Game review time! This one comes out of the blue for me since I really had no intention of buying this game because I wasn’t really following the development; in fact, up until about two weeks ago, I had no idea a game like this was on horizon. When I saw the Trailers start hitting TV, I was hooked and just knew I had to get it. Ready At Dawn studios has released its newest flagship PlayStation 4-exclusive game The Order: 1886 on February 20th. From what I’ve gathered, this game was much talked about since E3 for it’s movie-like approach, rendering the game as a cinematic adventure through an alternate version of history. Its release was also postponed, which always gets the gamers mad, but also gets them excited because delays usually entail a better product. However, it seems that the gaming community is very dissatisfied with this title for a magnitude of reasons and it has generally received very average to below average ratings and reviews. I must say I am quite shocked and have to disagree! Most of the reviews I’ve done up until now have been straight out of my own opinion, but this is the first time where I actually went trolling the web to find out what it is that people seem to dislike so much about this game. As always, I’m very open-minded, so I can see what the gaming society is getting at; therefore, I will have to stick to a format of GOOD Things versus BAD Things in order to be fair (since I do find validity in what I’ve read so far). Here goes:
Things you will like.
- The movie-like experience you will have: I wasn’t quite familiar with Ready At Dawn, so I did a little bit of research and found out that their team consists of ex-Naughty Dog staff. This sheds a lot of like on The Order, a game that is very much like playing through a grandiose movie (something they’ve built upon a lot in the more recent game The Last Of Us). For starters, the entire game is displayed with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio (basically the standard widescreen format you would see when watching any modern day Hollywood movie), which is something I haven’t seen done before for an entire game, cinematics and gameplay combined. The colours, the lighting, and the camera angles all add to the film experience in the game. One of the greatest achievements you can initially see in The Order is the graphic quality, which is maintained throughout the cutscenes and gameplay; actually, because the widescreen never changes and the quality never lessens, it can be hard to tell when you are supposed to just watch or actually use your game controller, but to me this is a good thing. The next generation of games that have hit the PS4 have all more or less done a great job of maintaining the same good quality in and out of the cinematic sequences, but in this game there is great fluidity and practically no game-loads, meaning that the experience is almost non-stop and and gripping. When you combine the story, characters, music, and visual beauty of the game world into the equation, The Order definitely seems to be something you’d love to watch in a theater aside from just playing the game.
- The intricacy of the story: I never really took an interest in history growing up, but I found in recent years I’ve been getting behind it, especially European history as it is a big theme in many of the games I’ve played. The Order takes place in Whitechapel, London during 1886-ish (DUH…) and combines a few different historical events with some fictional ones as well. This is classic trademark Naughty Dog as well, best seen in the Uncharted series. From what I understood playing the game, the story revolves around the Knights of the Round Table as descended from King Arthur who act as special agents of the Queen that are highly trained in advanced combat. They take care of special tasks and covert operations, whereas the police accomplish lesser tasks like protecting citizens and dealing with trivial crimes. In reality, the knights are charged with capturing or eliminating rebels who aim to act against the interests of the Queen. On the fictional side of things, the knights now have to deal with creatures known as half-breeds; that is, humans who can transform into lycanthropes (more human-like werewolves) that prey on innocent humans to survive. When the knights are physically harmed, they can consume a mystical elixir known as Blackwater, which magically heals their wounds immediately. At a later point in the game vampires are introduced as well, and the writers manage to tie in one particular Dracula-figure to actually being Jack The Ripper. Scandal really erupts in the game when the knights find out that their own leaders are covering up a ploy to ship out these monsters via The East India Company into different countries around the world to cause havoc that will ensure a need for more war and power. They then start to see the light the rebels have been shining for quite some time and begin to make decisions of their own. I have to give Ready At Dawn credit for being able to combine so many different avenues of history with legendary fantasy. I enjoyed the fact that the cinematic approach to the game made it easy to understand the rich storyline, baring in mind that some games get way to complicated and leave you wondering about things forever. Thankfully, this is not one of them, and the ending of the game definitely paves way for a continuation, which I would gladly love to see one day.
