A werewolf is running through the streets of 19th century London, clawing its way through innocent civilians as it tries to get away. You, one of her majesty’s knights, give chase. Armed with a lightning gun designed by the genius Nikola Tesla, you stop on a rooftop, take aim at the werewolf rampaging below, and fire. An arc of lightning zaps through the air, hitting the beast in the chest mere seconds before it rips out your partner’s throat. The lycan is dead and the city is safe. For now. You than proceed to watch hours of cutscenes, engage in redundant quick-time events and walk slowly down many a corridor, all the while wondering why there is so little shooting of werewolves with lightning guns in a game with werewolves and lightning guns.
Yes, The Order: 1886 is a game about werewolves and knights in an alternative version of 19th century London. You play as Sir Galahad, one of the the knights of the Round Table. It’s unclear whether he is the original Galahad or someone using the same moniker, but according to the lore he can actually be the same Galahad of legend. In any case, Galahad and his fellow knights have dedicated their lives to fighting the half-breeds – a race of werewolves and vampires evolved from humans around the 7th century. At least that’s how the game was marketed. In reality, however, it’s quite different.
The story does follow Galahad and the order of knights, but not in their fight against the half-breeds. The knights don’t have time to hunt monsters in the night; they are far too busy quelling a rebellion by the mistreated lower class. And as this kind of stories go, Sir Galahad soon discovers that what appears to be a civil uprising against the nobles and royalty, is in fact an attempt to reveal a conspiracy in the ranks of his order, and that he might be fighting for the wrong side. Apart from this rather cliché part of the plot, there are some truly interesting moments in The Order – ones that reveal the rich back story and lore of the world Ready at Dawn created. These little moments mostly have to do with the order’s foundation and history, and end up making the entire game feel like it’s a part of some bigger, much more interesting work we don’t get to experience at all.
One of the reasons The Order: 1886 feels like a small chunk out of a better story is the game’s length. Clocking at around five to seven hours, The Order is a short, unsatisfying single-player affair. That’s not enough time to get familiar with the game’s rich lore, nor is it enough time to get emotionally invested in the characters around you. The fact the game seems to end midway through the story doesn’t help either. It would have been nice to play a game in which you get to explore Neo-Victorian London, hunt half-breeds and delve deeper into the whole King Arthur and The Holy Grail myth. Unfortunately, The Order: 1886 is not that game.
Instead, The Order: 1886 is a sub-par cover-based shooter with nothing special to offer in terms of gameplay. You get behind cover and shoot men, not werewolves, when they pop out of cover themselves. The enemy makes no attempt at flanking you or flushing you out. Shotgun-wielding enemies charge at you with complete disregard for their health and waves of gunners keep pouring onto the screen, trying to vanquish you by sheer numbers. Fighting the very few half-breeds you do meet is as boring and uninspired as the cover-based shooting. All you do is pump bullets into a charging werewolf, roll out of the way as it gets close, then repeat.
I’ll admit there is an attempt to change things up from time to time, but none of it holds for long. There are a few stealth sequences that have Galahad sneak behind guards and stab them in the throat (these are innocent people, by the way – not rebels or werewolves). There’s no warning or indication who can see you, so if you happen to turn a corner and stumble upon a guard you had no way of knowing was there – it’s game over and you have to start the sequence from the beginning. Other moments give you a new weapon to try out, like a crossbow or a rocket-launcher, but they only last for a few minutes.
Speaking of which, the weapons are definitely one of the game’s few strong points. The standard weapons are pretty boring, but the few “science weapons”, designed by Nikola Tesla of all people, are fun and empowering to use. You have an arc rifle that fires a homing bolt of lightning, or a gun that fires clouds of thermite which you can then ignite, granting a beautiful and horrible death to everyone in the immediate vicinity. Unfortunately, there are way too few of these guns, and even when you get your hands on one you soon need to replace it with another, less interesting rifle due to lack of ammo. Still, firing three incendiary shotgun rounds into the face of a charging rebel never gets old.
But The Order’s biggest crimes are the QTEs and recycled boss fights (which are also filled with QTEs). The game wrestles control away from the player whenever it can, reducing the most dramatic segments to occasional button presses. Two of the most important boss fights in the game play out exactly the same, with the player simply sitting there, waiting for prompts to appear on screen as Galahad does all the work in an in-game cutscene. It’s depressing to think Ready at Dawn cannot bring themselves to trust the player to not ruin the epic movie they envisioned.
And The Order does indeed look like a movie. In-engine cutscenes blend seamlessly with gameply, and the animations and facial expressions are among the best I’ve ever seen in a video game or a CG movie. The production value, in general, is through the roof, with excellent voice actors bringing the amazingly rendered characters to life with a believable fantasy world around them. In fact, if someone were to remove all the gameplay out of the game and edit the in-game cutscenes together, we would have gotten something that’s fun to watch. But alas, The Order is not a movie, and you still need to pick up the controller from time to time and reluctantly interrupt the story and action, something the developers aren’t keen on either.
The Order: 1886 is the definition of wasted potential, with a rich lore that doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves. Instead, you get a short and mediocre shooter with no beginning nor end. As a result, The Order ends up feeling like an incoherent and incomplete story, peppered with brilliant moments that only serve to show you what could have been. It’s never good when the gameplay is the worst aspect of a game, and although some titles have managed to work around such a flaw, this isn’t one such title. The Order: 1886 fails on almost every front as a game, but maybe if you have a few hours to kill, and a bucket of popcorn, you can get a decent movie out of it.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.