The Order: 1886 is incredibly easy on the eyes, but overall it’s an offering of half baked concepts. Ready at Dawn have totally shown off the tech of the PlayStation 4 in an unparalleled fashion, but the game is also a linear cover based shooter with by-the-numbers encounters. The fleeting story hit some high notes, but never really made good on the premise. There’s more than a few quick time events and it abruptly ends with no real resolution. Add on the lacking stealth segments and forgettable boss battles and what you get is a question: How do I rent this thing?

Let's cinematically off this guy.

Let’s cinematically off this guy.

From the moment the game loads up, The Order: 1886 establishes itself as a cinematic experience. The entire thing is presented with heavy letterboxing, something done mostly with film. The imposing bars hog up precious space, sometimes made the game feel oppressive and routinely obfuscated the action. The borders might be there for artistic purposes, but they also give an already gorgeous game a leg up by reducing the space it has to fill. Whatever the reason behind their inclusion, I have the same contempt for them here as I did with The Evil Within. Achieving a more cinematic experience might have seemed like the proper choice for them back at the dawn of the new millenium, but video games can be so much more than film.

It’s set in an outlandish, but mostly down to earth alternate history version of Britain in the year 1886. Here, King Arthur’s order of the Knights of the Round Table still fight for justice as humanity has discovered how to perpetuate their lives for centuries. They fight the Lycan half-breeds who terrorize the people of Bizarro London. The arsenal is pretty basic, although a couple of the weapons do get a bit more fantastical with science like the gun that launches thermite into that air to be ignited with flares. There’s rifles, pistols and a gun that shoots lightning like the guitars at the end of The Darkness’ music video for the song ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ with the giant space octopus.

The guy responsible for the arc and thermite gun, and for all of the crazy science stuff in The Order: 1886 is none other than the loveably eccentric scamp, Nikola Tesla, one of your brothers in arms. The niftier weapons don’t make appearances as often as I would have liked, which leaves most of the game to be played with incredibly rudimentary options. The revolver was my weapon of choice, it’s pretty accurate, making it easy to rattle off head shots and plow through the basic enemies before they get close enough to give you trouble. The enemy most likely to do you in are the shotgun guys wearing armour. These jerks will weasel their way up beside you and bring the pain, street justice style. While it’s great there’s an enemy that exists to keep you from turtling, but once you learn how to take care of them it’s a simple matter of going through the motions. Overall, the combat feels ok, but leaves a lot to be desired.

Crazy science has never looked so good.

Crazy science has never looked so good.

The way The Order seamlessly weaves cutscenes and gameplay sequences is pretty neat. It’s really impressive how there’s very little if any difference as the scenes transition. Often, because of the lack of any real on indication that things have changed, save for a new angle from the camera, it left me standing around. The Order deals heavily in quick time events, and love them or hate them they’re here to stay. They’re innocent enough, but they also eat up entire chapters of the game. Tapping a button to take a shot of blackwater totally makes sense, and every so often something badass will rely on your deft input to make it through. But it doesn’t exactly add to the already basic gameplay in any meaningful way. It was a double whammy for me that both of The Order’s boss fights aren’t really much more than glorified quick time events. Thankfully, The Order:1886 is good about restarting you before you boned up the time so not much time is wasted getting back at it.

These half-breed fools will mess you up.

These half-breed fools will mess you up.

The reset functions similarly during the ostensible stealth sequences, which is a great thing because the stealth sequences are slightly cumbersome. Besides the stealth kill mechanic that relies on player timing, the segments that force stealth on the player are pretty drab. They go as far as to take away the players ability to use their firearms, and if things go south and you’re found it’s an instantaneous failure state. The whole thing just feels archaic, almost like I’m playing my fathers laserdisc version of Space Ace again. They aren’t so hard as to really jam a person up for long, enough trial and error and everything is fine again, but it’s puzzling how it made it into the release build. It’s just another of The Order’s partially fleshed out ideas, sort of like the mostly arbitrary item examination. I didn’t pick up a single item that actually seemed all that interesting, or necessary. The protracted amount of time and the ability to rotate the items seemed strange and out of place.

But gosh darn, it all looked amazing. Ready at Dawn have created some of the most highly detailed and richly textured levels that really do a great job conveying the dystopian world of alternate Britain. All of the models for the characters look properly faithful to real life actual humans and besides a handful of moments where the AI would get jammed up on level geometry, they even move pretty well. All the beautifully natural animations are complemented by well directed and acted voice work. For whatever it’s worth, The Order: 1886 is probably the finest looking video game on the console market right now.

Looks alone can only do so much. As it is, The Order: 1886 is a hard game to recommend people run out and buy. It’s not so much that the campaign is over quickly, because it took me about seven hours to get through. I spent some time rummaging around the world to try to prod it into being a bit more engaging to no avail. The story, while interesting as a premise, is never fully realized, it’s roughly the middle of the game when you’re clued in to what’s actually going on. By the time it ends, it really just feels like the game is getting ready to make some moves. There’s no closure with the villain, but he’s hardly even evil enough to be the crux of an ending like this. I wouldn’t really care if it ended poorly if there was anything else to be done in The Order. There’s a campaign that can be played alone. When you’re done, if you’re into it, you can play it alone again. Players are even able to fast track through the game down to specific checkpoints to revisit. That’s it though, The Order has no other anything to give you a reason to come back.

So super cinematic.

So super cinematic.

Ready at Dawn crafted some of my favourite PlayStation Portable games, arguably some of the best on the system. The Order: 1886 was their landmark console debut with a new IP, and in many ways it feels very similar to their past work in the portable space. incredibly tight and technically well made, but it also retained the length and scope of a portable game, lacking stuff you’d find in a fully featured console title. You can finish it in a solid session of power gaming or a weekend. The Order is serviceable with a few bright moments that mostly just emphasize how much better everything could have turned out if it didn’t feel so underdone. If you’re lucky, like me, one of your friends bought it and you can borrow it. Some years ago I would have recommended people rent this game, but the best advice now might be to wait until The Order is $18.86.

The Order: 1886 Review
If video games were still readily available to rent these days The Order would hit the sweet spot for a weekend or couple evenings. It's visually stunning and has solid, if not relatively uninteresting gun-play. The narrative could have used a few more chapters to really get anywhere and the myriad quick time events could be dialed down. As it stands, it's difficult for me to advise anyone rush out and pick up The Order:1886 at full price. I'm excited to see what Ready at Dawn does next and hope it's a little more fully fleshed out.
positive
  • Striking visuals.
  • Visuals are... striking.
  • Is a functional video game.
unpositive
  • completely linear
  • whole chapters comprised of cutscenes.
  • bad stealth & too many QTEs
5.5Overall Score

About The Author

Evan T
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Evan is a super serious, real life production assistant, video editor, and current review and editorial writer for Gamer Assault Weekly. A failed knife salesman and former member of a prestigious World of Warcraft guild, renowned for his voice and childlike enthusiasm for video games. Has never broken a bone. Hates possums. Mumble-sings.