Imagine an alternate universe where the landscape contained remarkable detail and lush moustaches. Throw in some historical figures and a race of Lycans mad keen on tearing you to shreds and you have The Order: 1886.
The Order: 1886 is a visually stunning third person cover based shooter set in a historically altered version of London during the Victorian era. In such a universe King Arthur’s legendary knights of the round table (known as The Order) have been at war for centuries with a race of Lycans, commonly referred to as the half-breeds. The half-breeds had threatened to eradicate The Order until the industrial revolution gave birth to artillery that allowed The Order to suppress the half-breed threat.
You are given the honour of controlling Sir Galahad, a brave and badass knight that has served The Order for many centuries. Galahad (whose real name is Grayson) is joined by his mentor Sir Perceval (Sebastien), the resolute Lady Igraine (Isabeau) and the French ladies’ man, Marquis de Lafayette. The character development is top notch with each character having their strengths and weaknesses highlighted during the game. Not to mention the sexual tension between Galahad and Igraine makes you wonder, will they or won’t they get together (think Mulder and Scully).
Other characters based on real historical figures make an appearance in The Order:1886, and some, like the previously mentioned Marquis de Lafayette, play key roles in the game. None more so than genius inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla is somewhat of The Order’s quartermaster and is the mastermind behind the impressive weaponry and gadgets you find yourself using throughout the campaign. There are also whispers of Jack the Ripper and Thomas Edison, a nice touch that enhances the believability of the world.
Over the course of the game’s campaign you journey with Galahad as he battles his own demons and becomes disconnected from The Order’s governing.
The campaign, which took me about 10 hours to complete, is nothing we haven’t seen before, in fact at its core it’s rather generic. Good versus evil, a couple of plot twists etc, but this doesn’t mean the story is boring, in fact it’s quite good. The story is really brought to life by the exceptional voice acting throughout the entire game. Almost every character that has a relatively important dialogue segment is nailed to perfection. One instance is at the beginning of the game when Perceval is conversing with the police commissioner.
One of the game’s stand out performers, in my opinion, is Marquis de Lafayette, whose French-American dialogue is voiced by Frederik Hamel. Lafayette’s character is a refreshing change of pace as he provides the games more humorous moments. The star of the show though is Sir Galahad. Voice actor Steve West really immerses you into caring about the lead star, each emotional turn he takes you’re right with him. I would say I have not witnessed a more flawless delivery of dialogue on behalf of a game character since Troy Baker’s portrayal of Joel in The Last of Us.It’s not an exciting cutscene but the interaction between the two characters engages you more than it would normally due to the superb voice acting. On the whole, the story is more of the ‘tell now, explain later’ type. There were times when I wasn’t exactly sure why I was doing what I was doing until much later in the play through when the pieces all started coming together.
The voice acting is not the only incredible audible facet to bring the game’s relatively generic story up a few notches. The game’s score, written by Jason Graves (Evolve, Dead Space series, etc.) is one of the most fitting soundtracks I have ever heard. Walking down Ready at Dawn’s alternate Whitechapel and other areas of faux-London feels believable thanks to the score, and yes those graphics.
The graphics are quite simply amazing, The Order: 1886 in my eyes is the most graphically impressive title we have seen on any console to date.
The amount of detail and effort put into the lore of the world alone is an achievement in itself. The facial detail in the majority of characters is also outstanding. The characters actually look real to an extent, the creases on Lord Chancellor’s forehead, the eye movement as characters converse with one another and that lip syncing man. The next tour Britney Spears does, she should hire Ready At Dawn for help. The Order’s world was designed using an in-house engine built for this game, RAD 4.0. What makes this even more notable is that this is Ready at Dawn’s first release on a non-handheld console. You can really tell that this has been a labour of love for the developers. Every area from the streets of Whitechapel to London’s underground tunnels to a dingy brothel look and feel real.
