Rated M for Mature
Developed by Ready at Dawn
Published By Sony
Face first in a pool of water, you struggle to breathe as the last gasp of air escapes you. The guard pulls you up only to spew hate into your ear and start the dance all over again. This is how The Order: 1886 begins, torture. Two seconds later, a pike is buried three inches deep in the guard’s neck. Meet our hero, Galahad, a member of the Knights of the Round Table, and under his fantastic mustache lies the stiffest upper lip this side of Westminster. Most men would crumble with a 12-inch blade buried in their abdomen, but that’s just when Galahad starts head-butting werewolves.
The Order: 1886 starts strong and draws you into its web, each step pulling you deeper into its tightly wound story. You play as Galahad and your mission is simple – along with the other members of your Order, you must quell a rebellion and stop the flesh hungry werewolves, known as the half-breeds, in a pulsating quest for the truth.
The game has been billed as a third person shooter, which it somewhat is, but a large portion of it is more akin to an interactive film, played out in cut-scenes that require player involvement. These are broken up with over the shoulder bullet spewing. The game has much more in common with titles like Heavy Rain than it does Max Payne-esque shoot-em-ups.
The heavy use of cut-scenes do well to further the games cinematic approach. Whereas a simple exchange between characters would normally be shown in the game’s standard view, The Order uses a berth of camera angles to focus on different viewpoints as a means to further flesh out the game’s stunning presentation… and this game is built on presentation. Its substance is sound, but the style is the focus. Its visual fidelity is a perfect representation of the London smog. The graphics are akin to following a nice bowl of pea soup with a fist full of gravel, The Order: 1886 does grit, and it does it perfectly.
What is so impressive about its graphics is that it is one of the first examples of low light being done particularly well on the current-gen consoles. Most games become graphically boring as they enter their night cycle, but The Order is one of the most impressive examples of high contrast lighting I’ve seen. Nothing loses its texture in shadows deep below Whitecastle, or in darkened halls of United India House.
There is one major element lacking in the game’s presentation and that is the performances. All are standard, and star Steve West (Seed of Chucky) veers into laughably bad when he cries out in despair. This is the only thing holding back an otherwise wondrous presentation.
The game has a very specific story to tell, and in order to do it, The Order needs you to play it a certain way. It tells you when you can fire your guns, when you can run, and when you can use stealth. It can feel constricting to some who are looking for a free-roaming experience, but by making this choice, the game is able to fully flesh-out the portions of The Order that are dedicated to that style. Stealth areas are particularly rewarding, as the game features a stealth kill system based off of timing. This forces strategy, do you conserve ammo and use the knife but risk being spotted and taking a bullet to the forehead? That’s up to you, but stealth kills are worth the risk, just to see Galahad plunge his monstrous blade into the throats of unsuspecting guards. The whole thing is delightfully brutal. You give a little, you get a little.
The game does lack polishing in some areas, there is virtually no reward for exploring as most of the items you will find offer little, if any, additional story or new information.
Combat is fun and also challenging. Aside from giggle fits brought on by watching an enemy search for the bowler hat you just shot off his head, The Order presents fun and challenging combat AI. You can’t just hide behind cover and pick off enemies, they are constantly changing locations in a bid to surround you. Focus on one side of the room for too long and you’ll soon have a bullet in your back. It was particularly impressive when I set my sights still to one side of a moving enemy. The game seems to sense this and they retreat away from where you are aiming. The game’s engine pushes you a step further in order to force you to hit a moving target. The only fumble with combat is you must open your weapons menu to access grenades. Generally, the moments when you need a grenade is exactly when you don’t have the time to go fumbling through a weapons menu.
However, the combat is there to accentuate the game’s impressive storyline. It, in another step of providing an authentic British experience, plays out much like a Victorian novel. There is a bit of intrigue to open, a slow rising action and a powerful climax. While the first few chapters may fall a little flat, lacking enough weight to make them quite as engaging as it could have been, it turns up the pace towards the middle and will have you on the edge of your seat by its climax. I started out shrugging at the game’s storyline, but by the time the credits rolled, I was giving it a standing ovation.
The Order is able to blend a lot of elements of fandom that any fan of fringe film should love. There’s super technology, gore drenched murders, giant werewolves, and a whole lotta’ guns that shoot electric arcs and explosive gas.
That being said, The Order: 1886 is not for everyone. If you go in expecting to hold down the fire button until the end credits you are going to be disappointed. The game wants you to sit back and get wrapped up in its tale of horror and betrayal. Yes, there is A LOT of dialogue. But if you spend Friday nights with a good book rather than sucking down Jager bombs at some disco, this game may be for you.
It must also be acknowledged that this game is roughly nine hours. That may be short bit within that time-frame it delivers an impactful experience that leaves you wanting more. I spent about $100 on this game for its collector’s edition, and walked away feeling as if I got my money’s worth. These faults seem minor when compared to just how enveloping and fun this game is. Every battle, every stealth kill, every knife fight is an exhilarating hell ride, and I was so sorry when it was over.
Despite some lingering faults, The Order: 1886 manages to overcome and maintain a quality gaming experience throughout. The game’s story is a lot like an anaconda attack. At first, it’s a loose fit, but as time progresses you’ll be breathing deep and grasping for air as it draws you deeper into its grasp. This was a promising start for a new series that is still trying to figure itself out. But mark my words, this game’s sequel will be a thing to behold.