Review: The Order: 1886 (PS4)

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Title: The Order: 1886
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (31 GB)
Release Date: February 20, 2015
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Ready at Dawn
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
The Order: 1886 is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 411 of the podcast.

** This is a completely spoiler-free review. All screenshots have been carefully selected so as not to give anything away. **

Let’s get started with obviously the most important piece of information (can you smell the sarcasm?): the game is longer than five hours, even though random unsubstantiated Internet rumors would have you believe different. As with many story-driven games, I usually play-through on Easy to assure that I can get all the way through in the short amount of time we usually have to get these reviews posted. On Easy it took me about eight hours to complete the game. I also restarted the game on Medium and it’s definitely tougher to get through, so I would expect that the completion time would take even longer (yes, I started a second playthrough already). I hate that I had to include this statement by the way.

Gameplay:
The Order: 1886 is an interesting concept, telling its story from the foundations of Arthurian Legend which took place in the fourth and fifth centuries. Many characters that you’d recognize are present, and you’ll take control of Galahad as you defend the crown in 1886 (obviously). Everything is played from a third person perspective and controls should feel very comfortable. My one complaint though is that there’s no option to swap L2 -> L1 & R2 -> R1 which may take some getting used to for veteran PlayStation gamers. Other than that though, controls are solid and responsive and everything is intuitive throughout.

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As in other third person games you’ll be able to duck into cover with a simple press of the Circle button. Melees though aren’t performed with a simple press of R3 as you’d expect. Instead, the melee is a timed event. If you are able to sneak behind an enemy or if he/she is on the other side of your cover position, a prompt for Triangle will appear on the screen with a circle shrinking into the center. If you time the button press correctly it’s an insta-kill. But if you time it wrong you’ll either get into combat with the foe or they’ll notice you and ventilate your head with a bullet. If you approach from the front the game will prompt you to hit Triangle which will then set a cinematic and brutal kill in-motion, but this could also result in hand-to-hand combat.

The hand-to-hand combat can include a mixture of timed button presses (I would tend to steer clear of the ‘QTE’ label here) and as shown in some previews, instances where the action pauses giving you an opportunity to look around for items to interact with. For example when it pauses you use the stick to look around and find at least two indicators to choose from. So in one instance you can either choose a knife off to the right or choose to bash your attackers head into a fire extinguisher on the wall. These decisions directly affect how the battle continues, which adds some to the replayability of the game.

… the weapons seem to be rooted in Steampunk but they’re not …

Gameplay overall is much more methodical than most others in the genre and even though you can run, most of the time you’ll choose not to. There are collectables littered throughout the levels in the form of crude phonograph recordings (audio logs) and random items to inspect, most of which help flesh the story out even more. This isn’t a game to rush through which for me is usually completely opposite to my approach.

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I never found myself feeling rushed though so I felt a lot more comfortable exploring at my own pace. Even so, I apparently missed something since the trophy for finding everything never popped. The good news is that once you finish the story (on any difficulty) you’re given the option to start at the beginning of any checkpoints within each chapter. So once those trophy hunting guides hit you don’t have to go through the entire game again to find everything.

I’ve seen a lot of people mention that the weapons seem to be rooted in Steampunk but they’re not. The idea instead is that the parts the weapons are made from all existed in that time period but the weapons themselves never did. So there’s a bit of fantasy when it comes to the weapons available but everything feels like it’s from 1886.

Firing most weapons results in sparks flying out of the barrel or from the back with a good amount of smoke blowing out as well. Aiming is affected by the fact that these aren’t finely tuned weapons that you’d get in a modern shooter (except for the sniper rifle of course). Instead, if you’ve seen the movie The Patriot you’ll need to teach yourself the concept of “aim small, miss small” as they did. Not to say that you’ll never hit an enemy, but there’s definitely a wider margin for error than with more modern weapons.

