The Order 1886 Review

Launching amid a hail of less than stellar reviews hasn't stopped The Order 1886 from reaching the top of the charts in the UK during its launch weekend. Positioned as the latest poster child for the PS4, Sony put plenty of marketing dollars behind this release putting it front and centre in everyone's consciousness.

The Order 1886 Review

So Pretty, oh so pretty....

The Order 1886 is a technical showpiece that has a level of graphical prowess not yet seen on a home console. The attention to detail on display here by developers Ready at Dawn show a labour of love that seeps into all areas of presentation. Every single slice of this game that enters your body, either through your eyes, ears or hands has been carefully considered and delivered with technical mastery and creative flair. It is astonishing. The materials react to light and water in realistic ways and give the alternate London a suitably dirty and grimy feel. As you progress through different levels your character will build up a level of dirt on his hands and clothes and blood seems to actually seep through clothes when shot. Animations are sublime, characters stumble and react naturally with their surroundings, particularly noticeable when the protagonist Sir Galahad hugs any cover he is up against. The motion capture for the characters is also impressive, with facial animations and lip sync being a highlight.

Similarly the visual effects are a cut above other recent releases. Smoke, sparks, explosions and other fire based effects are plentiful and beautiful to behold. Guns belch forth fiery death with gusto making every encounter a pyrotechnic marvel. Cloth simulations are at an extremely high resolution allowing the developers to give characters distinctive flowing cloaks and capes. A fantastic lighting solution is used, shadows are crisp and of a high resolution with the soft lighting tying elements together in a seamless, natural way. Finally the anti aliasing technique used eliminates almost all stepping completely. Interior of airship full of girders and thin lines? No problem.

Aurally The Order 1886 continues to impresses with superb voice acting, sound effects and a soundtrack that is currently in my Spotify playlist - a rare feat for a video game. Also noteworthy are the controls which were light and responsive, against all expectations given the heft and weight of the world. For the first time ever I also remarked to myself on numerous occasions how good the rumble was (the rumble of all things!!). It was used in very innovative ways including a decent lock picking mechanism! I could gush on and on about the presentation but suffice to say Ready at Dawn have crafted something truly memorable. The fact the engine can throw it onto the screen at 30 frames per second and have some unbelievably short load times is the final icing on the cake. The investment Sony has put into this team must surely pay off as techniques used here must make their way into other first party titles.​

Recipe for success

Having sky high production values obviously does not automatically equate to a great game. The Order 1886 is a 3rd person cover based shooter in the vein of Gears of War, you have probably played a game like this before. The moment to moment gameplay is competent and the gun play is satisfying but overall does not break new ground. We are treated to a seamless experience from gameplay to cut scene and back again which helps the immersion and eases you into the liberal use of quick time events. There are an abundance of them but I didn't find them overly intrusive, they helped to keep me engaged during the many, many cut scenes. There are some pacing issues, particularly in the early stages as the game keeps wrestling control from you to show a cut scene when you would rather be playing but towards the end there are longer stretches of gameplay giving you more freedom.

There are plenty of weapons to get your hands on - 4 different types of pistols, a semi automatic rifle, a sniper rifle, a sub machine gun, a larger LMG like rifle and then 4 "Science" weapons that don't appear that often but are fun to use. All of the weapons have a fantastic feel to them and the science weapons in particular feel fresh and handle quite differently.

The Order 1886 Review

At times The Order 1886 feels like a mashup of genres, one moment a cover based shooter followed by a short traversal section and then later some insta-fail stealth sections, all cut together with some cut scene QTE's. It's a heady mix that does work well but doesn't excel at any particular one. Sub-par AI is a real blemish that sticks out like a head from behind a barrel. Human enemies stick rigidly behind cover, occasionally obliging to pop their heads out so that you may remove them of it - they even seem to remain steadfast when a grenade lands at their feet. Most disappointingly the Lycan sections involve three of the brutes taking it in turn to simply charge at you while you roll out of the way, its all rather gentlemanly and pedestrian. These encounters could have been so much more. That being said I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough ​and I rounded out my first run (on hard) in around 10 hours.

Unfinished Symphony

Set in London during the winter of 1886 (surprise?!) the story centres around the legend of King Arthur's knights of the round table and refreshingly this retelling includes a Lady Knight as a pivotal central character. Here we see them as protectors of the realm, charged with holding otherworldly creatures  at bay. Lycans are the targeted foe, but humans of rebellions and fictional "are they good or are they evil?" corporations make up the bulk of the enemies you will face. We are given a fascinating re-imagining of Victorian London to invest ourselves in and the characters and setting are well written and designed. The story itself however, despite some interesting plot points, never wanders far from well trodden paths. Signposted betrayals and switches in allegiance are a fairly predictable affair and there is no real conclusion to the larger story arcs leaving too many things unresolved for my liking. 

Spoilers! (click me)

It's clear this is the proposed start of a new franchise for the team at Ready at Dawn. I am excited to see where this story goes and how the new engine can be leveraged, not just by its creators but by other Sony studios.

​I really enjoyed my time with The Order 1886. The game consistently blew me away with its presentation, raising the bar for other games from now on and providing a new benchmark for visual and aural fidelity. Solid but safe gameplay hampered by disappointing AI routines and a predictable story hold it back from greatness. If you are looking for a focused, beautiful experience then look no further, gamers wanting to make their own story along the way may be wise to look elsewhere. If like me, the thought of another massive open-world-em-up is too much, then pick up The Order 1886 and become immersed in an imaginative, beautiful re-imagining of Victorian London.

Closing Comment

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About the author

Lee Sands

IT Evangelist and generalist for over 10 years spanning everything from virtualisation to Enterprise Lync farm deployment. Currently an IT Manager in the education sector. Co-Founder of ManMadeClub, a blog for post modern family men. I'm into anything and everything but particularly video games, tech and food.