Ready at Dawn has brought us The Order: 1886 to show gamers what the PS4 is truly capable of graphically. I won’t lie that, after seeing the initial gameplay trailers, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the game to see its incredibly realistic looking world and characters. However, as a fan of 3rd person shooters, the gameplay also thankfully peaked my interest. While it does deliver on the promise of a deeply engrossing cinematic gaming experience, the gameplay, although far from bad or meaningless, does leave a lot to be desired.
The Order: 1886 brings us into a fascinating alternate history of Victorian London. London’s streets are constantly terrorized by creatures known as Lycans, which are very similar to werewolves. There exists a group known as The Order, comprised of knights who defend the queen and London’s citizens from the Lycans. Due to the game’s element of fantasy, the member of The Order are able to live for centuries by drinking from the Holy Grail. You take control of Sir Galahad, a respected member of The Order as he meets interesting characters and struggles to keep his loyalty as conspiracies behind The Order and Lycans are uncovered.
Thankfully, the game excels at telling a gripping narrative with fascinating characters. Sir Galahad, his squad, and all of the game’s other characters leap of the screen with fantastic acting and animations. Galahad is a very enjoyable protagonist with believable convictions and emotions. The story reamins fascinating throughout. There was never a time where I wasn’t interested in what was going to happen next to Galahad, The Order, and even the Lycans. The Order: 1886 also uses real important historical people in its fantastical setting well. For example, similar to how Assassin’s Creed II used Leonardo DeVinci, Nikola Tesla is The Order’s main weapons and gadgets specialist.
Gameplay primarily consists of four different types: 3rd person shooting, stealth, quick time event segments, and walking through the game’s beautiful environments while finding collectables. Thankfully, the well-crafted shooting sections represent the majority of gameplay, and they offer exciting battles that will leave you on the edge of your seat. The level designs are varied and well-crafted, offering a nice layer of strategy. Enemies are placed in creative locations, often residing in difficult to spot crevices located above and bellow where you aim by default. Melee can also be done with a simple button press, and it quite satisfyingly animated. Using weapons also feels very satisfying and real with the stellar sound design. The absolute best part of your arsenal are the “science weapons”. These range from a Thermite Rifle that engulfs your enemies in flames, and the Arc Induction Lance which shoots a gigantic bolt of electricity that tears your enemies apart. When Galahad falls in battle, he can drink the “blackwater” from the Holy Grail to recover once before dying permanently. He can also use the water to slow down time and shoot enemies in quick succession. This mechanic isn’t incredibly useful, but I found it fun to use and it did help me survive a few close calls. As much as I loved these sections, there are a few flaws keeping them from excellence. The run button is a bit awkward to use. You simply need to hold down the left analog stick, but running in any direction other than completely straight will cause Galahad to suddenly stop in his tracks. This caused for some frustration when I needed to run quickly from an enemy’s attack. Due to a strange blurring effect, enemies can be hard to see when far away, making shooting with accuracy difficult in some spots. One of the most frustrating aspects in the entire game are the shotgun wielding enemies. They are incredibly fast and kill Galahad in only one or two shots. I found these enemies to be a pain and the cause of the majority of my deaths in the game. Battles with Lycans are also few and far between and a bit repetitive. They’re not awful, but the gameplay mainly consists of being plopped into a wide-open area, with some obstructions like boxes, where you must shoot and dodge Lycans without letting them attack you. At least there is the added mechanic in which you must finish off a Lycan before it can get back up, adding a little bit of variety. The final issue I had is that, when Galahad dies, the game awkwardly cuts to black instantly before loading from the last checkpoint. I think that a mildly slower death animation would have been preferable.
Stealth is fairly simple but also mostly successful at being enjoyable. When in a stealth section, Galahad will automatically be in a stealth stance while walking. To stab an enemy, you have to sneak behind them and press the button prompt at the correct time. Pressing the button at the incorrect time will either cause the enemy to notice you or enemies nearby to be alerted. The worst part is that enemies will kill you instantly when they spot you, no matter what. This causes for a few unfair deaths when an enemy’s field of view is unclear to the player. Despite that flaw, however, stealth is still very tense and plays well. The most disappointing aspects of gameplay are the QTE segments and the long stretches of walking from place to place. The only area within the game where QTE is anything but the typical “press this button at the right time” formula is when battling the alpha Lycans. These battles include fresh mechanics like dodging the Lycan’s attacks and two different types of dagger attacks at your disposal. These parts are well crafted and enthralling. Too bad this type of QTE only appears in the game two times. I really wish that the developers would have used more unique QTEs like it throughout the game instead of the old-fashioned “interactive movie” type. There are also too many areas where all you do is walk from one location to another. Yes, the amazing atmosphere and locations do help break the monotony at times, but I don’t think that simply adding pretty collectables to walking segments is enough to completely salvage them. By the end of the game, I didn’t want to walk around London any more. Ready at Dawn is lucky that it stayed engrossing for the majority of the game. Also, some of the game’s chapters are only cutscenes with absolutely no gameplay. I find that a tad ridiculous as I’m sure the developers could have at least condensed those cutscene-only chapters into ones with gameplay.
Finally, yes, the graphics are definitely mind-blowing. Every character and location looks completely genuine. I couldn’t help myself but marvel at every beautifully rendered item Galahad can pick up. I loved how the graphics during cutscenes were 100% rendered using the in-game engine. Gone are the days of pre-rendered cutscenes and fades to black. Cutscenes blend into gameplay perfectly and vice versa. The game does have black bars to create a movie look (and most likely to make 1080p easier to reach), and the game runs at 30 FPS. I was honestly bothered by neither, as the game is still a graphical marvel regardless. The game’s sound design is top notch. Every sound effect is engrossing and realistic. The soundtrack is fitting for the era and gets your blood pumping in-game, but the songs aren’t so memorable that I could tell you how any of them go after playing, either.
The game took me about 8 to 9 hours to complete on hard difficulty and about another hour to get the frankly very easy platinum and 100% the game. The biggest issue is the game’s lack of any replay value other than re-experiencing the story and gameplay at a later date. There is no multiplayer or alternate modes to speak of.
Overall, despite its flaws, The Order: 1886 is a great experience. The story, acting, graphics, atmosphere, and even the majority of the gameplay shines through. Most of the flaws, I believe, come from Ready at Dawn and Sony being overly focused on wowing people with great graphics. If you want a game that will offer dozens of hours of gameplay, look elsewhere or wait for a price cut. If you simply want a cinematic experience with solid gameplay, I’d recommend The Order: 1886.