Friday, March 18, 2016

The Order: 1886

Release Date: February 20, 2015
Played on: PlayStation 4

The Order: 1886 is notorious in that it was one of the games pushed the hardest for the PS4 launch and it probably had the most hype behind it. This was one of the games I pointed to when people asked why I picked PS4 over an Xbox One. 

The release however, earned very middling reviews and the game quickly disappeared from the collective conscious. 

I held off on buying it, assuming at some point Sony would give it away as part of the monthly offerings of PlayStation + games. 

Before that happened though, the price came down enough to where a buddy of mine just bought the disk. 

What I didn't like

You can't really call the game a walking simulator because you spend much of your time watching it. You can't really call it a digital novel because you control the action sometimes. And you can't really call it an action adventure game because there's not a lot of action you are responsible for.

I guess I would classify it as an interactive film. 

The first chapter opens with a harrowing prison escape following some water torture. This is all done via cut scenes.

It's reminiscent of PS1 games that used the large available data to build 10 minute FMV movies. Every now and then, you have to tap a button via quick time event. These actions mean nothing. I felt no real danger. I didn't even know who the characters were. So tapping X quickly to stab a guy in the neck, felt pointless at this point. Just show me your action film and remove the quick time.

When you do control the character in this opening scene, you slowly stumble through the hallways until you reach the next movie. 

The enemies aren't varied enough. The first chapter where you control the character has you running around London killing escaped felons. Every one of them looks the same, sounds the same, has the same weapon, and fights the same. 

And shortly after you've killed plenty of convicts, you find that some of them are werewolves.

After seeing the countless E3 demos of a werewolf fight, I thought I was in for something intense. 

Oh, it was intense, but for all the wrong reasons. There are three wolves in the encounter running around a wine cellar that is sort of shaped in a circle. If you try to run circles, keeping the wolves behind you, you're going to have a bad time. 

While stalking one wolf, another may jump quickly from the side off screen, giving you no chance to counter, and taking you down. When you go to stab a wolf to finish them off, one of the other enemies may queue up behind you waiting for the animation to stop so that they can get a cheap shot in.

And one of the quickest ways to make this game better would be co-op. You're running around with a second NPC partner almost the entire game. If a buddy of mine could jump in and there were more action sequences for us to fight through, I'd go buy a copy right now.

What was OK

As a self proclaimed cover shooter aficionado, the combat is just OK. The default controls are much different from most other cover shooters like Gears of War, the Division, Splinter Cell and Army of Two which sort of creates this Halo grenade scenario where you're constantly vaulting over cover when you really mean to get into cover. 

There are shotgun enemies that will often rush your position. The close combat is incredibly awkward. Even when you have dueling pistols or a shotgun yourself, both built for close range encounters, the shot box often dances right over the shoulder or behind cover right as you shoot. 

The guns have good weight to them, but often don't feel different enough. If I didn't have a HUD, I'm not sure I would be able to tell you if I had the rifle or the shotgun out. 

And then you run into famous historical figures. I think Assassin's Creed may have used up all the good will for running into these figures because as soon as I ran into Tesla, I groaned.

What I liked

This game is gorgeous. I can't think of a game that looks better. Ready at Dawn nailed the look of people, the small details that bring you into a world. I was astounded at the tiled floor made of mosaics, the dirt on my jacket, the way beards actually look like hair. (Staring at you Metal Gear V and Division)

The Order is a living world filled with intrigue. I want to know more about The Order. I want to explore America and France in this world. I want to know more of the Order's back story. 

You remember every character you come in contact with, you remember the carefully crafted encounters, the NPCS. And the voice acting is phenomenal. 

Final Thoughts

The most frustrating thing is that there are bones for a really good game. I'm into this world. I want to love this game even after the first hour is spent watching more than playing. 

If Sony took a chance on The Order: 1887, I think we would see an incredible cover shooter. But I feel the name might be soiled too much to recover. 

Rating: Wait for Sony to give this away.

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