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Critical Consensus: Little love for The Order: 1886

Sony's new IP for PS4 squanders gorgeous visuals and interesting setting with uninspired gameplay

With apologies to Knack and DriveClub, The Order: 1886 is Sony's first major new intellectual property for the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, the Ready-at-Dawn-developed shooter isn't faring significantly better than its fellow PS4 originals when it comes to reviews. The Order: 1886 hits shelves tomorrow, and critics are decidedly unsatisfied with the game.

While the reviews are rife with negativity, there is one aspect of The Order that has received almost universal praise: its visuals. The game's steampunk Victrorian setting drew raves for the fidelity and attention to detail.

"There is, in my estimation, no better looking game on consoles."

Justin McElroy

"The Order: 1886 is an incredibly handsome game," said Eurogamer's Martin Robinson, "perhaps the finest-looking the new generation of consoles has provided to date - its world full of detail and art that's both striking and bold."

Polygon's Justin McElroy agrees in his 5.5 review, saying, "There is, in my estimation, no better looking game on consoles. Victorian London is rendered in beautiful, exacting, sooty detail with just enough steampunk flourishes to make it seem otherworldly."

However, there is the sense throughout the reviews that the game's good looks come at the cost of gameplay, from an abundance of non-interactive cinematics to a letterboxed presentation that left some reviewers wishing for a larger field-of-vision in shooting segments.

As IGN's Brandin Tyrrel put it in a 6.5 review, "Even more than its secret battle against the monsters of legend, The Order's greatest struggle is ultimately its own internal tug-of-war between telling a beautifully presented story and granting the level of interactivity we've come to expect from a game."

"The Order is a barely competent third-person shooter."

Kirk Hamilton

In giving the game a 5, GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd said The Order splits its time almost equally between cutscenes, quick-time events, third-person shooting, and segments where players walk around environments examining items or listening to characters spout exposition.

"The action is almost an afterthought, given all the talking, the walking, and the quick-time events, few of which complement onscreen motion in the manner of Telltale Games' best QTEs," VanOrd said. "It's a shame that The Order evokes Heavy Rain so early in its six-hour play time, because the comparison does not work in this game's favor."

Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton seconded that idea in his own review, which answered the review system's "Should you play this game?" question with an emphatic "No."

"The Order is a barely competent third-person shooter," Hamilton said. "It repackages the cover-based shootouts of Gears of War and Uncharted without managing to capture any of the artificial intelligence quirks and level design tricks that made those games so reactive and exciting."

Tyrrel was similarly unimpressed with the action, saying, "Cover shooting falls into the old comfort zone where lining up the camera and popping out to kill an enemy becomes a rinse-and-repeat cycle of near invulnerability thanks to your vial of Blackwater - The Order's secret serum you can drink (via a quick-time event) to revive yourself from the verge of death."

Robinson was slightly more upbeat on the action, calling the shooting "competent and enjoyable, if never quite spectacular."

"A bad game can make a case for itself. A boring one is harder to forgive."

Kevin VanOrd

"The Order: 1886 isn't a disaster, nor is it a particularly good game," Robinson said. "It's a hollow diversion, entertaining but outmoded and caught somewhere between a medium it repeatedly fumbles and one it fails to effectively embrace."

McElroy was likewise irked at the game's use (or lack thereof) of an interactive medium.

"Every moment of The Order: 1886, from the in medias res opening to the abrupt final battle, feels entirely predetermined," McElroy said. "With the exception of a handful of gun battles, in which the player is free to decide in which order they will kill all the bad guys, Ready At Dawn is entirely unwilling to let go of the player's hand... This is the sort of game that prompts you to hammer on the X button to break a thug's arm, but should you decide not to, Galahad will simply continue to hold the rogue's wrist and keep smooshing his face into a wall for all of eternity. It simply has no vocabulary to speak to the player who doesn't instantly comply 100 percent of the time."

VanOrd summed up The Order with a line that wouldn't have seemed out of place in any of his peers' reviews, saying, "It is, at best, perfectly playable, and lovely to look at and listen to. But it is also the face of mediocrity and missed opportunities. A bad game can make a case for itself. A boring one is harder to forgive."

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Latest comments (18)

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
So. This could have been done on the PS3 in other words (in terms of the gameplay). Ah well. That's two times Mr. Tesla has failed to capture gamers' attention (Dark Void, anyone?)

Oh, and I still neither rely on nor trust Metacritic even though in cases where a game gets universally average scores, it's correct. THAT said, this will be one of those games that probably sells better at $19.99 down the road than it will at what, $60? it's a total shame about another "next-gen" game being pretty to look at, but not much different at all than what's come before. Great visuals alone never made a solid game in the past and they won't make one now or in the future.
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K. Al-Hurby Producer/Designer 6 years ago
Such. A. Shame.
This was one of the titles I was really looking forward to. The setting was so intriguing and the art style simply stunning.
Ready At Dawn is entirely unwilling to let go of the player's hand... This is the sort of game that prompts you to hammer on the X button
Something I wish triple-A designers would get their head around; You wouldn't write a film script the same way you would write a book - the same applies you wouldn't design a game the same way you would shoot a movie. Tell your story through gameplay while respecting the player's intelligence. QTE doesn't cut it. Such a lazy design mechanism that cheapens the experience.