RAD stated they wanted to give the player a cinematic or ‘filmic’ gaming experience. This is evident by some of the game’s sequences containing motion blur, it looks sexy as. The game has a resolution of 1920×800 (30fps) containing horizontal black bars. Yes, the kind you see in films. Does this impede or enhance the experience? Personally I liked the addition of the black bars (like I did with The Evil Within), however there were a couple times where I felt my view behind cover was too restricted. I think this had more to do with the camera angle than the black bars, but the combination of the two made for a couple bothersome moments. Overall I thought it definitely enhanced the cinematic moments and I didn’t find myself cursing those apparent scheissenhausen black bars whilst playing the game.
This filmic approach has lead to the game containing quite a few cutscenes. The majority of these cutscenes are actually quite short and the transition from cutscene to gameplay is seamless. A lot of the scenes are interactive whether that includes a button prompt or checking out whatever item is in your hand by rotating the L3 and R3 sticks. This also means that the cutscenes are unable to be skipped. This is only probably an issue for some during the longer cutscenes or if you’re replaying it. None of the cutscenes felt like they dragged on, however I felt like there were a couple of balancing issues at times. Long chunks of cutscene followed by short gameplay segments where you could only walk jarred the momentum at times.
So how does the gameplay? We have talked about good it looks and sounds, so what is it like to play?
A lot was made of the game’s shooting mechanics prior to release, but personally I found them to be solid. There’s nothing remarkable about them nor is there anything majorly wrong with them. The guns themselves are satisfying to shoot, none of them feel over or underpowered. You have your stock standard auto rifles, pistols and shotguns (1886 models of course) and other guns that the genius Tesla has invented for you such as the Arc Gun. This weapon allows you to charge up a bolt of lightning and basically blows someone’s head off with it, it’s awesome. Other guns like the Thermite Rifle, with which you shoot thermite pellets then ignite with a flare, are also really fun to play with. The only issue I did have was that it was probably a little too easy to shoot/aim. But this didn’t make the gunplay any less enjoyable, in fact being able to achieve headshot after headshot made me feel like I really was a badass knight tasked with protecting my fellow good citizens.
It is a game that does have its fair share of QTEs. Now, I am not against QTEs if they are done right, but when they are done wrong they can really ruin a good time, like farting in the shower. I think for the most part The Order gets this right, but are there too many in the game? It’s hard to say. I think RAD’s filmic approach gives them more freedom to add more of these “interactive” moments. They’ve taken what is typically a mundane feature and added a little bit of the universe (Tesla’s inventions) and flair to try and give it a new spin. One in particular is rather fun to do: The ye olde stealth takedown. When approaching an enemy, Galahad draws his knife from his back as you’re about to hit the required button to perform the lethal takedown. It’s not much but the detail gives it that added bit of style. The mini-games in the game are actually quite cool. The majority of them contain an apparatus designed by Tesla that fits the style of the game nicely. Making this badassery sexier is the ability to slow down time and decimate several opponents, this feature is called Blacksight. The game is actually fairly violent and certainly doesn’t hold back with those adult themes.
Overall the AI is acceptable. Most of the enemies are about as hard to defeat as playing a blind person at darts, as long as you play it safe. If you try and run and gun a bunch of enemies there is a fair chance you’re going to die from lead poisoning. There is one enemy in particular that will wreck you big time if you don’t watch your back, the shotgun specialists. These are the only enemies with brains big enough to think of flanking you and if you’re not paying attention you will get dominated, as I did a few times. As for your teammates, well they’re helpful on the odd occasion but generally they are busy keeping the bullet makers of London employed.
Overall the game is a technically well-oiled machine, there are no bugs, no major frame rate drops and generally nothing wrong with the mechanics. The graphics and physics of the game engine are remarkable. Cutscenes and QTEs make up important components of the game, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and generally fits with the style. The only major concern for gamers is longevity. It is a short, story-driven, single player, ‘filmic’ experience. It’s not for everyone. I applaud Ready at Dawn for sticking with and delivering their vision on how they wanted this story to be told. I respect that. It’ll be interesting to see whether they stick with this format if there is a sequel because I can see that Ready at Dawn and Galahad have only scratched the surface of this beautiful universe.
Reviewed on PS4