Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Review: The Order 1886 (PS4)

After the 25 hour epic Sleeping Dogs, I was in no mood for anything long. Fortunately, Amazon had a sale on The Order: 1886 for $19.95, so I placed an order. The Order 1886 has been severely criticized as having relatively little game play (i.e., a short game), while being heavily theatrical. I've learned that jaded game journalists who've played a ton of FPS twitch shooters tend to be very critical of games like this, but Among Thieves for instance was one of my favorite games on the PS3, so I tend to discount their criticisms, and just wait for a sale.

The Order: 1886 is a gorgeously rendered game.So much so that I actually bothered to learn to use the PS4's screen capture capability so I could upload a scene that looks like a gorgeous HDR photo:
The lighting, detail, and shadows are all perfectly rendered in jaw-dropping, stunning detail. The artists, voice actors, and musicians are all to be congratulated for the prettiest game I've seen on any platform yet. In many ways, the game evokes Myst, with vista after vista filling your eyes as you wander through the world it renders. You can hear your PS4's fans spinning away as the machine works away at giving you this output.

The game's background mythology is interesting: The Order, the Knights of the Round Table descended from the days of King Arthur himself, is charged with defending the empire from half-breeds (lycanthropes, vampires, and the like). The knights themselves are long-lived due to the powers of the grail, and are armed to the teeth by the likes of Nikola Tesla. You play Galahad, who investigates a mystery only to uncover corruption within The Order itself.

It's a nice setting, but I'm afraid the story doesn't do much justice to it: Galahad himself is unbelievable in how (I don't understand why writer after writer uses this stupid trope! On The Steel Breeze suffers from the same problem) he holds everything close to his chest, without even trusting his closest friends. As a result, when the betrayal comes, there's no one left to defend him. This makes no sense, and also telegraphs the plot from miles away, since the bad guys are so obviously protecting secrets.

The game play is very much like that of Uncharted (3rd person cover-shooting), but too filled with QTEs. Worse, the game commits the crime of taking control away from the player frequently at critical junctures, robbing him of both sense of control and sense of triumph.

Net net: unfortunately, the best thing about this game is that it's short, so it's not a waste of time. If you treat the shooting as the price you pay for being able to walk through the visuals, the game's pretty acceptable. It's definitely competent, and doesn't have the insane difficulty spikes that spoiled Drake's Deception for me.

In any case, I'd say that it's worth waiting for the price to drop to $10 or $5 before picking it up, though if you're looking for something to tide you over until Uncharted 4 comes out, $15 wouldn't be unreasonable.

Mildly recommended, mostly because it's so pretty.
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