My increasing skepticism about The Order: 1886

Photo from: Playstation

When I first saw The Order it reminded me in a vague way of a game I played growing up called Nightmare Creatures.  The first E3 trailer teased some interesting things: This was going to be the first console effort for Ready at Dawn studios; it featured what appeared to be 4 person, squad-based shooter and it was going to be a PS4 exclusive. Early info was hazier than White Chapel fog, though eventually some gameplay videos circled the Internet showing a 3rd person cover based shooter; it started getting compared to games like Gears of War and since that is one of the only reasons I still power up a 360, I was certainly intrigued.  Further artwork releases and media campaigns developed a general aesthetic for the Order that was dark and mysterious.  I was excited about the potential of playing through an alternate Victorian London, the symbols and stories of the occult fused with Arthurian legend, cutting down nightmarish monsters with an array of steampunkish looking weapons and gadgetry.  Just typing that last sentence almost rekindles my interest in the game.

The first strike came with the disclosure that there would be no multiplayer element, competitive or cooperative.  Now, more often than not, I don’t care if games have multiplayer components as I prefer to play single player campaigns—but a squad-based, 3rd person shooter begs to be at the very least cooperative.  The most fun I had when playing Gears of War was playing cooperatively— whether through the campaign, or in Horde, or other co-op game types.  The smattering of multiplayer elements gave the game a tremendous amount of replay value.  Granted, many of these elements were introduced in later iterations of the franchise.  With the formidable foundations of a console exclusive like Gears firmly established, however, it’s hard to understand why Ready at Dawn would avoid this aspect of gaming entirely given the framework of the game.

Ready at Dawn could have used lessons from the Last of Us too with making the multiplayer a reasonable extension of the story.  Beyond the idea of some wave based combat mode where you are fighting waves of werewolves, it could have been possible to explore other elements of the order especially after they have hinted at the war between humans and Lycans stretching back for many centuries. After I complete the story, what is there to do?  Simply play on harder difficulties?  This could be tempered by a lengthy single player campaign but I fear we will get a game that will ultimately be short and sweet.  This, obviously, is not going to be the 300 hour single player narrative I made for characters in Skyrim, but a 6-8 hour single player campaign would be pretty frustrating.

The second hit was the heavy reliance on QuickTime events for narrative purposes. QuickTime events work in games like God of War, it’s used fairly sparingly (bosses and larger enemies) and every time the player is forced into a QTE its a visceral and adrenaline driven experience.  Given the developers previous work on the God of War franchise one might expect a liberal use of QTE’s, but too often gameplay videos have reflected a similar philosophy to games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, relying heavily on QTE’s for narrative purposes. While those games do many things right, they don’t feel like games in many ways and they certainly lack high replay value.  It’s almost possible to get the same experience watching gameplay on YouTube. And that, unfortunately is exactly what I fear The Order could end up as: A movie I watch on YouTube.  @GameSpot contributors Danny O’Dwyer (@dannyodwyer) and Alexa Ray Corriea (@AlexaRayC) expressed a similar sentiment in December, 2014:

In press releases they have the discussed the idea of making The Order cinematic and many people irrationally criticized the game when they announced that it would run at 30fps on the PS4.  The game, however, gives of an almost unparalleled look of polish in Ready at Dawn’s proprietary engine (RAD Engine 4.0) and 30fps does not appear to be a draw back in any way, indeed, it looks very filmic with dynamic lighting, realistic materials and well animated character models.  While making cinematic games may be a worthy objective, the goal should always be to make a game.  When I watch gameplay of firefights and moody atmosphere I wonder how much fun I would have playing through these moments with my friends.  My prediction is that this game will be fun to play through once or twice, but I won’t pick it up again.

I could be wrong. This is undoubtedly a game that has been given all the resources a studio could dream of and it was most certainly carefully crafted by Ready at Dawn.  I still very much look forward to the story, as it could be a foundation for a fun and deep universe and the art direction, animations and graphics are stunning.  We will see if the combat is enough to keep the game engaging, or if it will be a bunch of handholding, interactive cutscenes fractured by mediocre gun fights. It has unfortunately been shelved as a must buy for me; I’ll wait until the game drops in price.  For now my pre-order is going to be moved to another game that reminds me of Nightmare Creatures, fundamentally more so: Bloodborne.

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