No one wanted The Order: 1886 to succeed more than this author. If you go back and listen to our EGX 2014 discussion, you'll hear your humble host staunchly defend Ready at Dawn's alternate history escapade after an early hands-on demo failed to live up to the expectations of some members in the Push Square team. Reviewing the release over the past few days proved a bitter pill to swallow, then, as the PlayStation 4 exclusive practically fell foul to every potential pitfall that we predicted. Despite this, though, we still feel that the Californian outfit has laid the foundations for a potentially special sequel. But what does it need to change?
The Gameplay Must Complement the Story
The Order: 1886's primary ambition is to fuse story with gameplay, but it falls short in places. And this is not because of shoddy cut-scene segues, but because of a lack of forethought. Take, for example, one section in the game where you need to infiltrate an aristocrat's home. The narrative demands that you enter the building without being spotted, but because the title doesn't boast any real stealth mechanics, detection will result in an immediate restart.
The context that the release gives is that you get shot in the head, but this makes no sense, as you can take dozens of bullets during the average firefight, and still escape with your life. As a result, the impact of the story ends up diminished, and it ruins the illusion that you're playing an interactive movie. Consequentially, the developer needs to ensure that these two assets complement each other better in the future; the gameplay should enhance the story, not detract from it.
The Combat Needs to Get with the Times
There's nothing necessarily wrong with The Order: 1886's gunplay – in fact, we quite like some of the weapons. The thermite rifle, for instance, which peppers the air with flammable gas clouds, is an enjoyable armament, while the arc cannon is a deadly addition to the game's arsenal, too. The problem is that the title doesn't include enough interesting encounters to make use of them, and as a result, you'll be shooting static grunts in the head from a single piece of cover.
It's the kind of dreary third-person gunplay that was acceptable when Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was new, but the world has moved on since then. If you compare what Ready at Dawn's achieved here with the layered encounters in The Last of Us, it's clear just how far off the pace the developer is. And it's a real shame, because with mythological enemies as well as human adversaries, there's the potential to create some real pulsating gunfights in this universe.
There Should Be More Things to Interact With
The Order: 1886 really allows you to soak up the atmosphere of its alternate history world, and that's something that we appreciate. Skulking through the streets of Whitechapel or coursing through the bowels of Westminster is a real rush; the problem is that the game doesn't really reward you for taking your time. There are newspapers and objects that you can inspect, and a lot of effort has been invested into these, but interactive items are few and far between.
Make no mistake, we're not for a second suggesting that the studio should change the game's scope, and pad it out with boring bottle cap collectibles and shoddy side-quests. However, we think that if you were able to converse with non-playable characters – if only for short snippets of dialogue – and maybe affect the environment a little more in order to solve puzzles and the like, it would give you a much greater sense of place. At the moment, it feels like you're being funnelled through a museum.
The Story Has to Stay Strong from Start to Finish
For a game that's heavily dependent on its story, The Order: 1886 fails to come to a particularly satisfying conclusion. Ready at Dawn spends plenty of time building up a fascinating fiction, but just as it's getting interesting, it races to an ending without tying up any loose ends. There's nothing wrong with leaving a few threads – we actually appreciate the way that the writing treats you with some degree of intelligence – but there are far too many unanswered questions here.
It's a shame, because the studio clearly had much bigger ambitions. Newspaper articles that you uncover make references to Queen Victoria, but they're never picked up on. Worse still, an enormous chunk of the main character's motivation is left to hang, and while this sets things up perfectly for a sequel, it's a bit frustrating that the plot is cut off so abruptly. The follow-up needs to be fulfilling from start to finish.
Do you think that these changes would improve a potential The Order: 1886 successor? Will the studio even get a shot at a sequel? Hire a carrier pigeon in the comments section below.