The Order: 1886, Backwards Thinking

2015 has been great so far hasn’t it? A time where a lot of people are pushing forward with new ideas for gameplay and what we use to play them. Developers also seem to be getting the best of current hardware with already “Game of Year” contenders like; The Witcher 3, Bloodborne and Batman: Arkham Knight. There’s a lot of big AAA releases of late, which tend focus more on open world aspects or at least open in their design. Of course there are linear big hitters, like multiple shooter franchises and whenever Naughty Dog releases a game. The Order: 1886 released earlier this year with a fair amount of hype surrounding it due to it’s PlayStation exclusivity and it’s absolutely tremendous graphics.

The Order: 1886 has been out for a while now and as you may know, it didn’t quite work out did it? Sure the world is conceptually interesting – where players fill the role as a member of the Knights of the Round Table in an alternate London, where Werewolves and Vampires exist for you to fight against. The developers Ready at Dawn (whose most notable work up to this point were the God of War PSP titles), were keen to show off the graphical prowess of their game and sure that it looks absolutely gorgeous, but at what price?

The Order 1886 1

This game is strictly linear to the fullest, meaning there is one way to go and that’s the way you will go. You’re a passenger on a ride in The Order, look but no touching and don’t you dare stick your hands out while the cart is in motion. Main gameplay is third person cover shooting that feels all too familiar at this point. Some of the weapons have some cool designs but with no choice of what weapons you have at what point and no interesting enemy encounters the combat is boring before it gets going.

It’s really easy to harp on about how this game is bad but I tried, I really did. I had wanted to go into the game with the “correct” state of mind, that it was a David Cage-esk game where I was going to experience a story and have moments of interaction with it. There is a place for all kinds of games and I wanted to like The Order and try to see it’s positives. But its plot is boring, something a videogame in 2015 should never be left with. Graphics ring rather false to me, because I kind of see the trick – the man behind the curtain if you will. Look at how linear this game is, how there is rarely any major open spaces and then like a movie the screen is in a letter box format at all times – also the game runs at thirty frames per second. Sure the graphics are great but when you don’t have to render a third of the screen you can see why, but is it worth it? In the long run… No.

In 2007, we had Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune‘s humble beginnings for the now massive franchise and similar to Ready at Dawn, this was Naughty Dog’s first venture into third person cover shooting gameplay. Back then this game was quite the looker, where the character Nathan Drake would actually get wet when he would swim in water – I remember on Christmas morning being blown away by how gorgeous it all looked but now that just looks like everything is coated in vaseline. That was Naughty Dog’s first game on thetation PlayStation 3, then six years later we got The Last of Us, think how much better looking The Last of Us is to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. In a few years The Order’s amazing graphics, won’t look so amazing and what will be left is a boring ride.

The Order 1886 2

Keeping to the Naughty Dog comparison a bit more here, Ready at Dawn in the lead up to their game’s release were pushing the idea of it being influenced by films, hence why we had the thirty frames per second and the letterbox format. The Order even goes as far to have scratches and marks on the pretend film lens of the camera for when light shines into it and there is even a slight film grain effect. I’m not sure I agree entirely with this gameplay philosophy – because that’s what this is, a game. Naughty Dog have been commended for their combination of great gameplay and strong characters and set pieces that reflect that of an Indiana Jones film. The Last of Us I can comfortably say is one of the best games of the previous generation and combined a whole new layer to gameplay (with a more need on survival and resource management), it was the perfect combination of in depth gameplay and a great character driven story.

Naughty Dog is comprised of two development teams – one team which is headed up by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley whose main successes are Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and The Last of us. One thing I absolutely love about both these games is the hidden variation in the gameplay which feels familiar. Whenever in a combat scenario there is something different in The Last of us, be it a new weapon, an extra npc fighting alongside you, a sniper off in the distance or a massive armoured truck chasing you there is always something fresh. The same basic mechanics are there and ever but the situation is different. Which is why Uncharted 3 disapointed, made by the other dev team at Naughty Dog. Uncharted 3 went back to the days of Drake’s Fortune, with wave based enemies coming in at all angles on many occasions. It’s a fine balance of new gameplay elements and pacing which determine the good from the great.

Down to The Order’s oppressive linearity it feels like a Time Crisis game during combat, never really having to move as the AI for the enemies is lacking an variation in tactics other than pop up and shoot from cover. With only a few special weapons to use in only certain portions of the game, combat lacks engagement to put it mildly. One thing that Naughty Dog do and a lot of other developers nowadays is the choice of how you want to take on enemies, Stealth or all out and loud? There are stealth segments in The Order but of course they are linear and if you fail to successfully kill an enemy you instantly fail and restart.

The Order 1886 3

What were Ready at Dawn thinking? There was this heavy emphasis on the story and characters but even if you solely look at these aspects of the game it still comes up short. Even though I finished the game last week I’m struggling to really think what happened. Nothing is really that interesting in this game which makes no sense, this is a game has Nikola Tesla in it, a real life “mad scientist,” and he makes you a scope? We are fighting Werewolves and Vampires in this game but yet it’s all played so straight and serious, it should be a bit more… fun.

The game is heavy on cutscenes and quick-time events of course, but what’s more infuriating is how useless and uninvolved it all feels, even with the quick time events. Quick-time events, there not really anyones favourite thing are they? But the order takes it to a whole new level. I never felt like me pressing the button really made an impact, It honestly feels like they were just cutscenes at sometime but then someone realised they were making a game, so at certain points the cutscene will pause and I will have to push a button to continue it. The seven hour game has very little in the way of engaging player input.

This game is on the same shelf as The Last of Us and other more worthy games which have better and more content, for the exact same price. It doesn’t matter how experienced the team is or isn’t, when your game shares the same shelf as other better ones, the customer doesn’t care. I got this game for $57 Australian Dollars on Pre-owned, over a month later when I decided to trade it in (the clerk behind the counter actually felt sorry for me and gave me the full money back) so I pre ordered Fallout 4 and brought Bloodborne with the money, so at least only now my time was wasted.

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Steven, born in England and recently moved to Australia is studying Film and Media Studies at Uni. Always enjoying a good chat about video games writing for TPoW.