The Order: 1886 is certainly the biggest release of 2015 so far for PlayStation fans and brings an new IP to the PS4 so we were eager to get some hands on time with the final game.
Ready at Dawns game has been earning reviews ranging from raves to total takedowns and some are already heralding the title as a big budget failure. But sales are strong and the average user reviews seem generally positive.
So how did I get on with it? Pretty well.
The most obvious aspect of The Order is that it is genuinely stunning to look at. It has everything you would expect – from top class motion capture animation to stunning face capture and a huge range of levels and locations.
But the game really excels in the details, particularly when it comes to the strange Neo-Victorian world the developers have crafted. Every element you can think of has been considered, from the faster development of weaponry (thanks to some help from Nikola Tesla himself) to daily news you can study and a new take on practically every part of history or tradition.
It’s really deep and dense stuff, and reminded me of the kind of artistry which goes into the background of every scene in a Ridley Scott or James Cameron film. You may never actually examine the tiny elements in the background but they all add to the overall texture and atmosphere of the production.
The Order also has atmosphere in spades, never more so than when you’re moving around with a lamp, casting real-time shadows into the smoky corners of an abandoned hospital. The streets are rife with fog, the rooms cluttered with the odds and ends of the lives of the inhabitants and you can almost smell the dilapidated surrounds of this new London.
It really is incredible to look at and thoroughly enhanced by a strong story courtesy of John Adams writer Kirk Ellis. The characters are well-written with a proper arc and the narrative is efficient without heading off into a sprawl of names and jargon which many new IPs fall prey to.
It’s an impressive production then, and one that’s very heavy on story. Personally, I much prefer a driving narrative in a game which makes me feel invested at every moment but there are times when The Order seems intent to take the reigns a little too often, particularly in the first couple of hours of the game.
Thankfully, when you are in the driving seat things are as slick as you would expect from a blockbuster title. The cover shooting mechanics are familiar (even well-worn) but that just means they’re easy to adjust too. Running between cover and headshotting foes is always fun, and things get agreeably grisly up close.
The Order also surprises with its inventive weaponry – from a Thermite rifle which lets you light the very air on fire from afar to an arc gun which neatly obliterates everything via the magic of electricity. They guns feel meaty and the game throws you into plenty of pitched battles which are often quite challenging.
If the game falls down anywhere its in the stealth sections. Sometimes you’ll be forced to navigate an area without being seen, and failing results in insta-death and a restart. Galahad isn’t the nippiest fellow around and more than few failures start to get irritating, especially when not being able to use your guns feels arbitrary.
The QTEs are mostly acceptable – Ready at Dawn has done a good job of making them intrinsic to the action and sometimes allowing you to retain an element of control. Plus the reload points are always close to that critical button press.
To me, The Order most closely resembles the experience of a decent mini-series. Given its short length and dense story, it’s really more about the experience of story than necessarily playing the game. And that’s not in itself a bad thing – audiences love well told stories and the technical prowess of the game certainly doesn’t hurt for that kind of engagement.
Those looking for deep gameplay might have to seek it out elsewhere but I, for one, would be very interested in returning to this neo-Victorian London sometime in the future.
The Order: 1886 is available now on PlayStation 4.