The Order: 1886 Review
The Order: 1886 is a single-player third-person shooter that combines Arthurian legends with steampunk machinery. Since its release, the game has received mixed reviews, with scores ranging from 20 to 95 out of 100, and an overall Metascore of 6.5/10. Despite the relatively weak reviews, however, the game has sold well and remained popular among fans, debuting at No. 1 in the UK retail software sales chart. While it is by no means perfect, The Order is well worth a playthrough.
The game is set in a fantastical alternate universe in London, 1886. You play as Sir Galahad, a centuries-old defender of justice, as part of an elite order of knights to battle against rebels and half-breeds for control, all while uncovering political strife and dark conspiracies. Your weapons of choice are not swords and axes, but rather pistols, rifles, and other steampunk-influenced weapons inspired by Nikola Tesla. The game wastes little time explaining its backstory, instead letting you piece together the history of the knights and their roles as you go along.
The Order is quite possibly the most visually appealing console game ever, and is a testament to what’s possible with the PS4. Textures, facial animations, lighting, clothing, particles, and so on are all impeccable, raising the bar for the next generation of games. The Order uses an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the same ratio used in theaters, which offers a truly cinematic experience when played at full resolution. Indeed, the game plays like an interactive movie, with seamless switches between gameplay and cutscenes – without loading screens – while keeping the richness of the graphics in-tact.
Outside of the graphics, the characters and the atmosphere of the game contribute to an immersive experience. It’s clear from the outset that the developers, Ready at Dawn, strived to make The Order’s characters as realistic as possible through their actions and behaviors. This realism is supported by amazing voice acting and synchronization. The richly detailed environment brings life to the world you’re in: From the filthy Underground tunnels to the misty streets of Whitechapel to the marvels of the airship Agamemnon, design is top-notch throughout, and you may find yourself marveling at the scale in-game.
The entire gameplay lasts roughly 7 hours, and is largely driven by its narrative. There are no side-quests and little room to explore outside of the pre-established storyline, an unfortunate consequence of the game’s short runtime. Still, the game is paced well and manages to squeeze a good amount of variety in. Some scenes instil a sense of worry and dread as you make your way down a dim corridor, unsure of what to expect. Other times, the game slows down to allow the player to simply take in the vastness of the landscape. The varied action is also great, with a mix of combat, stealth, and quick time events to keep you engaged.
When not in narrative-mode, The Order relies mostly on combat scenes. Enemy soldiers are aggressive, forcing you to take cover behind crates and avoid getting flanked while you chip away at their health. Additionally, you’ll face showdowns against beastly half-breeds or lycans. These fights can be exciting and rewarding, as the lycans’ hit-and-run attacks are fast and unpredictable, forcing you to dodge and take down as they dart in and out of view. There are a couple of close-combat encounters that allow you to be creative in how you move or attack and defend when necessary. Each blow is accompanied by a cinematic shot of it landing or turned away, and is unlike anything currently out there. The occasional stealth sequences run smoothly and are a nice mix-up to the combat scenes. Quick time events pop up frequently, which include timed button presses to settle melee conflicts, lock-picking mini-games, and pushing boxes into place to climb onto places. These action scenes may not exactly be innovative, but they work well in the context of the game to advance the story.
At the end of the game, some loose ends are left hanging, but it’s clear The Order is a series-establishing game. We will likely see a sequel(s) that will offer a better and more fleshed-out experience, while tying up the loose ends.
All in all, if you’re a fan of story-driven games and appreciate the technical aspects of a game, The Order is well worth the playthrough. It’s an exciting spectacle in a fantasy setting that is beautiful, well-acted, and runs well. While it may not satisfy everyone, it is still a remarkable game that will bring you on a journey, and is a showcase for what the PS4 can really do.