The Order 1886 seems to have received the short end of the stick critically; that’s a crying shame. Overall impressions from across numerous outlets could be summed up in one word, ‘meh’. ‘The Order 1886 is okay’ seems to be the consensus. The faults levied against The Order 1886 are not baseless. For the most part they’re wholly accurate: it is very short, mechanically the shooting is vanilla and it’s irrefutably overly reliant on slow moving segments and cinematics. For many the story seems to end there; the mind is made up: ‘The Order 1886 is boring’. And I couldn’t disagree more. The Order 1886 is beautiful, engaging and tells a remarkably well put together story. And for all these merits I feel it’s been under-appreciated.
In my opinion The Order 1886 is the natural profession of the cinematic gameplay experiences that we’ve seen AAA studio’s begin to pump out in the last half decade. Toward the end of both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360’s lifespan we were seeing ever increasing numbers of games whose main draw was story, character interaction and the believability of their worlds. In the last year of last gen alone we saw Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us release, both critically acclaimed and both games which I felt prized narrative over game play. Bioshock Infinite in particular I felt was tedious in large sections. Neither game seemed to draw the same sort of underwhelming reception The Order 1886 did, and since all three games strive to tell cinematic stories I wonder why is The Order 1886 was the one to underwhelm. Could our next gen expectations be set too high?
The other obvious answer would be that The Order’s gameplay isn’t it’s strong suite. That’s true, but I also feel, perhaps controversially, that’s true of both The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite. Could you honestly say The Last of Us was a remarkable gameplay experience? Confrontations with clickers were memorable because of the atmosphere; far less the mechanics. I’m not knocking TLOU it was an exceptional game, and yes, it was of course better than The Order. But no-one ever stopped and said The Last of Us’s gameplay was shallow, or the cut-scenes ate up too much time. Yet everyone seems to think that of The Order 1886.
I’m trying to say The Order 1886 in some regards seems to have been unfairly assessed. Look at The Order once and I think it’s fairly obvious Ready at Dawn’s shooter is meant to be an interactive movie more than an out and out gameplay experience. The fact it uses a 2.40:1 aspect ratio traditionally used by film is evidence enough of that. They’ve obviously spent a lot of time on the visuals, it absolutely PS4’s best looking game. The story too, particularly the script, is top notch and in the second half presents some of the most enjoyable story I’ve experienced in game. Besides all that it’s frankly unbelievable how well realized the small sections we see of alternate reality Victorian London are.
The Order 1886 is a cinematic interactive story first. Does that negate it’s issues? Absolutely not. They still have to be counted. It’s gun play is pretty straightforward, most of it’s weaponry underwhelming and Ready at Dawns insistence at making you look at everything is tedious. If combat had been reduced in frequency, and exploration increased I think The Order 1886 really could have been an absolute winner. That is how many felt about Bioshock Infinite too though.
We, as a gaming community, have been vocal in our disappointment in The Order 1886. But I really feel we must support games like this. If developers feel like making AAA budget cinematic games isn’t what people want, or that it’s simply too difficult to squeeze a profit from the small fan base who does enjoy them, then they’ll just stop making them. And I really don’t want that to happen. Don’t be put off by the negativity, if you love a good interactive story you’ll find plenty to love in The Order 1886.