FeaturedReview

The Order: 1886 Review

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Platform: PS4 | Developer: Ready at Dawn | Publisher: Sony | ESRB: M

Hey, here’s a lengthy paragraph of disclaimers due the fervor and vitriol related to this game. This a review, from an individual – me – and as-such the opinions here are my own. They are not catered to any specific group or to garner a specific reaction. These are my thoughts on the game and my experience playing it. Also, let it be noted that I am primarily a PC gamer, therefore any accusation of fanboy-ism is silly and unwarranted. I am a writer and a once-upon-a-time game artist, so perhaps it should be no surprise that I value story-telling and quality visuals. I also enjoy historical pieces, film, musical scores and soundtracks, and yes indeed, long walks on the beach. Maybe you can see where I’m going with this?

As much as the above may pre-dispose me to liking or disliking certain things, I am very open. More than half of my Steam library is devoted to indies, and the entirety of my collection includes games of every style and genre, dating back to the original NES. I do not “follow the crowd” for good or ill. I’ll tell you all, right off that bat, that the concept of The Order instantly had me intrigued. Ready at Dawn showed off a title with great potential, and I had already been impressed with their port of the fantastic Okami to the Wii. The developers promised a cinematic vision for the game, which would showcase some of the PS4’s power, and honest accounts will tell you that they fulfilled their promise. A perfect game is rare and The Order does not fit that category, but it does deliver an excellent, story-driven experience. So let’s take a close look at how it does just that.

The Order 1886 is an amazing visual feast for your next-gen hungry eyes. This is easily one of the best-looking games of all time, and there is no PC caveat here – it measures up with the best of any game PC or otherwise. To my eyes, it bests Ryse, Killzone: Shadowfall, Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed: Unity (when it works), Battlefield, Arma III — whatever your pick. This is not from a pure pixel-pushing standpoint – The Order is not pushing 4k – it’s the combination of all the ingredients that are put into the pot when making an art-stew that makes it most delicious.

The Order 1886.Still008

The characters are wonderfully detailed, and this is one of the rare games that gets hair right — it reacts to the wind naturally. The cloth simulations are also spot-on, they flow with the animations. With hair and cloth, even the best games usually have some fairly obvious clipping —not the case here, you’d have to be really looking to see even minor amounts. This is particularly impressive given the natural motion and range of the animation work. Both facial and body movements capture the essence of the big moves, but the little secondary animations and transitions are what showcase the attention to detail.

The lighting is top-notch. The differences between the amount and type of light are accurately determined by their sources. The glow of a lamp is quite different from the distant, low sun amongst the clouds. The light effect details are also shared with the particle systems of the game. Rain, flames, blood, electrical sparks, they all look good. My only complaint in the visual department was the lack of character reflection in glass sources — somewhat understandable given the fidelity of the surrounding world, but this is a big no-no for some players.

As was promised, this is all delivered in a cinematic style. The aspect ratio and light film-grain effects are set-dressings that frame this alternate history story, but the heart of the picture lies with Victorian-era London — and what a rich period from which to draw on. Despite any futuristic or fantastical leanings when it comes to weaponry and other-worldy enemies, The Order 1886 is firmly rooted in a realistic, period-specific London. Look for Tower Bridge or Big Ben in the far distance. Look down from the sloping, thatched roofs of the city onto the cobblestone streets — homes stacked side-by-side, while the bigger manses are fronted by rows of sculpted columns, and sturdy iron fences separate estate grounds from streets. You feel the age of the materials, the effect of the climate through intricately placed detail.

The Order 1886.Still016

The city is governed above by the grey expanse — a mingling of the cloudy climate of London and the many plumes of black and grey smoke raising from business and dwelling alike. Below the city is a flow of narrow-streets and alleys — never-ending-tributaries weaving in and out, only stopping to meet the countryside or the harbor. Perhaps frustrating for many will be that we don’t get to explore as much of the fantastic setting as we would like. For The Order, the city is simply a character, it needs no development, even a cursory understanding of history, or the briefest amount of time spent in the game simply looking around, will inform you about this character. Yes, it’s a character and it’s here to inform the story — to give us a guideline — another layer of framing for our journey.

