The Order 1886
Ready At Dawn
SCE Santa Monica Studio
Sony Computer Entertainment
Action, Cover Shooter
February 20th, 2015.
“The game that changes the gaming scene of 2006.”
Two brand new IPs changed the way the Sony Playstation defined gaming, the argument of having console exclusive games and the way it pushed its hardware boundaries to change the very generation of gaming. These two titles were none other than Santa Monica’s God of War series and Naughty Dog’s Uncharted trilogy. These two games showed promise right from the start, and with a collision of new gameplay and a strong storytelling purpose it just happened for Playstation. Years down the lane, with the air of next-gen gaming becoming staler each day, each exclusive title disappearing before it can even grasp the very roots of the respective fanbases, we took a trip to the old school. In Ready At Dawn’s artistic attempt to unravel the myths of one of the darkest days of the British Empire – in The Order 1886. If this was the era of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune or God of War 1, I would have been convinced without questions about 1886, but sadly this is the year 2015, and Ready At Dawn just took a giant step backwards.
While there is already hate and a sense of rage amongst those who put faith in The Order 1886, for the game being too short lived, this however wasn’t the major bummer that hit my experience. I don’t mind the game being 6-7 hours long, provided I evolve along with the game, take notice of all the intricacies, make use of the combat I was trained to do in the tutorials and live a fabulous tale. The Order leaves you with the feeling of ‘What the hell did I do then?’ The game suffers a direct communication failure with the ones they’re trying to please, the gamers. You feel like you have been robbed not only of your time (however short it may be), but your intellectual prowess, by presenting a linear game wherein you walk into a room, shoot a few enemies and walk out with a cutscene. It tried to do what almost every Sony Playstation 2 or 3 exclusive tried to do in the past, like God Of War and Uncharted, minus the brains. Even with the stunning graphics in front of you, you have a feeling that you are playing this game on a 10 year old console, that’s how next-gen The Order 1886 is.
A Knight’s Tale
The Order 1886 begins with the protagonist of the game, Sir Knight Gallahad being tortured in captivity by the Royal army and his own order. You learn a few quick time events in the brilliantly motion capped prologue chapter and make way for the actual gameplay chapters, unraveling why was he there in the first place. The British Empire seems to have been in a state of turmoil, in the midst of its dark colonial days, with London facing the consequences of a war between the Royal forces of the Queen and the rebels of Whitechapel. In midst of the fight, you realise that there lies something that is graver and more horrifying than the force of men, the Lycans, or as we call them, the Werewolves. You have no idea where they came from, nor do you intend to subdue the half breeds, as you make way to follow your order and fight the real threat to the society – the rebels.
While Ru Weerasuriya and team wanted to tell the dark Colonial days of the Empire in a steam punk, mystical way, the disjointed chapters and the dormant werewolf/half-breed back story made it confusing for anyone who was following up with the narrative. The only bit of werewolf story you get in this game is when you get jumped upon by these creatures after every 6-7 chapters. Till then, hunt down the real imposters, the Rebels. And by the way, guess who faked her death, put up a British accent, lost her fluent Hindi, and is apparently in platonic love with our Sir Gallahad? You judged it right, Laxmibai the Rani of Jhansi. Laxmibai has left the cause of 1857, invented a cure to stop ageing even though when she was killed she was 23 years (29 years before the game timeline) and has redirected her mind to help the real men and women of England realise that the government and the loyalty are totally bulls***ting them. Why should Indians have all the fun, huh? Aiding your cause and passing on cool arsenal that you can only use once or twice in the whole game is Nicolas Tesla, famous inventor, who is now just a boy trying to be the coolest hacker of 1886. There are also mentions of Thomas Edison, Elliot and Queen Elizabeth. As you make your way through the game, you as Gallahad ditch The Order because why not, and side with the Rani and her faithful servant Devi, and hunt down the real villain in the game, Lord Hastings. But didn’t he die already in India? Doesn’t his spirit haunt the infamous Hastings House in Calcutta? Well, shut up! It’s just a game, and that’s why the paragraph below matters.
The Gameplay from 1886
Never bank on beautiful art and fantastic motion capped dialogue sequences to enjoy a product, which is after all a game. That’s what I would like to say about The Order 1886’s predated action oriented game sections. Like I once read somewhere, The Order has a habit of showing you beautiful things, that you are not allowed to touch, and it hits you hard especially when you are gunning your way out of an enemy ridden dock. The Order 1886’s gunplay merely consists of taking cover, as some covers break and some don’t, and shoot them in the heads, as enemies pour from all corners of the room. Typical of the first Uncharted, only more glorious thanks to the Playstation 4 hardware.
There are a couple of stealth sequences in the game, in which you don’t do much, no smoke grenades, no sleeping darts, just taking cover or sneaking behind enemies and tapping the triangle button at the right time. In case you get spotted, you get shot and that kills you instantly. The missions are divided according to checkpoints and if you die during a checkpoint, you start right in the beginning until you complete the sequence. When Gallahad goes down, he has a tendency to stay prone for some time, drink up some of his blackwater (health revival potion of the Knights) and wake up from his slumber when you mash some buttons. The NPCs in the game are some of the most worthless NPCs I’ve seen till date, no one arrives to back you up, everyone drops a dude once in every hour, so go about finishing the business all by yourself.
