pop culture | no politics
Playstation 4’s first big exclusive of 2015, The Order: 1886, dropped yesterday. The game was originally slated to come out a year ago, and after completing it this evening I really wonder how developer Ready At Dawn spent that extra 12 months of development. I mean what kind of train wreck would we have gotten if this game had released on time?
As I write this post The Order has an average Metacritic score of 65, placing it in the “Mixed Reviews” category. The most common critiques of the game being the short length, the overuse of Quicktime events, long cut scenes, and rather dated gameplay and level designs. When you see that many reviewers finding that much common ground across the board there’s going to be a lot of truth there. I think I liked it better than most have, but it has plenty of problems.
But let’s start with the positives. This is the prettiest game I’ve ever played. Smooth frame rate and an absolutely gorgeous world. A beautiful game is more than just realistic graphics, it encompasses the game’s sound design, the voice acting, the total package. The Order hits a home run here, the fictional world it exists in feels real and authentic, like it could maybe exist in the dimension right next door to us. The characters are interesting and likable, and succeed in making a somewhat cliched plot interesting. My only complaint with the visuals is that some fool made the decision to present the entire game, gameplay included, in letterbox format. You’re not making a movie guys, I want to use every pixel available on my TV. Replacing 4 inches of my screen’s real estate with black bars is a dumb move that nobody is going to like. Cut scenes are one thing, but when I’m supposed to be shooting werewolves that screen space needs to be all mine.
And that’s where The Order really stumbles, after finishing it it’s hard not to believe the developers were more interested in making an interactive movie instead of a cinematic game. There are 4 or 5 Chapters where you have a cut scene, you walk for 5 minutes, and trigger another cut scene. Is that supposed to be a level? I don’t particularly like walking in real life, why would I want to do it in a $60 game? In a game that has a lighting gun designed by Nikola Tesla I’m not really interested in working on my character’s cardio, I want to shoot the damn lighting gun. Your character moves slowly, which makes sense given he’s a big man that’s covered in armor and a sweet duster, so these long walking sequences go real slow. Maybe they can patch in a “jog” button?
The gameplay, what little there is of it, is fine. Typical cover-based shooter, nothing special. All too often your stuck with a bolt-action rifle while your fellow knights are using flamethrowers and laser canons though. There’s so much cool technology in the game, but it always feels like it’s just out of your reach. And when you do get your hands on it and it just starts to feel right the game plucks it out of your hands.
I don’t hate Quicktime events as much as some people do. When used correctly and in moderation they can add a nice wrinkle to the gameplay. No franchise does this better the God of War series, those games are built around button-mashing and the QTEs give the player’s thumb a much-needed break from that. The Order breaks up it’s 20 minute cutscenes and on-the-edge-of-your-seat walking sequences with such fascinating Quicktime events of “pick up an apple” and “tap your friend on the shoulder to get their attention”. The latter you actually have to perform on two separate occasions, maybe more because there’s a better than average chance I fell asleep during the game and missed one or two. The danger of overusing Quicktime events is that by nature the stakes are somewhat diluted compared to traditional gameplay. The only real consequence of failing an event in The Order is that you’ll have to watch the same cut scene again, and given how long they are that’s actually a pretty steep penalty.
Overall The Order: 1886 reminds me a lot of the original Assassin’s Creed game which gives me hope for the franchise’s future. If Ready At Dawn is willing to learn from their mistakes like Ubisoft did then the sequel will pan out. Everything that The Order does poorly is correctable and the foundation for an interesting franchise is there. Gameplay will always be king, hopefully they understand that concept better the second time around.