Ready at Dawn (RAD) studio -- the studio made up of former Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica and Blizzard employees -- is best known for their games on PSP. Their most accomplished works have been on the God of War IP with Chains of Olympus and God of War: Ghost of Sparta.
At E3 2013, they teased their debut console project, The Order 1886, for the PlayStation 4. The Order 1886 was announced as a third person cinematic action-adventure shooter featuring the Knights of the Order during the Industrial Revolution in London. The game is an alternate take on reality, featuring historical characters, an iconic location and the half-breed lore within its universe.
There are things that The Order gets it right, but has left plenty of room for improvement, which hopefully gets addressed in a sequel.
THE SHINING KNIGHTS OF ORDER
The Order 1886 Needs to be Seen to Believed - The game has been in development for four years, and If it’s one area that RAD focused on, then it’s undoubtedly the second-to-none photo-realistic, CGI-esque visuals, brilliant facial animation and overall visual effects surrounding the game. I can’t stress this enough, but RAD have set a visual bar so high for other studios to reach. Thankfully my share button works just fine post completion of the game, as I stopped keeping count of the number of times I clicked the button, taking endless number of snaps and videos of the sheer beauty within The Order 1886.
Not a Bad Story for a Newbie - Most of the story in The Order focuses on our gallant Knight Sir Galahad. That's right, the same Sir Galahad from the tales of King Arthur. The knights of the Order take their fight against the half-breeds and a new emerging threat. The direction behind voice acting and motion capture is movie-like and the actors themselves have done a good job in keeping us piqued to learn more about them and how they impact the story. The knights are bestowed with Blackwater, a mythical liquid that gives them longer life and Wolverine-like healing abilities. Even though the ending didn't blow me away, the effort from the studio to put together such an interesting plot is commendable.
Taking the Good Stuff From Other Games - The Order shooting felt somewhere between Gears and Uncharted while its brutal melee combat felt very close to a QTE version of that in the Last of Us. The guns that I had a blast with were the sniper rifle, designed by Nikola Tesla himself, and the thermite rifle. The thermite rifle was easily the most satisfying weapon to fire, with its main fire sending out aluminum oxide pellets and the alternate fire sends out a heat flare that creates a fiery chain reaction. Another useful feature to take out multiple enemies at a single instance of firing is by enabling Blacksight. This allows Galahad to quickly switch from one enemy to another firing of bullets precisely at certain body parts, not that much different than the Dead Eye mechanic from Red Dead Redemption. Shooting an air-borne grenade using Blacksight and any surrounding enemy in the blast radius gets killed instantly, is just a sublime thing to pull-off.
ORDER NO LONGER
Keeps on Ordering Me Around - Ever since the original reveal of the Order 1886, my expectations were asking for an Uncharted like exploration/cinematic story-driven experience featuring half-breeds and characters from an actual history of time blended together through alternate history story-telling. Now did the final game deliver on this expectation of mine? The answer is a yes and a no.
Yes, you fight half-breeds, but their encounters were very few and far between. The encounter itself was straightforward shooting and QTE stab to finish which isn't bad per se, but I expected something more elaborate like a boss battle-esque type of encounter. The game's exploration isn't rewarding either. When you inspect an object, I want to see some kind of checklist being struck-off, like an audio or visual cue letting the player know he/she done something important. Forcing the player to just walk around is plain frustrating, especially when your left thumb is used to clicking the L3 button thanks to first-person shooters.
How Can You Screw Up QTE Controls? - God of War games had straight forward QTE (which I enjoyed a lot) where you either tap the button and/or use the left analog sticks. The Order makes you move the right stick and then press the face buttons to finish a QTE sequence, and there’s only so much humans can do with one right thumb. Instant fail stealth takedowns in some of the chapters were just plain frustrating. Just when I thought I had timed the triangle button press to execute a stealth kill, there comes a red flash on the button prompt indicating me that I have failed and Galahad gets shot and killed.
Lycan QTE combat was another thing that equally frustrated. Using the right stick, L2/R2/L1, just didn't do it for me. I didn't find triangle as "THE" button for picking up ammo, opening doors, climbing ladders, QTE, melee combat. Whatever happened to using other buttons on the controller?
Move On Already - With unskippable cutscenes, I found the second play through of the Order 1886 good and painfully bad having to wait for a cutscene to end. This is also due to the fact that the game takes control from the player’s hands quite a few often and with limited gameplay/exploration content, I want to get right into the action, not wait around to wait for a scene to play out that I've already seen.
The Order 1886 is by no means a terrible game my opinion, despite its shortcomings. The game deserves a sequel, a sequel worthy of the secrets and mysteries surrounding the Order and its universe. Ready at Dawn had clearly spent a lot of their time in the cinematic look of the game, here’s hoping they sincerely listen to fan feedback and correct on their mistakes for an improved sequel.
*This review was based on the retail version of the game for the PS4