Title: The Order: 1886
Few games released in 2015 have generated the controversy, and in some cases, outright fury, than that of The Order: 1886. Blasted by countless media outlets for its short length, it hasn’t received the consideration it deserves; behind the problems (and there are many) lies a great game.
The writing, the world, the story, the characters: All of these things are amazing in The Order. It had GOTY potential written all over it, but several deal-breaking components make the game fall well short of such a consideration.
The Order: 1886 seems phoned in. It’s like the developers had this great plan, spent 90% of their time crafting the world and the characters, and then realized with two weeks left in development that they hadn’t addressed gameplay. So they threw something together and called it a day.
This is possibly the most beautiful console game up to this point. I almost wanted to reach out and touch the fabric on the main character’s shoulder – everything was just simply gorgeous. The writing and voice acting was actually really good for a video game; sometimes I’d stand by some NPC’s and just listen to what amounted to a pretty decent conversation. I love movies so I was ok with this having lots of cutscenes and playing out like a long movie; in fact, I found that aspect refreshing. However, while having many cutscenes is perfectly acceptable, having them in place of gameplay (instead of in addition to it) is unacceptable. Occasionally the game would bring you out of several minutes of cutscenes, have you walk for 20 seconds, and then jump into another cutscene, in what seemed like a rouse to make you think you’re actually in control. It felt like they were trying to hide the fact that you don’t actually do much of anything in the game, but it’s a poor attempt at that.
I enjoyed the little historical references, like featuring a competition between Thomas Edison and one of the characters. A piece of paper featuring Edison is just one of many that you pick up and examine, a gameplay element that looked gorgeous and reminded me of picking up items in L.A. Noire. Unfortunately, these little touches were few and far between; the world itself was a dreary and interesting place, but there simply wasn’t enough of it.
I really liked what The Order was trying to be, but some aspects of the (extremely limited) gameplay ruin it. What could have been a perfectly competent third-person shooter complemented by a gorgeous world was relegated to a series of Quick Time events that plague the experience. I would have loved to see all that they have in this game, minus the QTs, but with five more hours of gameplay. Then, I think this game would have been one of my top picks for the year. As it stands, it’s a disappointment.
Many critics have complained that it is simply too short. I’m fine with the game’s length overall, but there’s no way it should have been this short with as many cutscenes as it had. I actually prefer shorter experiences, as I feel many games try too hard to drag it out and reach a certain hourly threshold, but they’ve simply got to have more gameplay than they do here. This game doesn’t even give you enough time to get familiar with a weapon; as soon as I got the hang of something, it was time for something new. And there’s not even enough chances to experiment to really find out what you like best.
It almost seems like the people who made The Order hadn’t worked on this type of game before. Tutorial advice like “press X to open the door” pops up all the time – why not just make an action button like every other game and have people press that when in doubt? It really takes you out of the beautiful universe when you get hit with obvious instructions left and right. Sometimes the game wouldn’t let you run – why make the character walk in certain situations where you’re just meandering down a hall? It almost seems like they’re trying to drag it out as much as possible. Sometimes they wouldn’t let you pick which gun you wanted to use, when there was no reason to not allow player choice – instead they force you into using whatever they select. That seems like lazy game design.
The action sequences of gameplay that are there, however briefly, were solid enough to keep my interest. I found the generally brief shooting and stealth sessions to be enjoyable, and I really wanted to experiment more with the range of weapons that they provided. Unfortunately, they never let these segments go on long enough to really sink my teeth in and get to know a weapon. Instead, you’re frequently yanked out of a situation in favor of cutscenes or QT events, and I never got a good feel for the variety that was there. There’s no multiplayer option, and thus no replayability since I’ve already seen the most interesting part (the story), so there’s not going to be an opportunity for me to find out either. It’s really a shame for them to have created all of this just to be briefly experienced once and then never looked at again.
The good news is that they’ve developed an amazing engine and built an interesting world, and as the media has provided no shortage of critiques and suggestions for improvement, so if they do a sequel then they’ll have no excuse not to get it right. I would love to see a second game in the series, but you better believe I’m not going to pre-order it. They’re going to have to convince me, and a lot of other people, to give the next game a shot.