While scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, I saw someone mention that The Order 1886 was on offer on the PlayStation Store with a hefty 75% reduction. It’s a game that I was interested in checking out on release, but was put off by the price and rumours of a five and a half hour playtime. Now though, for less than a tenner? I was in.
First things first, it took me decidedly longer than five and a half hours to play through, but all told probably clocked in at about ten hours. Great for the price I paid, but I can see why it received a bad reputation at launch, especially in a world where we expect to pay full price and receive a 60 hour epic. Looking back, The Order fares especially poorly on the price to amount of game ratio when compared with something like Until Dawn which while short, offered multiple playthroughs to see the butterfly effect in all its glory. The Order though is a straight through blast, with little to encourage a second playthrough.
I saw a few parallels between The Order and Until Dawn beyond just their length. During the prologue to The Order where you escape some dungeons of the deepest dark London, I was reminded all the way through of Until Dawn. Both looked stunning, even in the dark, and during the escape the atmosphere that was developed between the wonderful score and the sense of dread was enough to remind me of some of Until Dawn’s finest moments of running from an unknown danger.
Indeed, I would have been happy if The Order had continued in the same vein as Until Dawn by taking you through a cinematic experience full of quick-time events. It shared a similar trick of seamlessly blending what you perceived as a cut-scene with moments where you had to jump into the action and take control.
Sadly The Order didn’t maintain that style all the way through with things falling apart a tad when given some room to wander. There was one particularly striking moment in the early stages where you come across a man with a horrible cough being tended to by a well-meaning lady, all watched over by a copper. If I had simply walked straight on by I would have caught wind of the social dynamics at play in this neo-Victorian London, but I stuck around for a moment. I was expecting the poor sod to collapse or to be taken away somewhere by the good Samaritan…but nothing happened. All three stood still, frozen in time.
It wasn’t the only moment where the masquerade of a living breathing world fell away all too quickly. Some might say it’s a small thing to pick up on, but occasions like that stood out as a missed opportunity to encourage you to nose around and immerse yourself in the goings on of the city.
There were other missed opportunities surrounding the various collectibles you could find on your way. Upon finding a newspaper lying discarded on the side I was able to inspect it to read a glaring headline about the latest events of the big city. The articles looked like they should have been, but without an option to inspect the paper closer they were too blurry to make out properly. Just providing a plain text readout of the articles would have been welcomed to allow you to really invest in the background to the story being told.
It was also puzzling that you were able to review any of the audio tapes you collected at any point, but not the other objects you came across during the game. Having a tracker of what you had collected in each level would have encouraged more at the moment investigation of your surroundings or increased the desire to replay the game to find them all. Without any indication of where I had missed objects, I couldn’t bring myself to work through the whole game again to find them.
If the combat had been sharper, or a New Game Plus mode available with all the weapons on hand, I might have been convinced to play through again. However, as a cover based third-person shooter I was hoping for more. The basics work fine, but over the course of the game small things grated. Transitioning between cover wasn’t seamless, too often you were left facing seemingly endless waves of enemies leading me to wonder whether I’d encountered a bug but more problematic was the camera.
All the way through The Order the action was framed by think black borders at the top and bottom of the screen. These were fine during the non-interactive moments, but when combined with the tight over the shoulder camera and narrow point of view during combat, they were needless and plain irritating.
For less than a tenner these rough edges are more than forgivable, but I can understand why it sits with a Metacritic rating of 63 (trust me, I hate referencing Metacritic). For what was such a hyped title at full launch price it just wouldn’t have hit all the right beats you would expect.
It’s a shame as despite my misgivings about some aspects, there were plenty of moments I did love. The whole London Hospital sequence was phenomenal and showed the potential of The Order. As with the prologue, this was a sequence filled with an atmosphere of dread, horror and barbarism, all finished off with a fantastic QTE battle against a powerful Lycan. I have to say that anything with Lakshmi was top notch, even the combat while working with her feeling better crafted that much of the rest.
There was a potential generation defining title in The Order, but there were too many rough edges for it to stand up and have the same impact as something like Gears of War did nine years and a generation previous.
Give me a version of The Order which leaned into the Until Dawn stylings to a greater extent and offered a smidge of replayability and I will be happy. Perhaps there is hope for a sequel, though if they follow the same stylings at the original, I would expect those rough edges to be sanded down.