The Order 1886 seems to have attracted very similar responses over the last few days since its release on the 20th February. Some positive, some negative but all heading along the same lines. Now I deliberately did not read any reviews in full prior to the release because, as always, everyone has an opinion and some reviewers don’t like anything they get their hands on. Here are my thoughts on the AAA title exclusively for PS4 by Ready At Dawn games…
First, let’s talk about the graphics. Wow. Stunning. In fact they are so wonderfully polished that it’s hard to differentiate between cutscene and gameplay. Kuniku and myself actually upgraded our TV last week so it was a great way to see the game. It creates a great atmosphere and produces a lot of detail which will hopefully be appreciated. The only issue with the stunning graphics? Unlike Assassins Creed where you can climb to the top of the highest building to enjoy the view of the cities you explore, this is not a open world game. So you have to enjoy the details while you walk though and try not to miss anything, especially in the darker sections when you have your lantern and are walking through the underground tunnels or in the London Hospital. It does add to smoggy, Victorian feel and the musical accompaniment compliments the feel of the game. It did irk me somewhat that I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy the setting but with scenes like the below picture shows, there was potentially so much that could have been done.
Speaking of not missing anything, there are collectibles and newspapers to find during the chapters so it is worth trying to have a look around, even if the ominous string section pipes up to alert you that something is about to happen. With letters, flyers and pictures providing nods to historical pioneers, for example Eddison and Tesla and pictures which become more relevant later on, there are lots of little things to pick up and examine. This reminded me a lot of L.A. Noire and in some instances if you don’t inspect it the right way, it won’t trigger the next bit until you do but for others it is purely stage dressing. It’s also worth keeping a look out for some Playstation collectibles too, you’ll know them when you see them, but they are tastefully made to look of the Victorian era so you’ll appreciate them not looking out of place.
So let’s talk about the game play. I mentioned that the graphics are so good that you’re not sure when a cutscene is running away with you or if you’re in gameplay. Well, this is a curse at times instead of a clever use of the game engine to demonstrate what it can achieve . There is quite a lot of quick time. And before everyone sighs, let’s take a moment to remember that great games like the new Tomb Raider had a fair bit and it was still highly enjoyable. The difficulty with The Order is that the cutscene will take you into the next area and you won’t be expecting a quick time event to happen, so you have scratch or reach for your cup of tea because you think the characters are stopping for a chat and suddenly you’re dead because you didn’t press a button. I found that a lot of the game was spent going between cutscene quick time events and firefights. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story enough that it wasn’t a massive problem. The gameplay for the firefights reminded me a lot of Bioshock Infinite and that similar tactics are required for some of the shoot-outs. You discover later on that the enemies will move towards you to go in for the kill, so you do have to move around a bit in order not to die. I did have to replay some sections a couple of times because my tactics were not working and as I was tired, I was getting cranky about it (Kuniku can testify to that). It’s worth moving around and changing your weapons about in order to get the most successful outcome and you might earn the achievement for getting a kill with every weapon.
The weapons are pretty cool. With a nice mixture of good old fashioned shotguns, revolvers and machine guns on offer, you think you’re set for the battles ahead. Then Nikola Tesla turns up and you have an arc gun (which I still can’t use properly) and a Thermite gun which is pretty fun to use. In a tight spot you have to weigh up which weapon will be better and if you do find yourself dying a lot, you need to take out the guy who has a better weapon than you. For example, the guy with the grenade launcher. He’s not fun and he will put a crimp on your day so he’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for. There is a feature called Blacksight which allows you to slow down time and kill many enemies in one go, I forgot to use this so if I play again, I’ll test that out some more as that might have come in handy. You also walk around with a nice looking mini sword/knife/machete type thing strapped to your back, when you go all stealthy then this is the primary weapon and let’s just say the video of the stabbings are pretty brutal on occasion. You also use your knife sword thing against Lycans which is good… if you like going up against something with claws and teeth that will rip your throat out if you strike at the wrong time. After a couple of goes though, you are used to the mechanic and then just need to use your quick time to dodge in-between the knife strikes.
There are sections of stealth which mean that if you get seen, you’re dead. The section in the gardens of United India House is particularly irritating if you don’t hit triangle at exactly the right moment. This sends you back to the beginning of the checkpoint and you have to do it all over again. Yes it’s frustrating, but that happened in Tomb Raider, The Last of Us and Thief for examples sake. It is a little bit of a shame that you have to rely on the quick time for a hefty chunk of the gameplay. On occasion you expect it but after a while, it would be nice to mix it up a bit. There are a few items in your inventory which require you to not just hit one button (hooray!). I found that my brain was confused by this sudden reliance to do more than one thing as I’d spent a lot of time just trying to press square or circle within the time limit. The lockpicking contraption gets used a few times and is similar to the transponder in the Batman games, requiring you to wiggle until the vibration is right (giggidy). The on screen prompts help you see when but these locks don’t get harder or require a different tactic to open them so this is pretty easy going. Tesla also gives you a ‘current disruptor’ for those tricky electric panels, it took me a few goes to remember to hold certain buttons for it to work. A pretty cool concept for a machine and the detail on it was quite impressive.
