Disclaimer: Just a friendly reminder that this review is entirely my opinion. Your experiences may radically differ and that’s a-okay. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, that would be ludicrous. If you’re wondering about whether to get the game or not then I hope this helps, regardless of what you choose. Enjoy!
I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Order: 1886. On one hand, it looked like it had a lot of potential to be a killer PS4 exclusive. On the other hand, previews from those who’d actually played it always seemed to question whether it was just a fancy looking tech demo with thin gameplay. Of course early previews are not necessarily accurate, they offer little more than a loose idea of what the game may be. I was still looking forward to the game but I was perhaps a little cautious now that those who had played it were seemingly a little worried about it as well.
Then word surfaced that the game was allegedly 5 hours long. At this point I retreated into my media blackout bunker. Evidently the game was in the wild now and if I was going to experience the game purely for what it was, then I wanted to go into it fresh. With no outside opinions to saddle me with expectations, I wanted to go in with no idea what it was really like.
So having now completed the game what did I think? I don’t think it’s necessarily a game for everyone, but I sure had a whole lot of fun.
One of the most cinematic games I’ve ever played…
As with the majority of reviews here on the blog, we try keep it spoiler-free. What that means is I’m not going to talk about the plot or give away anything that might be a nice surprise when you play it for yourself. That does mean it can be a little tricky to talk about but I’m sure there are plenty of other reviews out on the net that will happily dissect every facet of the game. Plus y’know, I hear the whole game is on YouTube so there’s always that.
I’ve had a couple of friends say to me over the weekend “Hey, you’re playing The Order: 1886, what’s it like?” and I keep falling back on the same simple answer: “It’s like playing an action movie.” What the hell does that mean? Well it’s one of the most cinematic games I’ve ever played and certainly the most cinematic shooter. Cut scenes and gameplay blend into each other with a seamless motion that’s rarely seen in video games. There’s no pause, change of graphics or dramatic camera angle shift when it’s back to being your turn. Instead the game just eases you back into gameplay. There was one segment where I was sat there waiting for the character to act before realising that the game was equally waiting for me to tell the character what to do.
This cinematic element is more than just transitional gameplay, it fuels the story and the whole presentation of the game. The Order has some quite lengthy cutscenes but they flow so well I never felt like they were dragging on. I suppose a good analogy is that playing The Order is like watching a TV show where you take control of the action segments. Some games feel like levels strung together by expositional cutscenes, but here the whole game feels like a complete seamless package. It’s one experience, most parts you control and some parts you don’t. In hindsight I expect that may irk some people who are wanting to have more control, but honestly it just didn’t bother me.
Okay so that’s a lot of prattling on about cinematic this and that, how does it play? Pretty good. Immediately I had to crank up the movement sensitivity as it felt painfully sluggish but as soon as I did any problems I had just washed away. It’s a cover shooter in essence; you hide behind walls and take out enemies by shooting at them. There are plenty of different weapons to choose from with most fitting the usual mould, rifles, shotguns, machine guns etc. You can carry one main weapon and one sidearm along with your grenades. Simple enough, right? There are some enemies that keep you on your toes however, not everyone is going to sit behind a fence firing off shots when you pop your head out. It’s never that complicated to manage a fight, but there are occasions where you have to think a bit more tactically than just digging in and letting loose.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn the game has regenerating health, considering it’s not 1997 anymore. But on top of this when you’ve soaked up too many bullets and get knocked down, you do have one chance to recover. You can get back on your feet after a few seconds of recovery assuming you don’t sustain any new damage. I enjoyed this addition as it meant if I screwed up I wasn’t slapped with instant death, I had a chance to bring it back. Yet you can’t do this every time, if you’ve only just recovered and someone pops you in the face with a shotgun blast then you will be reloading that fight. It’s a small footnote about the game but it does a lot to keep your frustration level down.
In between the shootouts you also spend some time wandering and sneaking around. I was a little bit disappointed that there weren’t more opportunities for exploration in these sections. A few hidden pathways would have been a welcome addition, the game often comes across as a bit too uncomfortably linear. That said you aren’t just purely moving in one direction. Keep your eyes open and there are times when you can step off the path for a moment to inspect some hidden items that shed light on the world. Which is nice, because developer Ready At Dawn have crafted quite an interesting setting for The Order.
The graphics are, to cut right to the point, phenomenal…
Set in 1886, which I’m sure you’ve gathered, the game takes that time period in London and spins it into a new direction both technologically and historically. There are nods to real world history but but this is very much an alternative world with far more fantastic elements than your average historical fiction novel contains. As someone who has visited the real world London a couple of times, I have to say that the game really feels like it’s indeed set in London. Any fans of the city will likely get an extra kick at seeing the city recreated in this manner. The Order isn’t really a game about its setting, but the effort they’ve put into creating it is evident and appreciable.
