GamingReview: The Order 1886

Review: The Order 1886

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There are very few reviews were starting with the visuals makes sense. But The Order makes so much effort to impress that I feel I cannot leave it until the end. Anybody that’s watched footage of or played The Order will know what I mean. I remember playing the preview code and could barely believe what I was seeing. It really is a stunning looking game.

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Strangely it remains just as impressive even when you’ve been playing for a couple of hours straight. I would still see something and stop to take a look and audibly express my shock and excitement of just how good looking it is. There’s usually some desensitisation with graphics like these but that just didn’t happen with The Order. Slightest details like how reflective different surfaces are are never overlooked. Fog is thick but airy and doesn’t reveal itself to be a low res image. Your protagonist, Sir Galahad’s, coat and facial expressions are constantly a delight to watch.

Given these amazing visuals it would not be my decision to cut half of the game out and discard those beautiful pixels. Yes, The Order has a film like letterbox style with black borders constantly showing at the top and bottom of the screen. Great. It doesn’t make it look ‘more cinematic’ it just wastes screen space. In film IMAX is generally too expensive to use but when it is (e.g. The Dark Knight’s prologue) it looks stunning filling up that 16:9 screen. In video games there’s no problem and I desperately hope this letterbox style stops, soon. It’s not cool, it’s not artistic it’s just annoying.

The Order’s party trick also rests on its self confident good looks. This is the first time I’ve had to flick the thumbstick so often to see if the cutscene was over and see if I had control back. Between camera angles and slight alterations in fidelity there’s always a way to tell when a cutscene rolls. Not with The Order. I know it’s superficial but I couldn’t help be impressed every time I was left foolishly pushing buttons during a cutscene. Apart from the completely pointless and terrible QTEs. Who put QTEs in the cutscenes? It’s like they haven’t been paying attention to any game for the last 5 years.

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But the appeal soon wares off after as little as two hours when you realise how little you’ve actually done. Core gameplay is a simple third person shooter. Pick up guns, take cover, aim and shoot. Kill all the enemies, move on to the next area. The AI will attempt to flank you and make advances but not enough to make things exciting. In certain areas destruction adds a dramatic flair to fire fights but is entirely dependant on breakable objects and isn’t a core mechanic. The guns are fun to use but all feel much the same, despite their cool steampunk design.

Finishing an area will prompt someone to say ‘Looks clear’ or something similarly generic and indicate you are free to move on. Unfortunately the problem with the fire fights is that they’re just not that fun. They’re very static and often become a case of sitting down and popping out to kill an enemy as they reload.

Unless you’re fighting werewolves. The first one I fought wasn’t too bad as I blasted away at the encroaching beast. Once you do enough damage it will run off and mysteriously disappear only to reappear moments later running straight at your face while conveniently providing you another opportunity to do ‘x’ damage. Once they’re down you need to run up and press ‘triangle’ to well and truly destroy its heart.

All too soon you start getting trapped in corners and periodically interrupted and damaged by off-screen enemies. Moving the camera slowly to find my enemy made me feel like a very tasty looking piece of meat. Galahad just doesn’t have the mobility to compete and I constantly felt like I was playing a third person action game with overly slow cover mechanics. The third or fourth time I was attacked from off screen and my actions were interrupted to the point were I died frustrations were high.

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You might at this point think The Order will sweep in with a fantastic story and save the day. Sadly it doesn’t. The plot is mainly told through small sections before, after and during actual gameplay where you will be walking to and from objectives. Unable to run all there is to do is listen to the characters’ voiceovers. It’s a great way to build resentment when every time a character starts talking your heart sinks a little as you prepare to walk slowly through another pointless, albeit good looking, street. The plot itself is a little generic but not terrible but it’s told in such a way that makes it completely inaccessible and frankly exhausting.

It’s also a shame to have such beautiful areas with nothing to do. Nothing to do at all. Even the NPCs scattered throughout aren’t really talking and certainly don’t allow for you to go and interact. Picking up collectables and looking at them before placing them back down is the only feeling of connection with environments outside shooting the place up. It’s irritating that such a detailed world has been made so inanimate.

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The Order’s unbelievably gorgeous surface is wafer thin. It’s so good looking you have to see it to believe it. As a technical showcase of what can already be achieved on the PS4 The Order is a huge success. I can only imagine what is going to be possible a few years down the road. But good looks alone aren’t enough. If they were The Order would be a 10/10.

But the narrative is delivered so boringly it’s very easy not to care or even for it to become a drag when a character starts talking. Combat is very static and most of your time will be spent popping out of cover at the right times and waiting for your chance. Combat outside of cover feels like a cover shooter trying to be something it’s not, which is exactly what it tries to do.

Fixed, non-interactive, environments waste entire areas at the expense of telling the story through voiceovers. On screen messages and tutorials are a constant pain too and every time a new concept is introduced (for a one time use) an incredibly patronising prompt will just straight tell you how to handle it. The Order 1886 is a superb technical showcase but just isn’t very fun to play.

SUMMARY

+ Looks incredible
- Totally wasted environments offer no interactivity
- Cover shooting is static and repetitive
- Too rigid to fight out of cover effectively
- Constant patronising tutorial pop-ups
- QTEs in the cutscenes

Only available on PS4.
phillvine
phillvine
Phill has been the director of a small IT repair business since 2011 which he runs alongside studying for his degree in Information and Communication Technologies at the Open University. Video games are his real passion and they take up more of his time than he'd like to admit.

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+ Looks incredible <br /> - Totally wasted environments offer no interactivity <br /> - Cover shooting is static and repetitive <br /> - Too rigid to fight out of cover effectively <br /> - Constant patronising tutorial pop-ups <br /> - QTEs in the cutscenes <br /> <br /> Only available on PS4.Review: The Order 1886