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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: Fluidity over fun in ‘The Order’


    Ready at Dawn

    A new console generation and consistent improvements to processing power and graphic capability have made games increasingly more cinematic. Since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One released in late 2013, there’s really no excuse for developers to turn out games that aren’t at least a bit more visually stunning than last-generation titles. Heck, half the games that come out these days are just high-definition versions of popular titles from the good ’ol days. But what happens when a game transcends interactivity and becomes less of a game and more of a movie? Is that even possible? It is, and that movie’s name is “The Order: 1886.”

    Ready at Dawn’s latest release is the studio’s first big step into the console world, having only really worked on PlayStation Portable titles since its inception in 2003. Sure, it tackled a Wii port of “Okami” in 2008 and made a PlayStation 3 compilation of its portable “God of War” games in 2011, but new IP for the PS4 is a whole different ball game. And boy did Ready at Dawn step up to the plate. “The Order: 1886” is an ambitious title, and an admirable one at that, but certain aspects of the game fall short of the hype that surrounded it prior to its release on Feb. 20. Let’s delve into the nitty gritty.

    The Story

    It’s a sad thing to watch potential go to waste and to see great ideas fail to come to fruition. “The Order: 1886”’s narrative campaign fits this bill and is certainly a diamond in the rough. Despite a typical and ultimately predictable story, some interesting concepts and the occasional surprise present themselves to players throughout the game’s relatively short campaign.

    The story takes place in an alternate 19th century London where the industrial revolution was a bit more fruitful than it was in reality and where the Knights of the Round Table are still alive and well. In this case, “well” is defined as nearly immortal with inhuman healing capabilities thanks to King Arthur’s discovery of the infamous Holy Grail. The Grail’s contents, now referred to as Blackwater, bind the secret order of knights together in a centuries-old war against the half-breeds, aka: werewolves.

    I know what you’re thinking: Not another game about battling mythological beasts. It’s not even the first title in recent years about a steampunk Old England (see “Dishonored”). But hey, at least you aren’t fighting zombies.

    The game’s opening scene depicts a late moment in the game’s overall narrative, effectively ruining one of the campaign’s bigger plot points. It seems as if Ready at Dawn took notes from its sister Sony studio Naughty Dog and tried to mimic the opening to “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” with astoundingly mediocre results.

    The overall lore behind “The Order: 1886” is sound and intriguing enough to keep players interested. However, despite several high concepts and a mystery story, you won’t find your next favorite narrative in “The Order: 1886.”

    The Gameplay

    Ready at Dawn has dealt primarily with mobile gaming until now, so you might expect “The Order: 1886” to feel, I don’t know, wrong. You would be incorrect. The third-person shooter gameplay feels surprising fluid and runs well on the RAD Engine 4.0. However, unless you’re quick-time events’ No. 1 fan, there’s not much else to be said about “The Order: 1886”’s gameplay that is necessarily positive.

    Cutscenes and quick-time events plague the game from start to finish in quite a literal way. The occasional expository cinematic is welcome in any title, but “The Order: 1886” treats gameplay like HBO treats commercials: secondary to the show, or, in this case, the cutscenes. Additionally, these scenes have horrendously easy but far too sporadic quick-time events sprinkled throughout. You’ll never feel safe setting down your controller for even a moment because the game will inevitably force you to do something monotonous like press triangle to whisper each number in a countdown to your in-game companion. No, I’m not kidding.

    The parts of “The Order: 1886” that actually have you shooting the game’s imaginative arsenal of weapons are fun but repetitive. Wave after wave of goons come spouting from god-knows-where, and it’s all too easy to pick them off with headshots, one-by-one. When the game allows you to be armed with something cool like the arc gun, “Falchion” auto rifle or the thermite gun, these waves can be enjoyable. However, you’ll find yourself aiming for foreheads with crappy pistols a large majority of the time.

    But what about fighting werewolves, you ask? Well, of course, that’s a blast. Unfortunately, the instances are few and far between. I can honestly only remember five werewolf encounters in the entire game about a society of knights who fight werewolves. Lame.

    The Verdict

    Even if you hate cutscenes and quick-time events with a passion, you’ll only have to endure them for an afternoon or two, considering “The Order: 1886”’s campaign spans all of about six hours. If you really take your time looking at all the gorgeous scenery, reading the newspapers and listening to the phonograph recordings scattered throughout the game’s linear world, you might be able to stretch your game time to 10 hours or so, but that’s being generous.

    Don’t even get me started on Ready at Dawn’s decision to include widescreen letterboxes above and below the screen during cutscenes and gameplay.   If they wanted the aspect ratio of a film, they should have made a film instead of ruining my field of vision everytime I had to crouch behind a wall in a cover-based shooter.

    Despite all these negatives, “The Order: 1886” is truly a visual marvel and has noticeable production value that is second to none. If you love anything about the sound of steampunk England, The Knights of the Round Table or shooting werewolves with electric rifles, you should pick up this title. But keep in mind that when I say “pick up,” I really mean rent or borrow from a friend, because there’s no reason to pay $60 for a game this short in length with no online multiplayer, cooperative mode or replay value whatsoever.

    Oh, but the game’s soundtrack is pretty awesome, so there’s that. Happy hunting!


    Follow Torsten Ward on Twitter.

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