I have found it very difficult to work out how to approach this review for The Order: 1886. As much as I have tried to ignore any spoilers or stopped myself over analysing every new video or snippet of information, it has been nigh on impossible to avoid one thing… the length of the game.
What from the beginning looked like it would be a third person action game, sharing much in common with Gears of War in terms of mechanics, actually turned out to be a different beast entirely. After playing the opening level, I took a step back and went at this game in a completely new direction.
You see for me, this isn’t a cover based third person shooter with a story and fantastic visuals (which are fantastic by the way), this is a visual novel, a movie, that shares more in common with Telltale games, or a David Cage game. It just so happens to break up the story telling with some hands on action.
That is what it is, a full on interactive movie / visual novel. There is little you can do to change the outcome, it is even very difficult to reach any kind of fail state, namely because the game is generous with the hits you personally can take. That was clear very, very early in the game and the first time I had made my mind up about what I was actually playing.
I was essentially controlling the star of the show between important story scenes, taking on the action scenes and doing a bit of investigation work. Once you get over the hurdle that this isn’t a big expansive game in the vein of a Castlevania, GTA or Gears of War and the likes, it can be a very enjoyable experience…sort of.
Just because I found a way to experience the game that should see many of my early issues done away with, it doesn’t mean for one second that this is a game without any issues. For one, the fact I had to take that step back means there was somewhat of a marketing issue here, that maybe Sony had gotten it all wrong in the build up.
I haven’t gone into The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us or even Beyond Two Souls wondering where the gameplay was, because they were marketed correctly, whether you liked them or not is another matter, but you knew what they were trying to be. The Order: 1866 doesn’t have that, it takes time to realise what this game is trying to be and even then it isn’t perfectly clear.
Before carrying on with the ‘bad’, I do want to focus on one major positive; that being the visuals, especially the switch between cut-scene, QTE and real time action. This is seamless, everything is done in real time and is jaw droppingly impressive. It is clearly the most visually impressive title on this generation of consoles thus far, setting a new bar which all other games must now reach.
Voice acting too is rather impressive, it may not be at The Last of Us levels of professionalism, but it is up there with the best of the rest as all dialogue flows nicely, even during moments you are in control. Those black bars? That letterbox effect? It works! Because this is more movie than it is game, that effect means it does feel incredibly cinematic, so in all that, Ready at Dawn have done a stunning job and deserve some kudos.
So on to the negative then; by shoehorning action sequences into the story, it actually becomes rather a disjointed experience, despite the seamless transitions between them. Whilst they make sense as per their timing within the story, it becomes apparent that they are there as additional padding. Which really causes problems with the next major issue.
This is a game that has hit shelves at the £50 mark in most places, in a time when many games are finding their feet at around £40 on release and for £50 you expect much more game than you actually get. There is a weight of expectation as to the content you should be receiving for your money.
There have been a ton of figures thrown around as to the length of the game, so I decided to time what I played and it weighed in at just short of seven and a half hours, which included me doing a fair amount of searching about and taking screenshots of the wonderfully detailed areas. It is clear this can be clocked in less than six hours and that is without doing it as a ‘speed run.’
Again, the issue of marketing comes in here, because it felt like less than half the game was actually me taking part in playing, with around half spent watching, a decent amount wandering or doing QTE’s, with what felt like maybe just short of a third doing some shooting. Even then those shooting moments felt artificially extended.
Here is the main thing about The Order: 1886, it isn’t a terrible game, by any stretch of the imagination, there is a lot it does right. Especially in the presentation and dare I say it, even in the way it handles Quick Time Events, the shooting in itself is passable and it has the makings of something rather entertaining. But this isn’t the game I expected, this isn’t the full blown retail action/adventure title I was led to believe I was getting. This feels like it should have been released episodically on PSN.
That right there is what my big issue is. I have played something similar in DONTNOD’s Life is Strange, which for the most part follows the same rules as The Order, but actually feels a lot more interactive. I look forward to the next episode in that series and truth be told, had a section of this game been released as episode 1 of however many on PSN and marketed as an interactive story, then I would have been much, much happier and would have found myself wanting the next episode and eager to put my money down.
But here we are, I left The Order: 1886 expecting more, but also knowing more is to come, because the game ends in such a way that it is clear there will be a sequel, or at least plans to make a sequel. One that I will be very eager to play, especially now I kind of know what to expect. This is just a taster… but one that leaves things a bit sour on the whole.