- The array of characters and great acting: Nothing like a great cast to sell a movie, so it should be no exception here that we’ve got some good talent in this film-like game. The game focuses on protagonist Sir Galahad (portrayed by the very talented voice of Steve West), an elderly knight of the round table who is nothing less of a true hero. He partners with a female knight Lady Igraine (Alice Coulthard) who seems to have feelings for him, but is definitely a hardcore fighter, which suits his purpose. Then we bring on the bigger actors, starting with Graham McTavish playing Sir Percival, a very well established knight who is mentor to Galahad and Frederik Hamel playing the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchmen brought into the knighthood for his genius skills displayed during the French revolution. Personally, he’s the best eye candy you ladies and gays will get in this game. I also want to mention the very beautiful Tehmina Sunny playing Queen Lakshmi, sexy leader of the rebels and possibly another love interest for Galahad. Being the FOB I am, I really liked the inclusion of the Hindi language and Indian characters into the game and the ever so sly Pocahontas–John Smith innuendo introduced into the story. I feel that because the idea was to make the game movie-like, the emphasis on the casting was a little more important in this title in that actual actors played the roles, unlike in most videogames where we get the same common circle of seasoned vocal cast. This is one of those cases where the cast does not equal the face of the character much, so there’s really a reliance on the acting skills of the actors/actresses. There’s a lot of emotion that came out of the performances; we clearly see Galahad’s persistence for justice, Igraine’s ruthlessness in battle, Lafayette’s womanizing ways with the ladies, and Lakshmi’s bold leadership skills throughout. The way the studio rendered the characters in the game to act out what the cast verbalized was just fantastic. I didn’t find myself thinking, “This character is useless,” or, “The voice behind this character is horrible.” All around, you can see a great effort was made in developing relationships and giving persona to characters that look real, but aren’t actually real at all.
- The beautiful details of the game space: The Order is definitely not one of those open-concept games where you can go roaming wherever you like and get into side-missions and what not; the developers really stuck to the script and made the game movement linear, which I would normally argue is limiting, but it makes the game more like a flowing movie (the point at hand). While the scope is not too wide, the settings that are featured have great detail and cover good territory per chapter. In the beginning the player explores the underground catacombs that houses the prisoners of London, followed by the above-ground streets of Whitechapel at the time. There are a lot of freaky settings in the game, like abandoned train tunnels and destroyed hospitals (and lest I forget to mention a lot of blood all around for the gore fans). The player gets to invade mansions and discover underground bases, altogether showcasing a lot of different environments. There is no map navigation for this game, but the amount of detail in each background and depth to each location is just perfect.
- The wide array of weaponry, technology, and combat included: I admitted in earlier blog posts that I am not a great shooter and that it is definitely a work in progress; this being said, I also have learned that it often is the game’s responsibility to make the shooter experience good as opposed to bad. I like the combat in this game. While the game doesn’t allow for plenty melee opportunities, there are some impressively intense shootouts the player will have to go through from beginning to end of this game. There were a couple of instances where the battles were really intense, but not necessarily difficult if you give it your focus. The wide array of weapons and technology did not let me down at all. You get the standard shotguns and pistols, but then upgrade into crazy tech like laser zappers and fire cannons. There is a lot of free range for the player to choose the kind of weapon going into battle, allowing for one small piece and a larger piece on-hand at all times. The game also provides a balance between stealth and lethal force approaches, which means a lot to me because I absolutely hate games where you constantly have to go in quiet when it just seems impossible to do so. Another added treasure I found was that your allies who fight alongside you ACTUALLY fire, hit, and kill enemies with you! IT’S A MIRACLE! They’re not useless like Donald and Goofy (sorry Kingdom Hearts fans…)! There are a few boss-battle-esque moments in the game, mostly fighting the lycan beasts, and this is where the gore and bloodshed really darkens the world of The Order. I’m quite sensitive to horror themes because I’m a little girl on the inside, but I must say it definitely added a thrilling layer to the game. The game also heavily uses reaction commands (those fancy moments when you need to push the button displayed on the screen in order to do or avoid something epic), which I’m all for, but might have been too much (discussed more below). Overall, though, I had a great time working my way through The Order and never felt any part was too hard or too easy.
