The Average Gamer

The Order 1886 Review (PS4)

The Order: 1886_20150214132713
They shoulda made a movie.

When playing The Order: 1886, I constantly felt caught in a struggle with Ready At Dawn (Okami, Daxter) over control of the game. They tell you when you can walk, when you can run. They take over for a cut-scene, make you walk 10 metres to QTE a door open, then wrest control back for some more dialogue. You’re given a fancy gun but little suitable ammo, so you’re forced to scavenge another gun from an enemy. Then they let you play with a fancy gun that shoots lightning or ignites thermite powder, but only for a minute or two, before whisking you into another cut-scene and leaving your new toy behind. Here’s a sniper rifle, we’re shooting from the balcony now.

It’s mostly a cover-shooter, but then you hit two segments where protagonist Galahad simply refuses to snap into cover. It’s like they switched from run-and-gun to cover-shooter early in development and one level designer simply didn’t get the memo. Maybe hid it from his or her QA team. Still, there are worse sections, like the bit in the warehouse where werewolves charge at you but your fat head gets in the way of aiming. Also the room where there are plenty of pillars and cover, all of which leaves you exposed on both sides.

The Order: 1886 feels like it wanted to be Uncharted set in Victorian London. You have a wonderful setting, lengthy, beautiful cut-scenes, climbing, vaulting, hiding and interminable gun battles. Shame they failed to write any people or create decent battles.

The Order: 1886_20150215011806Sure, there are plenty of characters. There’s the mildly flirtatious/creepy Frenchman soldier buddy, the strong woman who doesn’t achieve anything, the dramatic woman who refuses to explain anything, and a bunch of uptight, middle-aged men who trade po-faced plot exposition. Expect such memorable lines as “Remember, we are infiltrating the flagship of the United India Company.” Also “The path looks clear of guards” in an empty room and “The guards have not noticed our entrance” when you sneak past a group, as if you couldn’t tell by the lack of being shot in the face.

My personal favourite was “We do not fight men,” right after shooting a dozen asylum escapees to death. Foreshadowing the supernatural turn of events, perhaps? Nah. It was immediately followed up by shooting a dozen rebels, all human. This is a game with werewolves (or Lycans, as they’re called) and knights with amazing weaponry and a big round table. Yet, you spend a significant portion of it shooting waves and waves of increasingly powered-up rebels, without being entirely sure what they’re rebelling against, nor why you disagree with them.

This is a fundamental problem. It desperately wants to be story-driven but even over the length of a TV mini-series, the game fails to establish relationships, motivations or any sense of the world’s morality. We’re expected to believe that this person is a friend and this person is a foe, purely because our intrepid Sir Galahad says so. It’s just event after event, while the lengthy conversations hints at points that are never resolved or fully explained.

The Order: 1886_201502160208501886 London is beautiful, filled with incredible details and developers Ready At Dawn want to make damn sure that you appreciate each and every one. Hoping to run 10 metres across the room to the glowy HUD on that desk? NOPE. This area is a designated walking zone. LOOK AT THE SCENERY. Those pretty, collectable pictures littered about the place have no consequence anyway. You can pick them up, twiddle them about in your hand a la LA Noire and then put them down again. Unlike the audio logs also lying around, they don’t unlock in a gallery for later. They’re just there. Touchable scenery. At one point I went off the beaten path, discovered a side-room and picked up a tea caddy. Looked at it. Put it down and went back to business.

The game has plenty of nice touches in battle. Fighting through a kitchen was pretty spectacular, as pots and pans pinged off their racks and bounced around the room. Shotgunning an enemy soldier in the face received an “Aw, fuck. His brains are everywhere!” and these lines are rarely overused. The level of polish on animations, combat shouts and environments is incredible and finally, this feels like a leap forward from the previous generation. It’s a shame that story and combat fail to live up to this promise.

The Order: 1886_20150215223918The Order 1886 is very pretty. It’s also woefully dull. There are a few very cool set-pieces but these don’t make up for the lack of engaging story or battle.

Give me characters I can identify with, or characters I can laugh at, or at least characters that I can agree or disagree with. Give me a plot that takes a character on a journey he actually learns from. Let me explore. Let me figure things out for myself. Let me play.

The Order: 1886 is a PS4-exclusive launching on 20th February.

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