The Order: 1886 Review

The titular Order is group of knights who passed their titles down from King Arthur’s court. You play as Sir Galahad, tasked with defending steampunk England from rebel incursions and werewolves and… rebel werewolves.

The most striking thing about the Order is its visual presentation. It’s an incredible-looking game. Character models are detailed and expressive, environments are dense and full of detail, and scenes are perfectly lit to emphasize every aspect of the game’s technical prowess. The transitions between cutscene and gameplay are seamless, and the animation is just as incredible through both scripted and interactive sequences.the-order-1886-screen-08-ps4-us-16jun14

And it’s not just technical prowess that makes the Order look so good. There’s a very restrained, very personal style to the cinematography, where characters are always large in frame, and we don’t cut away for the sake of sweeping vistas or big action scenes. Even in the game’s most action-y encounters, there’s a lack of bombast that’s very refreshing. This is a game about individual voices booming out in stone hallways. The solemn dignity of ancient orders and the weight of history powers an incredible sense of atmosphere.the-order-1886-screen-01-ps4-us-05feb15

As for how it plays, well… Run down the checklist of everything a modern AAA game is supposed to have. Shooting! Cover! Shooting from behind cover! Normal weapons! Crazy weapons! Quick time events! Ledges! Audio logs! Slow-walking during conversations! Stealth levels! If all this sounds boring and uninspired, that’s because it is. A game like Uncharted can get away with merely pedestrian mechanics by offering crazy, exciting situations in which to use them–but the Order’s visual fidelity inherently limits the action to rooms and hallways, and the largest an environment ever gets is a small courtyard. There aren’t any additional modes or difficulty levels–there isn’t enough mechanical depth to support them. The game’s a linear ride from beginning to end without a single stop to make along the way.

But all that would be forgivable if it were in service of a good narrative. The game opens with all kinds of promising mysteries, and sets to exploring them in an interesting setting. The highlight of the game for me was an early encounter with a powerful werewolf–while it was all quick time events, the mystery of not knowing what these creatures were capable of or even the nature of the world made the scene very effective. From there… Well, a five minute cutscene explains every mystery of the setting, and the game then sets to work delivering the most boring and predictable plot of recent memory. Yes–I’m saying it’s bad by video game standards. There’s death! And revenge! And betrayal! And every single moment, every single plot turn is so completely obvious that it sucks the life out of what seemed like an interesting setting and reduces the game to a sad collection of tropes and stereotypes.the-order-1886-screen-02-ps4-us-05feb15

There are things I like about the Order–the setting is unique and the visuals and atmosphere are so well-realized that it made me want forget about the game’s other failures. But those failures are too great to ignore. There’s simply no substance–the gameplay is supremely limited in service of telling a story, but then that story is limited in its own way. Ultimately, this is a story-driven game that doesn’t have a story to tell. The campaign is a short six hours long, but even that is more of your time than the Order deserves.

The Order: 1886 Review

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