I love video games, but it’s rare for me to play them right when they are first released. Normally it takes me a somewhere from a few months to a few years to get around to playing to a game. I’ve got a considerable backlog of games that I’ve been meaning to play and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve had the time to start chipping away at the list. With that in mind, I’ve created a new series of posts called Late to the Party, wherein I discuss the games that came out in the preceding years that I’m finally getting around to experiencing. Today’s entry in the series is The Order: 1886. Today also sees the debut of the first few screenshots that I took while playing the game. They’re not as good as the sort you’ll find at major gaming websites, partly because Blogger compresses the images when I upload them and thus reduces the quality, but they’re mine and you’ll be seeing the game the same way I saw it.
The Order: 1886 (referred to hereafter as just The Order) is one of those games that I like a lot, in spite of its shortcomings. It has problems, but for me the positives are so strong so that I’m willing to overlook the negatives.
The Order takes place in Victorian-era London in (obviously) 1886, but not the one found in our history books. In the world of The Order, history and technology took a different turn and people have already developed things like advanced versions of radios and automatic weapons, and airships dot the sky of London. More importantly, though, humanity has been in something of a shadow war against creatures called “half-breeds” for the past millennium or so. Half-breeds are creatures of ancient lore, and in The Order the primary half-breeds that are encountered in the game are lycans, though vampires also make a cameo appearance. To combat these creatures in England, there exists an order of knights that trace their lineage back to the days of King Arthur. They drink a mysterious substance called Black Water, which gives them extremely long life and the ability to quickly recover from wounds that would normally be crippling or fatal. Some of these knights have been around for hundreds of years and the leader of the knights supposedly was a child when King Arthur founded their order. You play as a knight named Grayson, who goes by the codename Galahad, and together with the other knights you hunt the half-breeds while also investigating and combating an insurrection within London.
I loved The Order. From the moment Grayson first steps out onto the balcony with the view of London in front of him, I was sold on the world the game had built. The version of London in The Order has been beautifully and intricately created with a level of detail that few other games can match. Normally I play games a little slower than most people because I like to take in the scenery, but with The Order I was moving extra slow because I wanted to see everything. I found myself stopping again and again to do things like observe a random airship crossing the sky, check out the various items lying around a room, and take in a vista of the city. There’s so much going on in the world of The Order and it all goes a long way to make it feel like a real place. If you hadn’t guessed from the preceding sentence, The Order is one of the best looking games I’ve played to date, and as a nice bonus, the game also has Photo Mode, whereby you can pause the game and take control of the camera, allowing you look around the world separate from the third-person perspective of your character and capture images of whatever you like. The outstanding visuals of The Order extend even to the characters’ outfits. I loved all the details on Grayson’s official knight attire and even the subtle movements of the fabric as he moves around the world. Thankfully, The Order isn’t just a fine looking game, but also has a good story go with it. True, it’s another twist on the old Arthurian legend of knights and supernatural creatures, but it’s one of the better ones I’ve come across. I enjoyed playing through Grayson’s tale as he continues the old struggle against the half-breeds and learns there’s much more going on than he first realized. The only complaint I have about the story is that I would have liked a few more details on the lore and backstory of The Order’s universe, but what I got was enough to keep me invested in what was going on.
Now, having mentioned all the things I loved about The Order, I should discuss the places where it falls short. The main issue with the game, which isn’t a big issue for me personally but I recognize that a lot of other people won’t like it, is that there are long stretches of the game where you’re just walking to the next event or cutscene. Because the world of The Order is so well realized, I had no problem with this and was quite happy to look around and explore London, but at the same time it makes the game’s tempo awkward and I can understand why some might say that there’s not much “game” within the game. Another issue is how throughout the entire game there are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. This gives The Order a cinematic feel, but sometimes in combat it can be troublesome to not have as much vertical viewspace as in other games. Combat itself works well enough, but it’s not as good as what you’ll find in games like Gears of War or Uncharted. Most of the time you’re fighting other humans, and while you do get a few fights against lycans, it would have been nice if there were one or two more of them in the game. One thing that that I do find genuinely bewildering about The Order is how it does not list which collectibles you’ve already picked up from a given level. I would have liked to have gone back and grabbed the ones I missed from my initial playthrough, however I had no idea which ones they were. My last quibble with The Order is that the game’s cutscenes cannot be skipped. The first time you play the game this isn’t a problem, but if you’re replaying and just want to pass over these, you’ll be frustrated. (UPDATE: On my second playthrough several months later I found I was able to skip cutscenes, so I’m not sure if that feature got added in after my first time with the game, or if I just didn’t notice it)
Firefight in the airship kitchen
Though it has some flaws, I think the The Order’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. I loved the world. I loved the characters. I loved the story. It’s one of the best looking games I’ve played and I enjoyed it so much that I will probably replay it later this year and get the platinum trophy for it (UPDATE: I did). The Order is one of those games that I really hope gets a sequel, as it has a strong foundation for a sequel to build on. Keep everything that was good about The Order, improve on the things that held it back, and we could have something truly outstanding.
So, I also captured a few short video clips while playing through The Order, but for some reason when I uploaded them to Blogger the quality took a massive hit and they just look like a pixelated mess. This weekend I’m going to do some experimenting and hopefully I can figure out what the problem is. (UPDATE: As of 1/27/17, videos have been added to this post. Certainly took me long enough.)