The story is most effective with some knowledge beyond the world of gaming, however it’s not required. A large portion of the title takes place in Whitechapel, which is the real-life location of the mysterious Jack the Ripper murders. This historical horror is interwoven into the storyline seamlessly, choosing one of the popular theories of the Ripper’s origin and running with it. The East India Trading Company, another important piece of history is even more so at the forefront of our tale. Their interest in establishing outposts throughout the world, and their enforcement of policies and security carried out by their own private military forces is a key cog in this story’s wheels.

Ready at Dawn attempts to throw some curveballs at us, but as an audience that has seen almost every scenario played out, a fair amount of players will have, at least generally, figured out where the plot will go prior to the end. The Order’s chief mandate is to fight the half-breeds – which they have been doing for centuries. This has been their goal ever since King Arthur founded their group. Thus the tradition has carried forward – each individual earning a full knighthood takes a seat at the council and a name of Arthurian lineage. Our leads are Lady Igraine, Sir Percival, knight-in-training Marquis Lafayette, and the player-controlled character Sir Galahad né Grayson.

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Galahad follows the lead of long-time mentor Sir Percival, and their latest investigation sees the group investigating half-breeds and disappearances in Whitechapel. This task also has them crossing paths with the rebels who have recently taken up arms against the East India Company and thus, are enemies of the Knights because their order supports the crown’s endeavors in all ways. However, as it is with any war in reality, motives tend to lean towards the clandestine, and the line between good and evil, right and wrong is a blurred one as best.  There are the moments of betrayal, the enemy who would become a friend, capture and escape and a number of familiar happenings throughout. The story would feel cliche in spots if it weren’t for the excellent presentation.

Perhaps its biggest sin in this regard are the questions left unanswered. Without giving too much away, there are several relationships left in a precarious position to say the least as the story closes. The queen is mentioned in passing, but is never seen or heard from — the fact that this is mentioned in the game point to it having some significance possibly further down the line. While the backstory of the main characters is mostly there, I found that I never learned enough about Nikola Tesla (who provides all the gadgets and weapons), or his motivations within the larger narrative structure. There will also be some people that take issue with what is a non-traditional ending in the scope of the gaming world. It provides finality, but only in the short-term, there is still much to be uncovered and explained in the larger sense. In many ways it’s akin to a seasonal cliff-hanger ending in a television drama.

Once presented with an amazing world and a quality story, all I need from gameplay is a few things. First, the gameplay must be functional and relatively bug-free. My experience was devoid of glitches – the closest I came were two instance of frame chugging: one in a single brief firefight – the other strangely throughout the end credits, and a singular instance of a poor rag doll falling position – more amusing than anything. Second, it can’t detract from presentation. Ready at Dawn’s aspect ratio and cover-system lead to some very difficult viewing angles. I fully accept these as design choices – they make the narrow-space battles feel claustrophobic, but seem to open up in larger areas. The reality also is that it’s more realistic — leaning behind and peaking out from cover will rarely provide such a wide field of view as seen in many games. Still the cover isn’t for everyone and I had issues with it from time-to-time, particularly when I wanted to transfer from any two cover areas that were not strictly parallel with each other. The Third and final thing I want is enough time and reason to use the gameplay elements I’m given — this is where The Order has the most trouble.

The Order 1886.Still041

There are several interesting weapons, and the game has it’s own version of bullet-time known as Blackwater Sight. The problem with the former is that each time you receive a new weapon of minor or mass destruction from the mind of Tesla, your time with it feels very limited. Though there are ammo pickups at beneficial locations, it’s ingrained in many a gamer to simply grab a new weapon the moment ammo has run out. The shortness of some of the chapters also automatically forces weapon transitions, which doesn’t help. The issue with Blackwater Sight, is that although the game reminds you how to play itself – and this is its most annoying aspect by far — with on-screen prompts, I only remember it telling me how to use the Sight power one time — the 1st time it’s used in-game. Consequently, I went through nearly the entirety of the game never using — or in all honesty needing — it again.