So what about the story surrounding all of these gadgets, guns and cutscenes? I like the story. It’s set in a time that really interested me for the scientific discoveries and advancements and for Jack the Ripper. These are featured in the game and work well within the story itself. You are Sir Galahad, or Grayson which is your real name. A member of Her Majesty’s Order of Knights sworn to protect against the forces of darkness. In this case, Lycans and rebels. Along with Sir Percival (the mentor), Lady Igraine (the feisty girlfriend) and Lafayette (the horny Frenchman) you battle the evil forces that are hell bent on spoiling your day. There’s a lot of back and forth between Galahad and Igraine where you just know cupid is going to be a nasty git and thrown some trust issues in to ruin things. Being part of this brotherhood gives you the Blackwater vial, filled with the elixir of life from the Grail itself, which offers you healing powers when you’re pretty much dead. No need to search for a medical kit with this stuff as it does come in quite handy.
The introduction to the game shows Sir Galahad in a tricky spot and then goes back in time for you to play through the events which lead to where the story begins. The story consists of 16 chapters, some of which are just sluggish cutscenes of conversations which lead you through conspiracy and unexpected alliances which all contribute towards the outcome. Some of these ‘chapters’ can’t really be considered as playable sections as it’s just you and your buddies having a chat about what is going on. If you blink you’ll skip ahead three chapters and wonder what happened. If you’re like me and you like your detective stories, you can probably work out who the villains are before they are revealed but there are still the little twists in there which make you play through to the end.
Other reviewers have called the game boring. I wouldn’t say the story is boring. The story is actually quite well thought out. The only issue with it might be the stop/start gameplay and the solely linear narrative. People have also complained that it is too short. I thought the length was just right, even if I did finish it in about 7/8 hours after dying many times, but you can’t please everyone. My main issue with the game as a whole is that unless I fancy going back to try and platinum it, there is no replay factor. There is no multiplayer or survival mode. The DLC that came with the version we got isn’t particularly useful as the sections give you certain weapons which mean you don’t use the DLC stuff anyway. It’s all a bit odd. As far as my reading goes (please feel free to point me to it though if I am incorrect), I have seen no mention of a season pass which means we’ve all spent £50 on a game so far which has nothing more to offer (at the moment).
My suggestions? Do a similar package to Bioshock Infinite. Maybe not multiplayer but a survival mode with waves of enemies or stealth sections with challenge modes. The game leaves itself open to a potential follow on, so instead of bringing in The Order 1914 or something, have a couple of ‘chapters’ which last a couple of hours to bring some more story into it. Sadly, I think open world would be out of the equation, which is a shame. With the Jack the Ripper nods throughout, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have mini murder mysteries which lead you to fighting some beast of the night in your search for the killer. We could even play with the other characters for a change to see aspects of the story from their perspective! There is so much that could be done. My worry is now that we have all forked out for, what is a good game overall, and we’ll get nothing more out of it. Both Kuniku and myself have finished it over the weekend quite easily and had very similar opinions on the game as a whole. It’s left me a little unsure of what Ready At Dawn have planned for it next, or even wondering if they will do anything with it. It would certainly be a shame for everyone to simply trade it in and never look at it again, equally, I don’t want it to sit among our PS4 games not being played after we paid good money for it.
So overall, I like the game. It’s gorgeous to look at. The story and graphics make up for some of the choppy gameplay and the length doesn’t bother me. The issue that there looks to be no plans for continuation concerns me though as these games don’t come cheap and I would hate to think in a years time, if nothing materializes for it, I’ve missed out on being able to trade it in at a good price. I don’t normally give an official score for my reviews because I don’t think it really takes into account all the little things that we enjoy about games and the bits which leave us either wanting more or not getting what we expected. Overall, I would probably give it a 7, which I think might be one of the higher scoring reviews from those that I’ve glanced at on the internet. It still has the opportunity to be redeemed but only if Ready At Dawn do something with it. If you want to try out The Order 1886, I would probably wait for it to be a bit cheaper or go halves with your mate who bought it and finished it in 6 hours. It’s worth paying for, but maybe not at release price mainly because I see no set future for the game.