Universally dogged by critics and players alike for being too short, having uninspired gameplay, and feeling more like a read-along book than a video game–The Order: 1886’s hype train stopped just short of Buzzville Station when it released earlier this year. Amid the myriad mixed reactions, we took some time last week to see if the overwhelming contempt for this game was warranted.
Showcasing itself like a laundry list of nearly every played out fantasy trope in cinema and a large array of popular game mechanics from recent action adventure third-person shooters, The Order: 1886 is ambitious in its effort to be “the” full package. Unfortunately, the game delivers its content in disproportionate servings of features that are hard for players to swallow. In particular, there are way too many Quick Time Events, known as QTEs. Quick Time Events are moments in games when the player is presented with an onscreen prompt asking for a timely press of a specific button, and then a small cutscene plays reflecting how well that button press was performed. The developer of this game, Ready at Dawn, made many of the God of War games, and it shows. Taking the imbalance of actual game play to what feels like a movie into consideration, The Order: 1886 is a hard sell for players that want actual things to do. A player will be doing one of the following things at all times during The Order: 1886. There will be long cutscenes to watch. The player will engage in hours of QTEs involving literally every mechanic of the game. Players will look for a door or ledge to click on to access the next area. Sometimes they will play a third-person cover based shooter game against a lot of dudes wearing hats.
The Order: 1886 tries to use all of its elements to elevate the cinematic experience. In that, the game succeeds. The graphic detail and visual style are both amazing. Sound effects are top notch, and the voice acting seems good. The game’s story is put center stage for better and for worse. The setting is a steampunk London, set in the year of 1886. In this alternate universe, dozens of fictional and non-fictional characters from fantasy and history exist in unison within Disney theme park-like vicinity of one another. If you’ve enjoyed living your life not under a rock, you’ll hear a lot of names in this game that sound way too familiar to be coincidences. It’s Forrest Gump meets Van Helsing in this gimmicky name dropping nod to various genre video games, movies, and novels. If you are familiar to the references, you will not be surprised by plot twists towards the end of the game.
You play the role of Sir Galahad. He is merely one of over a dozen representatives of the knights of the Round Table, also known as the Order. With the Holy Grail in their possession, the knights are granted a little flask of water from the grail that they wear on a chain. The water in the flask is known as the Blackwater, and it serves as a means for the knights to live eternally and heal from mortal wounds on the battlefield with just a sip. The Blackwater will sustain you through your perilous quest. If a member of the Order is somehow slain, a new knight is inducted to carry on their surname. Because of this, you don’t know which of the knights are the original members of the Order. But Arthur is not one of them. The Order acts above the law and outside the police force, almost like 007 meets Scotland Yard with a little bit of Jedi council thrown in.
There is a rebel uprising, as well as a small outbreak of werewolves compromising the shipments from the United India Company to North America. The Order struggles with these threats until Galahad goes off the deep end and takes terminating the rebels into his own hands in a vendetta of rage. That is when the story really starts to unravel. The story gets better as the game goes on, with the visuals and acting getting more impressive as you go. It’s almost as if Ready at Dawn knew how they wanted the game to end and engineered the story and game backwards.
The knights have a lab ran by none other than Nikola Tesla, like James Bond’s tech guru, Q. He will provide you with the gear and weapons you will need to access areas within the game. Some of these include a small metal communicator that goes on your shoulder, a lockpicking electric screwdriver, a gun that arcs electricity, and a portable handheld device with buttons that turn off electronics.
The beginning of The Order: 1886 is cluttered with talking by its characters and subtly clicking on things in order to move the game along. The continuous jabbering by the characters about things you don’t really need to know gets daunting as well as time consuming. Once the endlessly long exposition finishes and the game has already hammered you with onscreen prompts about its mechanics, you actually get to do some gaming off the rails and it feels good.
From QTEs to cover mechanics, what you have here is God of War meets Gears of War. When the clumsy cover mechanic starts to get annoying and the rhythmic based button pressing from the QTEs starts to feel like the Very Easy difficulty of Guitar Hero, the game abruptly ends. I am pretty sure the game also smacked me in the face and laughed at me, but that may have been me dreaming during one of the many boring parts from the first half of the game.
A big thing The Order: 1886 doesn’t have going for it is replayability. There is no multiplayer or even a co-op mode. You never really get to have fun with the two cool guns in the game. Due to how QTEs and cinematics are wrapped into the game play, speed runs are pointless. With everything taken into consideration, the game could be a good budget buy down the road.