So here’s the thing, I’m reaching out to Ready At Dawn on behalf of the Internet with an apology. The Order 1886 is actually better than ‘they’ say.
Victorian London, specifically Whitechapel in the shadow of Jack the Ripper, an elite unit of steampunk armed Knights that are members of the longstanding round table of Camelot. If you wanted a new IP, you came to the right place. Throw in some intrigue, politics and a sprinkle of werewolves and simmer for 5 – 6 hours.
Revealed to the tune of excitement when the PS4 was unveiled, The Order was a breath of fresh air. As the months went on and release window slipped the information started flowing. It was a third person cover shooter, the graphics were incredible and the cutscenes were indistinguishable from those mini movies. All good stuff.
Then came the release and the wolves began to feed. Complaints of being ‘overly cinematic’, full of quick time events and worst of all, being short. Let’s tackle these points in reverse order.
I come from a generation where: time/dollars<>value. Yes it’s nice when a Fallout, Elite or GTA rolls along and gives you hundreds of hours of entertainment, but it’s not always that simple. We look to games for experiences, entertainment, visions of what might come next. I have very fond memories of a game called Flood, a minor Bullfrog release about an amphibian called Quiffy. He had to negotiate a number of flooding tunnels before drowning. I loved it even if I did finished it in a couple of hours, I never felt cheated and I still miss Quiffy. Because he brought something new to my table, a changing and dangerous environment I’d never seen before. Yes, in relative terms The Order could be considered ‘short’, but being generally nosey I took a couple of evenings over it and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It is however, also a well constructed piece of cinematic entertainment that really shows what this generation of console is capable off.
The game offers a new twist on a relatively unused setting and delivers it in a stunning package. Quite simply this title offers some of the most breathtaking graphics I have ever had the pleasure to look at, there is not a single minute of gameplay where you can’t help but wonder at the authentic (yes, researched) textures, the quality of the character models and the landscape of London drifting off into the smokey distance and bask in the lighting.
I have been funnelled down corridors before, but never with such glorious detail. You might not be able to enter shops and building that dress the streets, but the rooms behind those shiny windows are dressed as if you can. Details. Which I was all ready to share with my own screenshots, until a hard drive crashed killed them. Moving through areas and fighting sections of bad guys, before progressing the story is all too familiar, but it works and it is fun, especially when coupled with such a glorious setting.
Quicktime Events, most people that enjoy games shudder at the thought. It’s an easy way to put a ‘hardcore’ gamer off their stride by reminding them a game will be full of quicktime events. The Order has three, maybe four boss fights that resolve to QTE, that’s not much really is it? Those fights have relatively fair checkpoints along the way and seemingly offer a few outcomes, not forgetting the various gruesome death animations when Galahad gets clumsy. Then there are the few circumstance events, that require a quick move of the cursor to a recticle in time to sidestep an attack. Kind of QTE lite really, the only issue with these is the stick used to move the cursor isn’t the one my brain wants to use. Other than that there are the now standard, mash ‘X’ to open door type button presses, these are hardly QTE by anybody’s standard and crop up a damn sight more through games like The Last of Us or Tomb Raider.
So, The Order requests some interaction and there are a few one on one fights handled with fairly easy QTE. Hardly a game breaker and certainly nothing to complain about against the likes of God of War, let’s be honest.
As for the complaints of ‘overly cinematic’ this game is a lesson in cinematic, beautifully shot and paced. Not forgetting how the seamless transition from cutscene to game is handled so spectacularly smoothly. It is so easy to miss where the characters stop talking and you are back in control. The Order is a well crafted experience, the world wanted ‘Cinemaware’ over twenty years ago, well it got The Order in 2015. Here there is never that jarring moment where the pre-rendered scene has your character dressed differently and carry different weapons, here everybody holds whatever is in their hands accurately and it’s rare to feel that assets around the environment have ever been over used.
The general populace has missed the point, if you take the game as a whole and enjoy it for what it offers you might start to see the details where the hard work has been put in. The quality of the environment, the way the clothing acts, the way the characters move within their surroundings, the way Galahad will put his weapon up out of the way if you stray too close to an obstacle, and the sheer effort that Ready At Dawn have poured into this release to make it both shiny and glitch free.
I was disappointed when the game finished, basically because I wanted more and I hope the developers do too. This is a story I want to get to the bottom of with some interesting characters and some fantastic steampunk technology too boot. Let’s hope the team is working hard at the sequel, I want to get back into Galahad’s boots as soon as I can. Even if they are a little bit clumpy and he might be a vampire considering he shows no reflection in any mirror amongst all that graphical splendour.
So back to my point, The Order is a well crafted piece of entertainment. As a game it’s delivery is an actual piece of art crafted by love, and for that Ready At Dawn – I salute you.