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The great thing is that enemies aren’t the typical bullet sponges like in some other third person games; get a headshot and he’s down. Obviously, it’ll still take a couple more shots in the body to take someone down and the fact that the hitmarker will flash red when you get a kill is incredibly helpful in bigger firefights.

… the lighting affects literally everything …

Based on previews and trailers some may feel that this is more of a horror game than anything else but I’m happy to report that it’s not (because I’m not a fan of horror games). There are some horror elements included for sure, but overall you really do feel like a Knight fighting to defend the crown. Some friends were on party chat while I was playing, and everyone got a laugh at a certain point in the game though as I was attacked from behind with no real warning.

Don’t get me wrong though, nothing feels cheap and the only possible disappointment is that it does seem to use a tripwire system on occasion to kick-off waves of enemies. These instances are incredibly rare though and don’t detract from the experience at all. Heck, even the stealth mission didn’t bother me as much as it has in other games due to the solid mechanics and overall pacing of the game.

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The thing that will grab you the most though is the incredibly deep story. The narrative is well thought-out and if you’ve ever read any of the source material you’re in for a treat that will also keep you guessing. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to write this review without discussing the story especially since it’s my favorite aspect of the whole of the game. The pacing is perfect, the set pieces are jaw-dropping, and the characters are handled with great care.

Visuals:
I’ll just say it, this is the best looking game on the PlayStation 4 period. The amount of detail on the characters and NPC’s is outstanding and the animation is second to none at this point. Not only that, but the numerous environments are built with an incredible attention to detail and scope, and the lighting affects literally everything. Even better are the darker scenes when your only light source is a handheld lantern which accurately throws every shadow that you’d expect in real life.

There were more than a few times where my friends in the party chat overheard me mutter things like “wow” and “holy crap, look at that”. The game was built with the premise that the transition from cutscene to gameplay would be seamless and even though it isn’t perfect, this is the closest it’s ever been. The only indicator of said transition is a small pause before your control inputs are detected at that point. If you were watching a recorded video you’d never know.

 

The characters are animated with an immense amount of accuracy, including facial expressions in both cutscenes and gameplay and even some other instances that I won’t mention in fear of spoiling some story elements (there’s a LOT that hasn’t been revealed at all about the story and I’m not about to start here.)

The one thing I did catch though is a small visual cheat that’s more of a curiosity than anything else. Mirrors and cabinets with reflective windows are strewn throughout the environments but your character doesn’t reflect in any of them even though your handheld lantern and whatever else is in view will. We joked that Galahad is actually a vampire or something, but no, nothing points to that in the story.

… the technical stuff will blow your mind …

Audio:
I played both with full surround sound and with some nice gaming headphones and I wish there was a way to convey how much the audio design complements the rest of the game. With a wonderful score composed by Jason Graves (Tomb Raider reboot, Dead Space) the music fits perfectly with what’s happening on the screen evoking even more emotion at every turn.

The score stood-out to me which doesn’t happen in every game that I play. Mix that in with detailed sounds from knocking over a bottle, to how these early guns sound when fired, and the incredible voice acting, and well it feels like you’re in a brand-new theater that surrounds you with speakers. The audio design in The Order: 1886 makes as much of an impact on your experience as any other piece of the game and that’s not something easily accomplished.

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Online/Multiplayer:
The Order: 1886 is single-player only and does not have any online or multiplayer elements.

Conclusion:
I’ll be honest, I’ve been very hot on this game since the first time that I saw it, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. The gameplay is solid, the technical stuff will blow your mind, and the story, oh the amazing story, has quickly become one of my favorites in videogames. The timing events may catch you off guard occasionally but that’s how they’re designed and luckily you won’t be punished much if you die.

Ready at Dawn has exceeded any expectations that I had with their first foray from portables to a full-fledged console. If you were happy with your purchase at the end of an Uncharted or God of War game you’ll be equally happy with spending your cash on this one. When I finished the story my first words were “when is the next one?!” Unfortunately, no one answered.

ps: Make sure you watch through the credits at the end, you won’t be disappointed

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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