As the release of The Order: 1886 drew near, a leaked video on YouTube providing a complete run through the game sparked a lively debate; a debate that continues on even after the game’s launch. Given the relatively short time it takes to reach the final credits, the issue of The Order’s length has been discussed and contemplated endlessly. Does a title that can be completed within seven hours justify a full release? Developers Ready At Dawn seem to think so, but the public seems more hesitant.
After running through the game a couple of times, I find myself in a quandary with The Order. I have developed a soft spot for the game, but there are some infuriatingly outdated design choices that I just cannot get past.
Starting positively, the story is not terrible. In fact, the impressive cinematic style and excellent voice acting elevate an otherwise bland plot. The Order takes place in an alternate take on Victorian London. Here, an order of knights dating back to King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table protects the populace from ‘half-breeds’; werewolves with bestial strength. You take the role of Sir Galahad, a man whose temper is as impressive as his moustache. To aid your cause, the industrial revolution has brought technological research to the field of combat, helped out in no small part by a young Tesla who gifts you with electricity guns and thermite rifles. While often trite, the plot is helped along in no uncertain terms by its production values.
The game showcases exceptional visual fidelity, and is graphically pushing more envelopes than a workaholic postman who gets paid per letter. The Order is resplendent with amazing production values, from its artwork to its voice acting, far surpassing anything seen on the PS4 to date. There are no noticeable low-res objects in this game, with breathtaking detail poured into every inch of the screen. Even more impressive are the animations, with no clipping and seamless transitions from cutscenes to gameplay. On a technical level, everything comes together just right to create one of the most cohesive visual experiences that you could ever wish for. If this game had been released around the launch of the PS4, not only would it have proven the power that lurks within Sony’s console, but it would have proven to be a graphical showcase in the same way that Ryse was for the Xbox One. Similarly to Ryse, however, once you look past the visuals, the cracks start to appear.
The Order has what can only be described as a ‘look but don’t touch’ aesthetic. Ready At Dawn have a world that they want to show you, and they limit your involvement in it to a maddening degree. The game comprises of 16 chapters, several of which are simply cutscenes that don’t require you to press a single button. In the chapters where you are required to participate, The Order will often wrestle control from you while a character explains something. In the same way that Gears of War often does, the game will force you to walk slowly through a section while some of the plot is revealed. While this is possibly done for technical reasons to hide loading screens, The Order differs from Gears of War in that Gears willingly explains a lot of its story through dialogue while the action is taking place, whereas The Order’s action grinds to a halt far too often. Both games even feature communicators that other characters use to speak to you while on the move, so there’s no real reason why The Order couldn’t flesh out its story while giving you something to do at the same time.
Comparing the game to Gears of War is obvious since they are both linear cover shooters. Mechanically, the shooting sections in The Order match up to its Xbox counterpart in that the controls are responsive, the guns are varied and fun to use, and leaping in and out of cover works like a charm. However, The Order often sees fit to break up the action with infuriating quick time events.
In this regard, The Order sometimes resembles another game from the last generation, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End. Pirates was full of short action sequences that were tied together with annoying quick time events, serving to keep the player engaged during story sections. Unfortunately for both games, their overuse of QTEs merely serves to frustrate, especially with some of the small opportunity windows available for those with less-than-stellar reaction times.
If that wasn’t damning enough, the really exasperating parts of The Order arrive in the form of insta-fail stealth sections. In a game that explains at length why getting shot isn’t an immediate death sentence for Sir Galahad and his knights (serving as a handy plot device in a game where you will get shot often), having you instantly die the moment someone notices you in a stealth section just doesn’t make sense. Not only is it cognitively dissonant, it is a truly terrible design choice, and has no place in a game released in 2015.
Despite Sir Galahad gang’s preoccupation with hunting werewolves, the game features surprisingly few of them. That’s quite lucky since the Lycan sections are boring as hell, consisting mostly of werewolves that run in straight lines for you to shoot. There are also a few moments where you fight werewolves through the medium of QTEs which, while they look amazing, are not all that fun to play through. With so many annoying moments piling up, you’re most likely to stick around for the small glimmers of gunplay, or the story itself. A story which, much like the rest of The Order, has its own problems.
In the middle act, whereas most games start to expand their mechanics and give the player more freedom once they’ve learned the basics of the game, The Order contracts. Just as soon as you’ve grown accustomed to the controls, the game takes control away by forcing drawn out cutscenes and further quick time events on you. In this manner, The Order’s otherwise interesting story starts to suffer from pacing issues, making you watch council deliberations at a point where you’d expect the narrative to really hit its stride. It’s almost like Ready At Dawn don’t fully trust you with their beautifully crafted world, allowing you to glimpse it rather than play with it. It appears that they’ve spent most of the production crafting a world, and then hurriedly tacked a game onto it.
The sad fact is, while you as a player may be begging to play The Order, The Order plays itself for much of its runtime. By the time those final credits roll, you won’t feel like the game has been cut short. Given the mechanics on display, you’ll actually feel like adding length to the game would have drawn it out and made it a tedious, exasperating affair. In my opinion, The Order’s length is inconsequential, and the game finishes at its finest moment. Its length is not the main problem, but its girth certainly leaves something to be desired.