When the first gameplay trailers for The Order: 1886 came out, gamers worldwide were thrilled. Here was a cool-looking game which had werewolves, fantastic weapons and immortal knights!
And now The Order: 1886 is finally out, and it turns out the entire game is a gameplay trailer. All of the things that you were excited for in the gameplay trailer appear for a blink of an eye or don’t make an appearance at all. What you get instead is a ham-fisted story which plays out over endless cut scenes, quick time events and uninspired combat. To top it all, the ending is an atrocious cliffhanger. Of all the things you thought The Order: 1886 might be, boring certainly wasn’t one of them. And yet, that is exactly what the game is – boring.
There is old-school Arthurian mythology and third person action, and somehow the developers have managed to turn it into a generic, cliché-ridden steampunk game. The year is 1886 and you play one of the Knights of the Round Table called Grayson, also known as Galahad. There’s trouble brewing – civil unrest is on the rise and the common folk have begun consorting with a breed of werewolves. There are zeppelins floating by in the sky, and they’re so common that nobody seems to think twice about them. And you have Tesla. Yes, Nikola Tesla himself is your armorer. If ever there was a more promising premise to base a game upon, you would have to think long and hard to find it. It is nothing short of a gaming tragedy that the developers have created a dull and drab story around it.
But what about the werewolves, you might ask. Surely, any game that involves killing werewolves with innovative weapons couldn’t be dull? Well, the game certainly hints at delivering on that promise by presenting you with some werewolf action early in the game. You shoot them, stab them and move on. And then, inexplicably, the game chooses to cast them aside entirely for several hours in the story, until it revisits the werewolf story in a few brief, horribly contrived sequences; not the least of which is the climax. The game spends no time in explaining why the werewolves are here, how they came to be, or even why any human would ever join hands with a feral rice like the lycans. It’s as if Developers Ready at Dawn pulled up a bunch of cool things they’d like to put in their game and then inserted them into the plot without rhyme or reason.
Instead, the game chooses to focus on the least interesting aspects of the story – the Knights of the Round Table. They sit around their aforementioned table and pontificate and ponder the trivial details of the nature of the rebellion. These sequences make up a majority of the game. While the voice acting is uniformly fantastic, the actors can’t elevate weak character development and a generic plot. The soundtrack is also excellent, elevating the sequences in the game above lackluster levels. But both of these things can’t save a game which makes the climax a quicktime event. There are loads of questions left unanswered. If the developers needed to make a sequel, they should have ensured that the first game in the series won’t kill any goodwill the hype had gathered. It’s an abrupt and contrived end which will leave you feeling cheated, especially because the journey to the ending hasn’t been too satisfactory either.
For a premise with so much fantastic weaponry, The Order: 1886 features a shocking number of quicktime events. Characters walk around, stumble into situations, you press a button which gets you out of said situation, and then the characters sit around in a room and discuss what happened. There’s a little bit of shooting in between. When shooting games force a character to walk with their weapon holstered, it’s usually for the purpose of building narrative tension. Take Max Payne 3 or the Tomb Raider reboot, for example. Here, the characters walk around because the game needs them to walk around to deliver exposition or make their way to the next quicktime event.
The parts of the game where you have to look around you to find objects of interest is even more frustrating. You walk up to an object, pick it up and put it down. You do this until the game points out an item of interest to you, or a new event is triggered. You’ll look at old photographs, story fillers and other trinkets. Yes, we get it, the object models are good looking. But why would you make your players meander around a room looking at what is basically a tech demo?
To its credit, the visuals in The Order: 1886 are consistently fantastic. The color palette that the developers have chosen works beautifully for the game. Weapon sprites, gunshots and explosions all look amazing. Characters react realistically when shot and even move like people in the real world would. Rooms are lit beautifully and are adorned with small details which make the shadows even more pleasing to the eye. The faces of the characters are animated realistically, with disdain, pain and elation clearly etched into the models.
When the game focuses on the action, it has moments where it shines. Unfortunately, a gigantic part of the game just features walking, examining, talking and quicktime events. For all its clever cinematography and beautiful explosions, the game fails to do justice to the plot. When you’re handling one of the many guns in the game, you can see glimpses of what this game could have been. The Order: 1886 is a confusing mess of a game. Were the developers trying to make this a movie franchise?
The Order: 1886 is occasionally entertaining and delivers moments of brilliance. On the whole however, the experience is decidedly boring. This is a game which seems to be comfortable aspiring to be mediocre, and that, with such a promising plot, is a travesty.