The game has a tendency to push QTE every now and then, especially when you are enjoying a fantastic mo capped dialogue sequence, and also steps in during boss fights. There are barely 2 major boss fights in the game, and both of them pits you against elder Half Breeds. The lack of variety appalls me. The boss fights require you to flick your right stick in the opposite direction of the enemy’s move and counter it using a heavy melee or light melee, followed by a chain melee. Even though you swing a Thermite gun throughout the sequence, you are not allowed to cheat on a melee character and hence go knife fighting. The round ends with, you got that right, Quick Time Events.
The worst combat sequences from The Order 1886 are definitely the werewolf encounters. Shoot at one while it is rushing towards you, hit the X button before it pounces, watch it run away, shoot at it again, repeat. It seems that the developers ignored the werewolf sequences and made it kiddish for the majority of us who know how intense fighting such creatures is. The lockpicking system, even though it doesn’t matter much to a linear game like this, makes a horrible cameo with its own predated way of breaking up momentum.
The gunplay is simplistic, and at times exciting, other times, well bland. With the D pad you can switch between your pistol gun, primary gun, smoke grenades and frag grenades. The game refreshes your arsenal before every mission, making it pointless for you to adapt to a gun and its play style. It is also one of the biggest bummers that I had about a game that rode on an advertisement that showed cool lightning and blasting guns. More than half of the game, you play with plastic guns that have random impact for some reason. And if you get lucky, you either hunt down enemies with the Arc Gun or the Thermite Gun. With the Arc gun you can no scope any number of enemies, while with the Thermite gun you blast an air of magnesium and then shoot at it to spread fire across the area. Pretty darn good to look at.
Coming down to the enemies, there are a couple of noteworthy mentions here. The sharpshooter who shoots at you from a distance, insta-downing you, the shotgun specialist who can shoot you out of cover, the grenade launchers and the thermite gunners themselves. Some of the enemies need 8-10 bullets in the head before they succumb to their death, making some of the combat sections extremely difficult and crammed with enemies of all kinds flooding into the scene. Bad game design? I think so. But then what else would you expect from a cover shooter set to change the way the world games in the year 2006?
A magnificent game to look at
While all the hatred can be directed towards the predated and casual game designing of The Order 1886, there can only be praise for the art department who held the steampunk value of The Order 1886 so high. It is not only the best looking game on the Playstation 4 but also one of the most stable games I have ever played. There was no Day 1 patch, the game was pitch perfect from the start to the end, and captures the essence of the curfew smitten London, in every frame. The game has some insane lighting making all the environmental inputs feel prominent. The rays beaming down on a locked warehouse, the drizzling of rain on the rooftop, the moon shining down on a chilly night, The Order 1886 breathes realism like no other. The motion capturing is done brilliantly, as there is no out of place lip syncing ever in the game, even the minutest dialogues move the lips of the NPCs. The letterboxing of the screen adds the movie like essence to the game, even though it is a massive bummer if you are behind covers and shooting at enemies above you. The camera moves gloriously, putting stress to make sure that Gallahad is the protagonist of the story. The cutscenes are aplenty, but ricochets the same value as a high budget animated movie.
The Sound Department
While the menu theme is haunting and hypes you up for a 19th century tale of English Knights, it does remind one of the Max Payne 2: Fall of Max Payne’s intro theme, featuring the violin sections. The overall soundtrack keeps you at pace with the game’s plot and subplots and satisfies one who is trying to submerge into that era. It is chilling, grand and above all, subtle, never tries to do anything explosive. The other SFX of the game, like the howling of the wolves, clinking of bullets and the obnoxious heartbeat sound when Gallahad is down, is fair enough for the purposes they serve.
The game avoids rewarding you with a trophy every time you complete a chapter. As some of the chapters are mere cutscenes and wouldn’t be counted as major trophy earning achievements. However, the game distributes only silver, gold and platinum trophies to those who can earn a few easy achievements within their first playthrough. The rest you can earn in your second playthrough. However, the dull story and the predated gameplay mechanics won’t trigger you to replay the game after you’ve beaten it, unless you want to play a game that can last a night or for trophy hunting the rest of the accolades, which includes discover every hidden content in the game (audiologs, etc.) Will I replay this game again? Hell no, my 2015 looks crammed already.
The predated cover shooter logistics, the half baked story, the arsenal that could’ve been used more often, the NPCs who would have mattered more to Gallahad’s quest, there are just questions surrounding The Order 1886. And the worst bit is, none of the questions matter. The developers should hit the board straight and conceive a game this time instead of sticking to their ploy of a pretty experience, because no matter what, this is a video games industry. Guess it’ll be up to Naughty Dog to save the new console’s hype.
Fantastically motion captured
A great rendition of the steampunk 1886 London
No replay value
Rehashed Boss Fights, enemies lack variety
Predated game design
Too many QTEs