*Spoilers for The Order: 1886 follow*
The Order: 1886 is the first console IP developed by Ready at Dawn Studios, a dev most known previously for their contributions to the God of War series on the PSP. The game is incredibly beautiful. Ready at Dawn’s version of 19th century London is stunning in every aspect and really pays tribute to the time period’s beautiful cityscapes. In finer detail there isn’t a hair out of place, the character models are flawless, the cloth physics are on point, the textures are high quality, even the mirrors in rooms reflect the entire room properly. (Though they don’t reflect people strangely enough.) The game’s audio compliments its visuals just as well. The acting is great, the sound effects never feel out of place, you really feel like you’re a part of this wonderfully rendered world.
All of that is great, until you start playing the game. Early on the game introduces you to the different kinds of button prompts you’ll see for the numerous, and frankly ridiculous, quick-time-events you’ll have thrown your way for the rest of the game. The first thing that jumped out at me was that while it tried to explain these prompts to me, the game would continue without pausing or slowing down, so by the time I’d finished reading the information on screen I would have missed the prompt and promptly be shot dead. (pun intended.)
Next to the ridiculous amount of quick-time-events, the greatest flaw is easily the pacing of the story. The game is split into book-like chapters and at the beginning of each new chapter text is displayed on screen to tell you what chapter you’re on and what its called. Not such a horrid thing except that some chapters felt like they dragged on forever while others were quite simply a single cutscene. There never seemed to be a rise and fall to the narrative and instead things just carried on and pulled you along with them. And along with the pacing, the story itself was quite disjointed and rather uncompelling. Early on I found myself constantly wondering why any of this was all happening. What were the rebels rebelling for? Where did the Lycans come from? And while many of these questions were answered later on in the game it was almost a chore to get to that point because I felt no connection to the story or characters because I didn’t know what they knew or why they did what they did. Things finally got good, from a story standpoint, towards the middle to end of the narrative, and I finally started feeling compelled to carry Galahad, (the main character) through this journey of rebellion and revenge only to be burned by an ending so abrupt and senseless I didn’t even realize it was the ending until the credits began to roll.
The gameplay is split between two distinctly different means of operation and you don’t have much choice between the two. Sometimes you’ll be fighting waves of enemies in corridors using cover-based shooting mechanics, and other times you’ll be forced to be stealthy where getting caught doesn’t mean entering the other style of gameplay, rather it means getting shot in the face and reloading the last checkpoint.
Let’s talk about the cover-based shooting first. This mechanic is probably the game’s best feature. It works perfectly, I hardly ever found myself frustrated with the cover mechanic and seldom died due to not being able to get in or out of cover properly. This is mainly due to the fact that the enter and exit cover actions are mapped to separate buttons. Which means you’ll never be mashing the cover button only to accidentally hop right back out of cover. The variety of weapons the game offers you are decently fun to use, but there aren’t quite as many as they made it seem during all the marketing. There’s maybe only two or three crazy techno-gadgetry weapons you really get to use, and when you get your hands on these it’s only for a little while.
In the stealth combat, the QTE’s rear their ugly heads once more. In order to perform a stealth takedown you have to sneak up behind an enemy and then time your button press with this prompt on screen where a circle comes in around the button. Missing this prompt by pressing too early or too late results in getting killed and having to reload the last checkpoint, which in these stealth areas is often further back than is humane.
It isn’t just the stealth that suffers from horrid QTE spam. When you fight against one of the Elder Lycans you’re put in this awkward 2D-fighting game style set up where you can choose to attack with a quick attack (L2) or a strong attack (R2) only it seems like there’s a special window for when to hit these buttons that you can never find so you find yourself spamming whichever attack you want until it goes. But it gets worse, when the elder Lycan goes to attack you a prompt goes up on screen to press the right stick in a certain direction, so after a few minutes of spamming R2/L2 and tapping the right stick around you’re then thrown into another series of QTE prompts that are exactly, 100%, the same for each of the times you fight an Elder Lycan. Which, *Spoiler Alert* is only twice and the last time is the final boss battle. Which is a horrible way to end the game using a recycled battle against an enemy you didn’t even have until more than halfway through the game.
So lets break it all down; the game is incredibly beautiful; visuals and audio come together to deliver an amazingly surreal world that is lovely to look at. The gameplay is split between decently fun cover-based shooting and disgusting QTE stealth plus other horrid QTE spam. The story is a mess with lack of explanation and deplorable pacing. This game offers little to no replay value, you’ll likely play it once and be done with it. For this reason I can’t say it’s worth the full $60 retail price. The length is decent, I wouldn’t say it’s too short as many have suggested, but unfortunately the content isn’t spectacular enough to warrant spending so much money on a game you’ll play once and never pick up again. It is not by any means a horrible game, though based on this review it probably sounds like I hate it. I don’t, I enjoyed playing it, and it’s worth playing at least once. It is a decent, yet deeply flawed game and I sincerely hope that there may potentially be a sequel which may address these issues and give us what we hoped The Order: 1886 could have.