Things you might not like.
- The length of the game: This is the number one thing that MURDERED the ratings and reviews for The Order, and quite frankly I have to agree: the game was way too short. I, the person who sucks at videogames yet enjoys playing them, finished this game in two days and that is a record for me. I don’t recall even putting that much effort into it and I did have my fair share of repeat battles. I have to wonder WHY a game that has a lot of things going for it would have such a short story and set of chapters… I’ve read that it has to do with budget, which is really sad because the bottom line is that the story, the characters, the music, the environment, the combat style, and the cinematic beauty make you want to keep going, and then you reach the end and think, “DAMN. That’s it?” I feel to add salt to the wound, the game’s previous postponement also poses the question: “If it wasn’t postponed, would it have been even shorter?” I definitely get the idea behind it being a steep $70 you lose for a short game. Do not misinterpret this as, “The ending sucked and I hated it,” because I feel like that’s the spin the review community is giving to this game. I look at it more of something that was just very short-lived. The story built on many of the characters and there are more plots that could have extended the game. The budding romance between a knight and a rebel, the jealousy between a knight and her mentor’s lover, the Frenchmen who’s kind heart showed much adoration for his elderly knight, etc… I’m willing to give Ready At Dawn some mercy over this because it definitely seems that this game is the start of what will become another flagship series for the gaming industry and Sony. When we look back on the initial games that started series’ like Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted, we wonder how those games birthed such successful sequels, and I have no doubt that The Order will follow suit next time around.
- The slew of reaction commands is a little too much: As I mentioned briefly above, the game relies on reaction commands a little too much throughout. We’re talking mashing the X, holding the triangle, quickly tapping the circle, including swiftly moving the analog up, down, or sideways to avoid sudden death. The hardest battles in the game are hard only because of the chain of reactions the player must perform, especially battling the elder lycan in the middle part of the game. It gets confusing and becomes a skill to memorize the patterns after you die a few times (that Blackwater only heals you once!). This is another point that critics docked scores for, and I don’t blame them. In a lot of cases, you will be watching and scene and then suddenly an X appears on the screen and before you catch yourself, Galahad is dead. There is also this weird advanced reaction where you have to steer his body into a specific direction quickly and then mash a certain key in order to not die, and that gets annoying too. I noticed plenty of this in Uncharted 3 too, and I feel like it’s one of those things where they think, “OMG! This is cool tech! Let’s use it every way possible because we can!” Well, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
- The lack of freedom and extra content: While I praised The Order for it’s beautiful world above, I can see why most gamers are dissatisfied with the game space. We’ve moved into this age of next-generation gaming and a big part of that is the freedom of movement the players get; this is monopolized heavily in games like Destiny and Watch_Dogs where one can venture very far distances. The Order is not like that. At every point, the player is steered into a certain direction and there is no opportunity to get lost or go adventuring. In the defense of the developers, I feel like that kind of open concept would not have made the whole movie experience possible. I also feel that this is another short-coming of the budget problems the studio must have faced. I would have loved to have seen a way for Galahad to explore London and meet with street-dwellers for side missions or encounter out-of-story mini-battles, but again, I think it could be something we see in future installments of this series of it makes it through. Otherwise, if you’re the kind of gamer that wants an endless adventure even after you finish the main story, this is not the game for you. When I look at it this way, I’m glad I used a gift card to get this game, or else maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all like all the others out there.
Overall, I see great potential for this game in the future and my hope is that the sales still grow despite the early reviews that have circulated. I did come across this video that redeemed my hopes a little, but then I saw this video and my hopes were shattered. One thing is for sure… there is A LOT of discussion online about this game. Reviewers are getting blunt words from gamers everywhere claiming it’s harsh criticism, but more reviews keep fighting back with evidence to back up their claims. To be honest, I’ve never seen sport like this over a game in a long time. You know what this means? You need to find out for yourself what you think of this game. Check out the versions available for purchase here, and look below for some Trailers that might hook you just as they hooked me!