The Order: 1886 comes with high expectations, it being made by former God of War developers Ready at Dawn and Sony Santa Monica. Because Sony Santa Monica were the real brains behind that franchise, this is the first time that Ready at Dawn is the primary developer of a potential AAA franchise title, so you could say I was somewhat intrigued by their efforts.
You play as Galahad, a knight of the round table. Knights are usually tasked with keeping England safe from the half-breeds, an ungodly combination of animal and man. The industrial revolution has provided the knights with new weapons in their war against the abominations; guns that spew electricity and ignite clouds of molten metal that is launched atop enemies. But for the knights, perhaps the most important thing in their arsenal are not the offensive weapons provided by inventor Nikola Tesla, but the mysterious “Blackwater”, a mythical liquid that grants the knights an extended lifespan and fantastical healing abilities.
The game story starts in Medias Res, with Galahad tortured as a supposed traitor to the knights. From there it flashes back to the beginning of the month, where we slowly follow the breadcrumbs to the events portrayed and beyond. The story is vague in the beginning, throwing you into the chase of fugitives in central London with little exposition to fill you in on details. The plot quickly thickens and without spoiling the story, Galahad, along with fellow knights Igraine, Perceval, and newcomer Lafayette are raiding various places around London, such as the Whitechapel, or the impressive United India Company zeppelin Agamemnon.
The 6 to 10 hour story mode, while somewhat predictable is bolstered by an impressive script and interesting rapport between the characters and the beautifully rendered Victorian locations. Whitechapel has a Dickensian atmosphere, while the airship ballroom has an antiquated, regal feel to it. There is a decadent amount of detail in the linear levels that make up the game, with some examinable items such as newspapers that show current in-game events, and posters and photos to pad the lore of The Order: 1886. Weapons are beautifully designed and each handle different, made obvious by the differing aiming reticles and modes of use.
The characters have depth to them as well. Lafayette at first seems like a shallow skirt-chasing Frenchman, but over the game you’ll find him one of the most honourable men in the titular Order. Galahad’s mentor Perceval is a jaded old man, defiant of the bureaucracy that hinders the way his team works, and Igraine, beautiful and strong, yet unsure of her place and role as a knight, falls back on bravado to cover her insecurities. Even the nameless mooks that you mow down with brutal efficiency hurl period accurate insults and shout orders to each other as though they were in a game of Battlefield 4.
The rebels Galahad interacts with late in the story have differing traits and diverse backgrounds as well. However, the most interesting facet about the named characters is that most of them draw from actual historical characters, such as Perceval being the grandson of Sir Thomas Malory or Lafayette being an American Civil War officer.
As for gameplay, combat is challenging and the cover system is somewhat reminiscent of that of Gears of War and Uncharted. Enemies are intelligent on higher difficulty levels and will flank you if you just want to camp out in a spot. They will also try to overwhelm Galahad and his companions with numbers and will bring in reinforcements in waves if things look grim for them.
They also know how to shoot, peppering the heroes with bullets if you don’t respect the threat they represent, making them formidable but not impossible. The health regeneration also makes sense in The Order simply because of the Blackwater. Gameplay is also seamlessly interwoven with un-skippable cut-scenes, many of them interactive, giving The Order a highly cinematic feel.
But despite the polished, stylistic look of the game, there are some issues with The Order: 1886. The game story ends somewhat abruptly, and personally I was kind of taken aback when the credits ran, despite it setting the game up for a sequel. Other issues I had was that I felt that the game camera stuck a little too close to Galahad, and I often felt claustrophobic in the indoor levels despite the impressive world that the developers made. The lycan battles are boring, and you fight human rebels or henchmen most of the time, never having an option to fight half breeds in open combat.
There are too many Quick Time Events (QTEs), which happen for most of the action scenes that do not include a gun. A multiplayer option would have been nice, and this is coming from a guy who almost exclusively plays the single player mode in any game. I would have liked a dossier on everyone Galahad meets, like those in Assassin’s Creed, simply because The Order is dripping with so much history. Generally all of these wouldn’t be a big issue, but these issues happen too often, and it takes away from the immersion you should be getting and all these can probably be attributed to Ready at Dawn’s inexperience with AAA games.
Overall, while I enjoyed my experience with The Order, it is not the most satisfying one. There are niggling issues keeping it from greatness, and I really do hope that when the next game in the series does come out, it doesn’t end with another sequel bait and that they solve the QTE problem.
Don’t get me wrong, while there are many small things wrong with the game, I like The Order: 1886… I just wanted a little bit more out of it.