This is the moment where the length-argument naysayers earn some credibility. My full playthrough, as an experienced player on normal difficulty was seven hours, not the five that has been bandied about since pre-release. Do I feel that the game wasn’t long enough? Only in the context of not getting enough time to play with the wonderful toys given to me. This is probably also the reason that we are not given a huge variety of enemy types, though it feels like an acceptable amount in this context. I am fine with the narrative pacing and the way the game ends. It provides an immediate closure for a specific moment and then immediately has me wanting more. I loved my time in Neo-Victorian London and with its interesting characters and weaponry. I wish I had more of it – but I think that’s the point, we are meant to want more, and I hope we get it.

I would be remiss not to mention the sounds of The Order. Sound effects are as detailed as the visuals — appropriately weighty where needed, with subtle touches throughout. The voice acting is of high quality here – actors give real life and personality to their digital counter-parts. For me, with film and with narrative-driven games, the final touch that ties everything together is the music. Jason Graves’ musical compositions cover the full range – the chords jab at our ears, quick, deliberate and driven as combat reaches its apex, and then float through our heads, a sort of lament matching the gloom of our surroundings during slower moments, key tones pique our interest as we struggle to understand the expanding enigma encompassing London. All of these traits can be experienced in the singular co-composed track which was done with Austin Wintory, The Knights’ Theme.

My experience with The Order 1886 was quite enjoyable, I see myself going back to the game to finish off a few trophies and give the harder difficulty a go. Beyond that, this is a game that I will treat much as I do an enjoyable film or novel, or any number of the many games I have played over the years which focused on adventure and story — one that I will return to occasionally to experience again. The Order, much like many firsts in a series has flaws, but for this player, the positives far out-weigh the negatives. Now that the world, its characters and the core mechanics have been established, I am excited to see where things could go from here.

The Order 1886 is a PS4 exclusive title. This review was played from a personal copy of the game. No review copy was provided.

[taq_review]

James Schumacher
Freelance writer and used-to-be artist based out of the Pacific Northwest. I studied Game Art & Design in college. I have been writing web content for the last 6 years, including for my own website dedicated to entertainment, gaming & photography. I have been playing games dating back to the NES era. My other interests are film, books and music. I sometimes pretend to be great at photography. You can find me on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, 500px, DeviantArt and elsewhere under my nick: JamesInDigital.

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33 Comments

  1. I am open to answering any questions or debating any elements from my experience with the game as long as we can keep it civil. If I get enough questions or need to expand on my thoughts further, we’ll make a separate story for it. I wanted to add that only a small number of us at OnlySP have played the game and while we didn’t agree on the overall product, ranging from average to borderline great, we did agree that a multitude of the scores feel abnormally low and the backlash feels unwarranted in many aspects.

  2. Pointless review. It won’t get pass the 70 scale on Metacritic. Poor game is poor. Poor gamers were placing pre-order just because of marketing hype done by Sony, what a bunch of sheeple. Reviews embargo was a telling, the Order was overrated.

    1. Ah, what logic from a mind who has not experienced that of which it speaks. We should all have such insight and acuity to perform such dizzying mental acrobatics.

      1. Dont talk about dizzying mental acrobaitcs with your sony fanboyism and microsoft hating history.

        1. I’m not familiar with acrobaitcs….but if you are, I think that pretty much says it all. Good luck with that. And the next time you feel the need to add your pointless drivel to a conversation, at least make sense son. Now go get mommy to wipe up, you’re leaking.

          1. You are not familiar, but you perfectly describe them.

            Damn the shillnig is insane, i bet you liked knack too.

    2. Here’s the problem with Metacritic and the reviews on this game in general. I get this game is not perfect. I also appreciate the weak and strong points listed above…. I appreciate those like IGN or Jimquisition who didn’t like it as much as this review and gave it 6.5 out of 10… but the “game websites” that have given it a 1 our of 5 or 25 out of 100… who are you kidding? I mean I can see this game sitting around a 7.5 out of 10. Giving that some love it and give it high 8’s to low 9’s and some think hey it’s technically great, but has flaws, so I give it a low 6.

