Note: This review was written not long after the release of The Order: 1886 in early 2015. Please keep this in mind as you read through the review. Thank you!
Here’s the recipe – Take a meticulously detailed alternate version of the city of London, including locations like Westminster and Big Ben, Whitechapel and the London Underground. Add the Knights of the Round Table aka The Order, who almost gain immortality with a substance known as Blackwater. Throw in some beastly creatures known as Half Breeds who are at war with the Knights of The Order. Add some firepower in the form of revolutionary steampunk style weapons, a pinch of other details for the history nerds – characters such as Nikola Tesla, mention of Jack the Ripper, zeppelins, fantastic Victorian costume design and moustaches. So many moustaches. Season with some of the best graphics next-gen has to offer. Play for around 8 hours and there you have it, The Order: 1886. Delicious! But not necessarily to everybody’s tastes. Let’s talk about why this game has some people screwing up their nose in distaste.
Before we continue, I’d like to take a moment to think of the most popular titles of late. I’ll give you a second to think about it. All done? I’m willing to bet that the majority of games that came to mind were shooters, of the first person variety. Every new release in the FPS genre promises to be the next new thing, and some almost live up to that promise but at the end of the day, they’re all still cut from the same cloth. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, why reinvent the wheel or fix something if it isn’t broken? But The Order: 1886 presents us with something new.
The main area in which this game excels is visually. The Order: 1886 really demonstrates the performance of the PlayStation 4, and of course that was intentional. There is no doubt that Sony wants to show the world that their next generation contender is a graphical powerhouse. The game is about as realistic as it gets, you really couldn’t ask for much more in terms of visual presentation. The Order: 1886 leaves no detail unconsidered. Victorian London jumps out of the pages of history books and comes alive on your screen. This game would be flawless if graphics was all we judged a game on.
What else does The Order: 1886 have going for it, you ask? The ability to tell a damn good story. The art of telling an interesting story has been shoved aside in favour of the never-ending cycle of almost identical games with a different title every year. There is where The Order: 1886 is making a difference. The focus is being brought back to telling a story. The cinematic feel of the game makes it feel like a hybrid of movie and game, an interactive film. And it looks absolutely stunning. The gameplay may be simple, but the controls don’t need to be complex to work well. I felt far too absorbed into the story to care that I wasn’t executing complicated commands on my DualShock 4. It was almost like respite for my controller to take a break from massive amounts of button mashing.
One of the biggest complaints about this title has been about the lack of control and the quick time events. The key to enjoying The Order: 1886 is as simple as approaching the game with an open mind. Don’t insert the disc into your console, ready to compare it to everything else you have played in the past few months. The Order: 1886 is a new breed of game. The majority of the gameplay is walking, exploring, finding items, solving the occasional puzzle, cover-based shooting and battling larger foes with the use of QTE. At no time did I feel like I wasn’t in control of the game. There is no true ‘boss battle’ but there is no rule stating that a boss battle is a requirement. Some of the shooting sections were challenging enough, especially if you bump up the difficulty. But all in all, The Order: 1886 is an easy game. But this doesn’t stop it from being fun. If you can settle into a couple of hours of gameplay, this game is immersive, endlessly interesting and loads of fun.
I will continue to praise The Order: 1886, but I can’t deny the facts – yes, this game is very short. It can easily be completed – Platinum trophy and all – in the amount of time the average adult spends at work in one day. Replay value? Slim to none. Multiplayer? Zip. Online co-op? Nada. But The Order: 1886 doesn’t need any of these features to be successful. They have become so common in recent games that players have come to expect them. This game works better without them. If you take this game for what it is, and don’t compare it to anything else, it’s a wonderful piece of artistry. If you haven’t picked up a copy of The Order: 1886 due to the heavy amount of criticism the game has received, cast that aside and decide for yourself. If you want to kick back with a beautiful game that you can polish off over one weekend, The Order: 1886 is for you.