Welcome to Backlogging, an occasional gaming series that will show up from time to time when I actually get a chance to get through a game that has been sitting in my backlog for a while, and then give you my impressions, perhaps with a few light spoilers, removed from the hype and expectation that most games have on release.
Just last night I finished The Order 1886 on PS4, having picked it up on the 'Best of E3 Sale' on PSN for 5$. When it was first released in February 2015, The Order received a 63 on Metacritic, which is a fairly substantial "meh", but I had always been intrigued by the story, and the design looked absolutely gorgeous. Despite my interest however, I also have gaming personalities and reviewers that I trust (the type who have similar enough tastes to games that I can generally trust their opinions to be close to mine), and they almost universally convinced me that this game, while pretty, was just not good enough, nor worth my money at full retail price...
In case you are unfamiliar with the game, here's the 2014 Gamescom trailer for The Order 1886:
So how was it?
First off, I will start with the good things about The Order 1886:
The visuals are spectacular.
This is one of the most beautifully rendered games I have ever seen: steampunk-y, Victorian London was gritty, and foggy, and gorgeous. The way everything moved, especially the clothing and fabrics, was uncanny; there were literally a few times where I thought I was still watching a cut-scene, and my character would stop moving, and I would come to realize that I was actually supposed to be playing again within this seamless, artful design. I probably took an extra hour to complete the game because there were times when I just wanted to stare at environments a little bit longer.
The trailer above barely does this game justice...
I was intrigued by the world, and dug the story.
The story of an ancient, long-lived Order of knights who serve above (and beside) the Law in order to help the British Empire combat the spread of werewolves, using NIKOLA TESLA designed steampunk weapons...I do not need much outside of what that says right there to be pretty stupidly happy. Even now that I am done the game, I would have liked to spend some more time, or have gotten some more depth out of a really interesting world.
The music and sound were great.
The voice acting was solid (even if the script did let them down on occasion), but it really was the music, whenever it punched in, that blew me away. I think that this is some of my favorite video game music of this generation: I literally sat with my studio headphones on and just soaked in the music over the end credits, and it was one of the highlights of the whole experience for me. Excellent composition, and it spotlessly fit into the game to really enhance the moments that it was used.
Now you may have noticed what is missing from this list of things I liked about The Order 1886...
The game was not good.
The Order 1886 has everything I mentioned above going for it, in spades, and yet the game itself is what let the game down. The Order played essentially like this: there was walking to do, a bit of exploration for collectables and/or a route through the streets (with impossible to fail timing or jumps), followed by a bit of stealth, some 'monster closet' third person cover-shooting, and a pile of "click the button when it shows up on screen".
It was boring. Boring to the point that about 2/3 of the way through, I would be slightly irritated that I would have to play a section of the game rather than just continuing to unravel the story, because invariably, I would get into a sticky, somewhat awkward cover-shooter section where enemies would lob grenades at me, and I would have no idea where the grenades were, because the game's notification system did nothing. I would patiently shoot my way through another set of lazy AI human enemies who would invariably have one of 3 heavy 'leader' like shooters pop out eventually (or that one time when they had more -gasp-), and then Galahad (who you play as) would say something about the room being clear, and I could wander around again in some impossible-to-fail exploration.
What I thought would be the best part of The Order, when you actually come face to face with a werewolf. usually devolved into a game of "hit the button that shows up on screen at the right time", which I don't know about you, but is not all that interesting, as it feels like I'm mostly just along for the ride, rather then altering the course of combat. I understand that God of War, a game series that a quite like, has always relied on "quick-time events" to finish off major boss battles, but in The Order, you are fighting a werewolf that is slightly taller than you are and you need to stab him and dodge...slowly. OR, even better, the werewolf is running at you, so you have to dodge, shoot, and THEN stab him...
There were a couple of moments I enjoyed, but overall, when the game is the worst part of your game, that's saying something.
In the end, I cannot say I recommend The Order 1886 for everyone. I think that I would be much more upset with it if I had paid anything more than 10-20$ for it, as I did get a story I enjoyed, and an experience that was beautiful, but a chore to play.
If you haven't played it, and you're thinking of grabbing the game on sale, then I think the best thing to consider is whether or not the story is the reason you are interested...if having that story I mentioned above told to you is worth your money, and a few hours of your time, then I'd say yeah, buy it for cheap (I feel I got my 5$ out of it).
If you're looking for a good game, you should look elsewhere; PS4 has a lot of better options than The Order 1886.