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The Order: 1886 PS4 Review

The Order: 1866 is a full price retail game that last 6 hours at best, and it offers zero replay value – that certainly is a problem. The reason I am starting this review with such a statement is that it’s but one single complaint of many to level against the game. To tell you the truth, I just wanted to get it out of the way, as “value for money” is not something that everyone cares about. You could be a billionaire for all I know (well done if you are – please fund us!), but more likely, you may want to pick up the game months after its initial release for a cut price. In both cases the RRP would not concern you, and as such does not bare talking about.

But aside from just pricing concerns, The Order has other problems worth highlighting; so let’s do that.

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The setting of The Order is a distinct one for sure, mixing fable and fantasy with real world icons, creating an alternate history tale set in late 19th century London. The game uniquely intertwines the genius inventor, futurist, and borderline mad scientist Nikola Tesla, with Knights of Arthurian Legend and orphic creatures of the occult. The result is a totally unique setting filled with infinite possibilities, offering near endless threads to weave a compelling narrative upon. The story told however is a very timid one. The characters in the game may look, and act like real people, but they utter meaningless words that would not be out of place in an early Gears of War game. In truth, the hulking brute Marcus Fenix is arguably a more well-rounded character than most on show in The Order/

These hollow characters in turn make much of the plot inconsequential. I won’t spoil it outright, but let’s just say the story begins by asking a few interesting questions, then offers many bad answers halfway through, and plods through the later hours in mediocrity, as it approaches it’s tiresome, flat ending. This is a shame, as the game sets it sights on offering gamers a cinematic experience – almost seeming obsessed with that task – yet it falls at the very first hurdle, creating cold characters living in a sterile world.

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Whilst many games nowadays offer a sandbox to let players create their own fun in, The Order rigidly adopts what could be labeled an old school approach of strictly directing players to its supposed trills. There is nothing inherently wrong with this mindset – The Last of Us achieved much success with the same approach in 2012 – but you have to do it right. Whilst The Last of Us was a linear game, it always offered choice. It constantly provided players enough rope to both succeed and hang themselves with, making minute-to-minute gameplay engaging and (more importantly) fun.

Conversely, The Order is insidiously direct and linear to the point of destruction. Far too many encounters are won or lost via a QTE button press. In recent years, many games of similar vein have adopted context sensitive attacks. If you hit an enemy whilst near a pipe – they may organically impact said pipe. But The Order regressively puts a Triangle button on the pipe and demands you press it to make the interaction happen. Such a move can only be seen as a step back to a system that was already causing ire during the PS2 days. The level of annoyance is exacerbated as QTEs are aggressively used with excruciating regularity multiple times through the game. Even when they are not used, very little is done to accentuate the game’s few poignant moments, so they all fall flat. Now that I am remembering the PS2 days, a phrase I always dreaded hearing was “I’m pulling you out Fisher,” in the insta-fail sections of the far too cruel original Splinter Cell. You’ll probably not be surprised to hear The Order shares this archaic mechanic too.

This far into the review, and I have not even mentioned that much of the core gameplay in The Order involves partaking in some third-person shooting action. Sorry about that! Once again I will reference Gears of War, which may initially sound like a compliment, but let’s not forget we are quickly approaching a decade since Epic began that well loved series. Like a lot else in The Order, gunplay is rooted in the past – locking you into far too small an arena, thus limiting fun gunplay experimentation. Even though some of the weaponry is fun to handle, few of the enemies are fun to battle. Whilst the game may initially want you to believe it’s a totally unique effort, The Order in no way ever tries to break the mold of what came before. Instead it crumbles under the weight of trying to mirror many of its predecessors, regularly failing at the task of emulating its close peers.

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What The Order does right is well worth a mention. It is filled with sights to see, and everything is portrayed with exquisite intricate detail. The graphical step up is so spectacularly far ahead of almost everything else available on console right now, that it sets a new bar for other developers to try and reach. In fact, in terms of overall presentation alone the game does a stellar job. Voice acting is pretty solid, and whilst the story can approach convoluted at times, what the characters say is delivered confidently, and with enough fervor to make it believable.

Another plus point is the game does not seem to be a hot mess technically. This may be seen as faint praise, but over the past 12 months we have seen many other games fall onto retail shelves a few steps short of literally being on fire.Some of those games, even after multiple large patches (that personally make my bandwidth cry), still work no better than they did at their messy launch. Other developers have even created sites that proudly proclaim they have slightly increased framerate and reduced bugs in their game as they release patches – under the mistaken illusion that is worthy of applause. Other titles had so many issues at release that developers needed community help to create a road map to even start to begin fixing them. For christ sake, some patches have betas nowadays – we’ve fallen that far.

So you see, the fact The Order works, and seems to work well, is something worth highlighting. Of course, when a game simply does what you expect it to do, and gets praise for achieving this task, it may be a sign that the whole industry is totally fucked right now, but thats a story for another day.

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In a review I wrote for this very website back in the mid 00s, I criticized a developer and its employees for not caring about their end product. I basically implied they were happy to pump out cheap crap once they got paid for it. A few days after the review went live, I saw an email in our inbox that was directed at me. It was from the COO of the company that developed the game referencing that statement, along with a few extra tidbits of information. One noteworthy phrase in the email was calling me “what is wrong with gaming journalism,” which was a harsh but justified statement based on what I said about his employes. I hasten to add, I do not believe that he was mad at me for having a poor opinion of his game, instead he was concerned that such a comment would hugely detriment the moral of his team.

I wrote 100s of reviews before that email, and many more following it, but after seeing that email was the one and only time I ever went to our CMS to change a piece of text in an article after it going live. I removed the insult because he was right – no company sets out to create a bad game. The end result of a effort may be labeled “unsatisfactory,” “unfavorable,” or whatever the buzzword is nowadays – but effort will always be put in throughout creation regardless of the end result . But even with the best of intentions, a list of problems can accrue during development that hinders a team achieving their original goal, and I feel that was the cruel reality Ready at Dawn ran up against during development of The Order.

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There is no one singular thing wrong with The Order – it’s an ever increasing number of issues that build up over its short run that’s the culprit here. Offering more options to players is not the fix. It does not need a multiplayer option to inflate its replay value, nor does it need a co-op mode to play with your friend. Extra hours of gameplay is not the fix either. More hours of The Order in its current state would arguably further hinder rather than help the game’s appeal. The solution is not to offer more, instead The Order just needed to be a better game – but thats something much easier for me to demand than it is to accomplish.

Some may say that the following may very well put everyone involved in the industry out of business some day, but this really is one of those games where you gain nothing by playing it. So, loading up a Let’s Play with a host that does not make your ears want to bleed, and viewing The Order through the actions of others seems like the correct approach – if you have an insatiable urge to experience this one.

Regardless of quantity concerns (which is a valid complaint), where The Order more crucially falls apart is in regards to quality. It does not matter if a game is one or one hundred hours long, you need to enjoy playing it, and The Order fails at that most crucial of tasks. This is unforgivable, and instantly makes it impossible to recommend.

4 out of 10