray into the single player field and that I fear will not have a sequel due to the horrible press the game received before launch.
The order tells the story of Sir Galahad and the Order of Knights sworn to protect the motherland of England through the centuries and fight those that wish it harm. Needless to say this would have to be the case because otherwise this would be a rather boring game. So in the process a conspiracy is found and lives are forever changes by the events that take place over a few weeks. Sony Santa Monica loves tight spans of times in their games, God of War was much of the same way. You control Galahad throughout this adventure fighting natural and supernatural beings alike. Other characters are involved and they hold great sway over the story. As a side note, many of the most active characters beside Galahad are women which is nice touch and they have much to do with the outcome of the story. There are some rather predictable moments and Galahad angst can be a little jarring but I guess living for centuries at a time using the mysterious “blackwater” liquid for life would make anyone a little bitter.
The game is a third person shooter in the vein of Gears of War and most of the games of that ilk. The firing is solid but feels a little weird when firing automatic guns. Yes, game takes place in the 1800’s and you are using automatic guns along with a few imaginary weapons. The Tesla lightening gun is a personal favorite. Most, however, are steampunk variants of rather standard shooter game weapons. The reticle is large and shows how much of a recoil that the guns have. It is manageable but still kind of difficult. The part of the shooting that interfered the most was how, in fine aim, the nearby enemies were out of focus. As a design decision this makes sense but when surrounded and you are not able to see where the next threat is, that becomes problematic. Otherwise there is a lot of cover based shooting and there is context sensitive melee attacks when you get close.
It seems as if Ready at Dawn games took inspiration from their work on the PSP God of War games with the Quick Time Events usage. To me, the game felt as if it had no more QTEs than many other games that used them. I love Shemmue but that had far more QTEs in a short period of time than this game and to the same effect the Telltale games use this same form of storytelling. It does get heavy at times but often there are slight differences in where you can aim the attack and different animations. It is a nice touch and allows for some diversity but it is largely unchanged. The player is shooting far more than tapping buttons.
Now I would be remiss in a review of the Order to not speak of the graphics of the game. Simply put, this is one of the most visually impressive games I have ever seen. The fabric on the character clothes, the motion capture on the characters faces, the animations of movement and firing of weapons are all a things of beauty. The game does have a bit of the brown and more brown filtering that games a few years ago all had but it is not too far off from actual England and fits the aesthetic of the game. All of the weapons have parts that move and shake in real time and all of the games cinematics are in engine and I never had a problem with telling when to play and when to watch. It is most definitely an experience to play and watch. Every nuance from the loose chains on the character’s clothes to the often interactive environment. Many sections of the game suggest you look around a little to see if there are any items to inspect, which have cursive that is for the most part readable, and audio recordings to listen to in the extras section. Helps make the world a little more expansive for what I hope will be a sequel.
So all in all what do we have? Here is a game that is, by all intents and purposes, an excellent game but it is on the shorter side. Maybe I just suck at shooters but the game took me about seven or so hours to complete and I didn’t find all of the interactive stuff in the game. Is it worth the MSRP to purchase? Depends on your expectations of a game. If you are part of the newer generation of players who believe that you have to get at least 20 or 30 hours from your game then this is certainly not for you. Does not help that in that extended period of time, multiplayer is probably expected. However, if you are a fan of narrative heavy, single player games then this you would be amiss to let this sit on the shelf. It may not be a game that you play many times a la Resident Evil 4 but it is a game that you may want to go back to after a bit of time because it is an experience. Even playing with friends watching would allow more play time out of it as this is something that has to be seen to be believed at how far we have come in gaming.