My opinion of the game’s cast changed as time went on. At first they seemed fairly passable but there were an awful lot of grumpy white dudes sitting around that kind of blurred together through my disinterest. As the story developed though characters distinguish themselves and new ones pop up with more complicated motivations and characteristics than just “I’m a surly guy with old timey facial hair”. By the end I was fairly pleased with the cast and my earlier problems had basically evaporated. It’s not the most diverse and fascinating cast, but they’re far from the most dull either.
I can’t talk about the characters without talking about the acting. Oh my, did I enjoy the acting. The uncanny valley this is not, The Order has some of the best facial animation I’ve ever seen in a video game. Brows furrow and lips curl as eyes slowly scan the room, a character tightens their jaw as they suppress raging emotions, just watch a few seconds of a cutscene and the body language and facial expressions of the characters will tell you what’s going on. It’s fantastic to watch and along with the strong voice work it really brings you into the story. The graphics are, to cut right to the point, phenomenal, they deliver the subtle and engaging interactions with stunning fidelity. This is one of the best looking games I have ever played.
The Order feels incredibly polished…
I’m still writing this review in a bit of a vacuum in terms of what the overall critical reception of the game has been. Amusingly I really don’t know what the majority of people made of it in the end, but I think if nothing else this can only help me stay honest. However, I would have to imagine that a big talking point around the game is its length. This is not a very long game but the 5 hour figure I heard people tossing around last week isn’t quite accurate for me, yet it’s not miles away either.
I played the game over 3 sessions each lasting roughly around 3 hours or so. I did crank the game up into hard mode from the get-go which I felt gave me enough resistance so that I didn’t steamroll through it but it was never really very tricky either. If you are planning on getting the game I do recommend putting it on hard mode as I feel that’s the difficulty that the game was actually balanced for, at least if you have any experience with shooters anyway. There were only two segments of the game I found tricky and had to play a few times to finish, but I never came across anything frustratingly difficult. Every time I failed it was on me, I never felt like the game was being cheap or needlessly throwing enemies at me.
On top of the difficulty I did take my time, enjoying the environments and looking for all the extras. If you wanted to charge through the game then I suppose yes, it would be over fast. This is a problem when we’re talking about a game that’s pretty pricey right now. If you’re reading this in the future when the game has dropped in price, then I would say the length isn’t really an issue. Truthfully I think you just have to decide if you can afford it. Do you have enough cash to buy a game that’s over fast but gives you a very fun ride? Go for it. If you can only afford one new game now and again, I suggest holding off and grabbing something that will keep you going instead. No matter how much fun you have, an experience this short will leave you feeling a little regretful, so beware.
However one thing I have to say is that, unlike some other awfully short games I’ve played, The Order is incredibly polished all the way through. I didn’t encounter any glitches or problems with gameplay and only once did I catch a model clipping through an item in a cutscene. So although there may not be a lot of The Order, what’s here has been very carefully crafted and nothing felt rushed.
I do have to mention though that I thought the game needed just one more level. When I was marching through the final level I suspected I was on the penultimate section, so when the credits hit I was a little disappointed as I was ready for one last blast of gameplay, which never arrived. Keep in mind I already suspected that this was a short game.
All I can say is that I very much enjoyed my time with it, brief though it was…
The Order is likely to be a quite divisive game. I can imagine a lot of people struggling with the decision of whether it’s worth purchasing or not. All I can say is that I very much enjoyed my time with it, brief though it was. I really do hope that similar games take cues from The Order and work to fuse their story and the gameplay together, to get them as tightly woven as they are here. I loved that I never felt disconnected from the plot. During the game it often injects cutscenes with little bits of extra gameplay but it felt more natural than the usual quick time events we often see in games. The Order never feels like it’s jarringly shifting between different types of gameplay. As I mentioned above it’s like one smooth experience, you’re given whatever amount of control makes sense for what’s happening on screen. I didn’t think about what I was doing. I was too invested to really notice so I just rolled with it and had a blast.
The Order isn’t a system seller and it’s not quite a must-have, but it is still very fun. The length does complicate things though. If in reading this review you think you’d enjoy this type of game, and you can easily afford to do so, then I suggest picking it up. Otherwise if money is tight I’d wait for a price drop, then give it a go once the price hits a point that you feel comfortable paying for something of this size and scope.
Either way, I really enjoyed playing The Order and I’m already looking forward to running through it again.