      The ridiculous thing is that this game now sits on Metacritic and would have me believe by comparative scores, that at 65, The Order: 1886 is only 1% point higher than Tiny Brains… and 1% not as good as the Zuma rip off, Sparkle 2. Think about that for a moment and tell me how that makes ANY sense.

      Games that get a 1 or 2 out of 5 are horribly broken or just flat out don’t even work… I’m thinking Basement Crawl. Anyone who can look me in the face and try to say this game has equal value to Basement crawl in their review… you are simply full of crap.

    3. Why would anyone care what average it gets on metacritic? I care only that it’s a fun game – which it is. Pre-ordering any game is stupid. Do you think you’re not going to get a copy in the store? They have plenty.

      But if you want to talk mindless sheeple, that’s you sir. You haven’t bothered to play the game and experience what it has to offer. You’ve just heard what others have told you, and parroted it back. I wasn’t tricked. I knew exactly what I was buying, bought the game because of that, and love it.

      If you were older than 15 you’d realize that yes, the bikini counts. The inner parts are all exactly the same. Sometimes the dressing is the only thing that is unique. This game has the best bikini on the beach.

    4. It is sad how people actually thinkg everyone is biased and simply the game wasnt good.

  3. Finally, someone that gets it. Games like this gets crapped on because today’s gamer can’t handle anything more the cookie cutter online multiplayer frag fest. This game is one the best games in a long time and it’s a shame it’s an PS4 exclusive because that already black listed it among all the Xbox gamers as crap and of which are very vocal on all forms of social media giving the game a bad rap.

    1. “This game is one the best games in a long time”

      HAHAHAHAH oh god, he makes fun cookie cutter mp games but this is a cookie cutter sp fest and i find it sad taht you people think everyone who trashes this game is biased a xbot.

      Yes thats why the metacritic score is worse than resident evil 6.

      1. While I am truly honored you took the the time out of your busy schedule to comment on my opinion, let me share some advice with you. The next time you decide to take a break from masturbating, perhaps you should do something more productive than be a complete ass to everyone on the internet… like shave your beard, take a shower, pick up the trash building up around your fat ass.. it help avoid the attraction of mice and other rodents and I’m sure your mother wouldn’t appreciate seeing those when she’s down in the basement changing your sheets.

        1. All that comes from a wookie

          BAHAHHAH

          oh god, projecting much? Go back at your hole jrking off and stroking your beard moron.

          I dont need to make and argument the game has a awful metacritics rating, calling it the best in a long time is all i need to get that you are mentally retarded.

  4. I really enjoyed the game. I completed it over a period of four days, and I found myself often thinking of the game and wanting to get back to it when I wasn’t playing it. I loved the weapons, the lore, the music, the atmosphere, the characters….I only wanted more of everything. I especially wanted more character detail….to know where these particular Knights came from, particularly Igraine and Galahad. Considering they’ve been alive for hundreds of years, there’s alot of story there we don’t know, and we got very little in the way of their motivations and personal histories. I had a great time with the game, and will be playing it through once more….and then I’ll be onto Bloodborne, and anticipating the sequel to The Order.

    1. obviously YOU enjoyed it.

      1. I know you’re not familiar with enjoyment, but you should try it sometime. You might like it, burka.

        1. Burka?

  5. VERY good game, a bit more on the “interactive movie” side but still a good game and superb story/characters… although not worthy of $60, wait for it to drop to <$40.

  6. Excellent review. I literally just finished the game and agree with pretty much everything you said. I was absolutely blown away by how good the game looked. I do wish they could have worked in a bit more gunplay however since as you said, some of the weapons were really fun to use but the opportunity to use them was over all too quickly. It started out slow but really cranked up the story as the game progressed. The main character was a total badass and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m sure Ready At Dawn learned a ton from this process and have no doubt that the next installment will reflect that learning process resulting in an even better game.

    It took me just under 10.5 hours on normal and I got all the trophies except for collecting all the newspapers and cylinders. I do wonder where the hell I missed anything though. Anyway, fun game, insanely beautiful graphics, cool story and some where in the 8’s is where I’d score it as well.

