Despite it being one of the fastest selling consoles in history, there’s no denying that owners of Sony’s Playstation 4 have had a bit of a rough go when it comes to exclusive titles to play. In fact, other than a few random titles in the past year, nearly everything that’s been released on the console in terms of big-budget “AAA” games has been multi-platform. This is why the collective hopes of fans were resting on developer Ready At Dawn’s The Order: 1886 to be the first true blockbuster exclusive for the PS4, and the beginning of a new franchise for the mega-publisher.
Those hopes, however, are (at least partially) unfounded. While I found much to enjoy in The Order, I can safely say that it does stumble slightly out of the gate, while still offering an engaging and fun new world in which to build a new series. A steampunk-inspired take on the now overused pop and lock third person shooter genre, The Order: 1886 puts players in the role of Galahad, one of the Knights of the Round table, though not THE Galahad of legend. The protagonist is one of many who have bore the name over the centuries since Arthur and his knights roamed the Earth.
Which presents us with one of the areas I felt The Order managed to really shine, in its world building. The unique spin on Arthurian Legend and the pseudo explanation of The Holy Grail and it’s life-extending powers made for a world that I’d like to see much more of. Members of this secret order are gifted a vial of what they call blackwater, taken from the grail itself, which has the power to heal wounds and extend life, sometimes for centuries, and are awarded the name of a knight of the round, almost as if it were a title. It all comes together to create a compelling and engaging narrative, as Galahad uncovers secrets and lies, and a conspiracy within the ranks of his own order that threatens everything he believes in.
There is also no way to deny the beauty of this title. Without question, The Order is the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen, and that’s not just on consoles. It blows away anything I’ve seen, even running on the beefiest gaming rig. The textures are smooth, the frame rate is solid and the models are a step above any of its competition. It’s nearly impossible to believe it’s not a movie when you’re playing it, because it looks too good to be true.
But it’s cinematic nature also becomes it’s downfall. The actual mechanics of shooting and taking cover, while not poor in any way, do come off as formulaic and repetitive. Often times you will find yourself realizing that there’s not much more to this game than being a corridor shooting. You come into an area where it’s clear a gunfight is about to begin and then it’s a matter of sticking in one spot while endless waves of enemies throw themselves into your bullets. The gameplay itself is fun but not exactly challenging, and nowhere near as fresh as it’s presentation.
Additionally, the pacing of The Order struggles as well. Too often is player agency taken away and you are left to play the role of usher from one cutscene to the next. In these moments Galahad seems to take the role of the proverbial tortoise, moving at a snails pace despite your constant stick clicking, hoping to at least get him to jog to the next story beat. The game is littered with little annoyances that hinder it’s pace, collectibles are scattered throughout each level, but are mostly useless which makes them even more frustrating. While it’s impressive to see the detail put into each individual item you can pick up and turn over in your hand, almost every single one has no bearing on gameplay whatsoever and eventually end up being put back down where you found them, as if to further drive home the items pointlessness.
But, in the end, The Order presented me with a story I enjoyed thoroughly with gameplay sufficiently capable enough to make me want to continue playing. It’s a great base for a new franchise, but it will have to see some major pacing and structural changes if Sony hopes to turn this into it’s next great first party series. It’s honestly not unlike the original Uncharted in that way. An unraveled beauty in it’s aesthetic that struggles at times to find the perfect mix of story and gameplay. However, it’s easy to see where this could become something truly great, especially if you follow that comparison to it’s conclusion, if Ready At Dawn can prove to do what Naughty Dog did with its follow-ups then The Order could become a series to reckon with in the future.
Second Opinion – Thoughts From Chuck Nalley