James Sunderland wouldn't be caught dead to 'Press X to not die'.
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Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games6 years ago
As a few people have already mentioned, I keep wondering how differently (if at all) this would've done critically as a 20 game. I've been really drawn in by the style and I'm still curious to try it, just not for 50.
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Show all comments (18)
John Karageorgiou consultant 6 years ago
I ordered the Collectors Edition and will play through tonight. If it is anything like Heavy Rain then I will be a happy gamer.
Disappointed by the review scores, but will decide for myself whilst playing. One man's stone is another man's gem.
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios6 years ago
Why don't developers know, that their game is not fun. I mean, when they're making it.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises6 years ago
I don't trust any of their reviews. They all hated Thief, and that game was infinitely better than the first 15 hours of Dragon Age Inquisition (which the reviewers loved).
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 6 years ago
It seems there's a lot of frustrated movie directors in the AAA PlayStation development community. Not surprising, since the barely interaticve movie genre is popular in Japan, they just tend to have way lower development costs. I've, heard, but haven't played it myself, that unlike Heavy Rain, this one just isn't very compelling. It's pretty, and that's where it stops.

Ironically, Telltale style games would prove less popular as a rule. Jaoanese consumers tend to shy away from morally ambiguous stories. For example, the Nolan Batman films didn't do nearly as well there. This is not a hard, fast rule of course, just a cultural preference.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
@Greg

To be honest, it has always been difficult to define genuine 'next gen gameplay'. If this game could have been done on the PS3, chances are the gameplay could have worked on the PS2 or PS1 even. So I wouldn't use that as a measurement.

Many of the best games released this generation will have gameplay that could have worked on any platform, the difference will be mainly graphics. That's not to say there won't be games that will find new ways to push gameplay through additional power, but they will be the exception not the rule.
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Pete Thompson Editor 6 years ago
@John I disliked Heavy Rain as it relied on QTE's as does The Order. Now Dragons Age: Inquisition on the other hand has kept me engaged for over 100hrs so far and I'm not done with it yet.
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James Berg Games User Researcher 6 years ago
Really bummed by this, I was looking forward to it a lot. The upside is that it sounds like they've got the tech nailed down to make a game, so hopefully their next game will give them the chance to just focus on the gameplay, and turn out something really amazing.

@Marty, many studios don't have the money or expertise to conduct user research. Getting random people to just play your game to see if it's "fun" doesn't tell you much, and it's really hard to get out of your own head to judge your own project. EA, to use myself as an example, dedicated a lot of time to testing Dragon Age throughout production (I was the guy running it).

And sometimes studios know their game isn't working, and just don't have the time or resources to fix it.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
@Adam:

Ha. I chopped my "snark alert" off the post before posting. I know all that. I was just making an(other failed) attempt to be humorous. So, we'll agree to agree on your points. :D

I think In general, critics and gamers should be aware that most forms of gameplay won't change much because pretty much everything has been done already. We're seeing baby steps into new territory as VR gets better, but anything it introduces will need to be "flawless" because all it will take is one bad major game to sink years of work.

Currently, you're still shooting stuff in shooters, driving in driving games and shifting pieces around in puzzle games no matter how much power you have to work with. I can cope with that, but I know some out there expect new systems and better tech suddenly means ever dev team will be geniuses at coming up with new and better means of doing the same old stuff. That's a maybe and a percentage point at best.

On one hand, more processing power SHOULD mean new ways to interact (less locked doors, more freedom in animation, etc.), but that takes a great deal more effort than some think and yes, only a few developers are going to hit that spot where they innovate enough in gameplay and have a visual style that's pleasing (and not necessarily "realistic") to the masses. That said, someone needs to kill the QTE in modern action games or at least do them so they're "invisible" and optional. Or just leave them to adventure games or rhythm-based games (which are all QTE anyway if you think about it)...
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 6 years ago
This was the only PS4 game I had any real interest in but I can't say I'm surprised. When this game was revealed the trailer made it look like a gothic medieval version of Left 4 Dead, which would have been fitting since Sony never received a version of that series. But once they showed the first gameplay of this game and revealed it was going to be single player only I had lost faith. Not because single player only games can't be good but because it seemed like it would no longer live up to the potential of that initial trailer. But theres always the chance that they'll add four player co-op multiplayer to the sequel.
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Roberto Dillon Associate Professor, James Cook University6 years ago
I remember having a chat with one of the studio founders years ago when they started building the team for a "big, unannounced project" that was going to become The Order. It was clear they had no interest in finding visionary game designers but only wanted engine programming wizs so I guess the kind of criticism we get now (uninspired gameplay, great visuals) is the logical consequence of those early choices. Pity.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 6 years ago
@Roberto

Would you say they were building a tech demo, a foundation for future products, or that it was just a lack of vision, based on your experience?
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
Interestingly on the last two points, they were looking to sell the Ready at Dawn engine as a solution at one point, before the current generation. Not sure what happened to that (maybe it was the competition), or if that same work fed into this new project.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
@Greg
OK - you got me there :D
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Roberto Dillon Associate Professor, James Cook University6 years ago
@Jeff
I believe they started developing the technology from the ground up so I guess that was actually a logical approach to start with and I am sure what they did will still be useful in the long run. Anyway I did have the impression the project focus was just on technology and gameplay was not high priority.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
Finally sat down and watched this being played and played a bit myself and man, it's got the making of "great" in a few spots. That said, I also think it's an example of "where do we go now?" in terms of development.

The game world looks phenomenal, but can't be truly explored (yep, open world games can be problematic if they're too empty or not fully realized outside of the art, but this could have been excellent with more to do in a wider game space). There's no big fat multiplayer modes here, but to me a good game doesn't NEED them if it can hold a player's attention with an engaging plot, characters and gameplay that tries to mix things up.

I think the forced letterboxing irked me the most, but that's my old cinema history buff side showing... ;P

It's an OK game on it's own merits, but here's a case where "OK" isn't going to fly as a premium product when some older games do what it does better.
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