    1. Thanks from your comment… and RCTID!

  7. Great review – haven’t quite finished yet (seven and a half hours in, so am guessing a couple hours or maybe more off) but really enjoying it. It’s not ‘greatness’, but it’s very good, and it’s a credit to this site that it’s not given in to the sheep like mentality of the broader gaming media and hammered it for not being Gears of War 4 in Victorian England.

    1. Greatness will never come and the game does feel exactly like that geasr of war in victorian england but it has too many qtes and too many human enemies.

      1. Says someone who either clearly hasn’t played it (or hasn’t played the Gears games, one of the two), or has the gameplay analytical skills of a two-year old.

        1. “or has the gameplay analytical skills of a two-year old.”

          Yeah ok, cool story kid. You got the same camera, taking cover behind stuff, same ammo boxes that fill your ammo with the weapon icons poping up on the side, you got your lock doors with npcs waiting for you, you got the same enemy spawning and room clearing, its not exactly like gears of war but it has the same gameplay and level design that games from early ps3/x360 times used.

          Dont argue about analyzing gameplay with me kid.

          1. There you have it though – there’s no attention to detail and subtlety in your analysis. The camera in the order, for example, is up closer, the weapon handling markedly different (and there’s no active reload), the pacing is very, very different, the enemy AI is different (gears AI was far more focussed on rushing), and there are no turret sections in The Order. The biggest difference, though, is the pace and rhythm of combat. By all means, consider the two games the same, but it’s the gaming equivalent of saying wine and beer are both the same because they’re both alcoholic drinks.

          2. If you have to dissasemble everything in order to make the game seem diffirent… then you are proving my point. Games are too much alike.

            Next up you gonna claim dying light and shadow of mordor are not obviously copying ubisoft.

            Wake up, games used to be very diffirent in the past, now they just keep making samey games and having to go through the way the guns and ai feel or very specific camera angles proves that games are too much alike. its not like those things can be copied 100% down to the last detail unless its the same guy making them.

          3. Your shtick is getting really old and tired. You have done nothing to prove your point, except vague allusions to “not innovative” enough essentially. Every game cannot innovate, for the most part they have a core formula and the make deviations from that to stand out. This game was billed as cinematic and story-driven from the get-go. Your assertions that is has long cutscenes and quick-time events are redundant at best. You’re either a troll, an Xbot or both. I have been gaming for 30 years on PC and console.

            The Order is a game for those that appreciate story and cinematic sensibilities. Its gameplay mechanics are not innovative, but it is solid in its style, where it adheres to that formula. Its visuals and music stand out, its story is solid, akin to something like the Dark Knight in many ways. Its gameplay you can call average if you would like. Everything here was designed with specificity and purpose. If you would actually like to discuss the game and/or any points I have made, please do so. If you want to continue to troll this post, other posts on The Order at other sites (yes I see you), and other stories we have published, you will be banned. Period.

            Your specific brand of ignorance is the most dismaying as it is willfully self-inflicted; you choose to troll and be ignorant rather than carry on a conversation. I have no problem if you dislike the game. Your explanations are near zero though, after I spent more than 2,000 words explaining my position. Be an adult, debate the merits or lack-thereof in your mind or kindly shut up.

          4. Can’t you just ban this person. By not eliminating the people that constantly go around from website to website poisoning the well just allows more of this worthless toxic behavior.

          5. I did ban him after his latest round of crappy comments.

  8. Great review James and I like your writing style. I wasn’t sure about getting this game but I’m going to give it a try after I finish Dying Light.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate it. The game is not for everybody. But as an experience and as the first in what hopefully will be a series, I think it does well. Just remember that it is exactly what they said it would be, a cinematic-style, story-driven game.

  9. After finishing it last week I still think about playing it again. The graphics, the story, gameplay… it was all so well done and far more memorable than a lot of games I have played through recently. Sadly, I will NOT be replaying because I can’t skip the cut scenes and there are far too many to sit through a second time. I really hope the dev issues some sort of patch to allow skipping these.

    1. I wouldn’t count on it. I’m pretty sure the lack of loading times are hidden within pre-loading during the the cutscenes. I have been too busy to go back for my second playthrough, but will be doing so soon. I may stream it.

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