The Order: 1886
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Developer: Ready at Dawn
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: February 20, 2015

The Hype: Here we are into the second year of the new high powered consoles and first party exclusives are scarcer than ever. We’ve all heard the term system sellers before and even though Sony continues to outsell Microsoft, the console desperately needs a winner. Something to tangibly move the needle so to speak. So with much at stake, Sony has put many of their eggs into The Order: 1886 basket. Was it the right call and will it pay off?

Early returns would suggest that they have once again bungled a first party exclusive, which especially hurts on the heels of the much maligned Driveclub. In the days leading up to a peculiar Friday release for Sony, video footage, images and damning opinions were leaked unto the masses, mostly via YouTube. The anti-Sony rallying cry was that The Order was too short, as some said the game could be completed in under six hours. Other opinions ranged from the game was littered with Quick Time Events and boss battles were recycled. Clearly, Sony and Ready at Dawn were dealing with a PR nightmare even before the general public could play it themselves.

In the day and months before the week of the release, The Order: 1886 was a much anticipated game by PlayStation gamers and even by those looking to expand their console collections. Ready at Dawn found themselves creating a game which had most of the correct check boxes checked off. In this day and age, shooters of all kinds are usually in the top 10 of video game monthly sales. Mix in cutting-edge visuals with a Steampunk-esque storyline, werewolves, thermite guns,  and well you really could see why Sony heavily invested in this title.

In Reality: With the internet scuttlebutt reaching optimum volume, my interest went from being sincere to a rubbernecking motorist anticipating a horrific car crash. And for the next eight plus hours, I kept looking around the bend for that said accident, and it never appeared. Much to my delight The Order: 1886 was an enjoyable linear, narrative driven, cover based shooter. In essence, the game was delivered as advertised. For all the belly aching the gaming industry has done recently about broken games or day one patches, it was refreshing to put a game in that just worked from the word go. While it is commendable for Ready at Dawn to buck the recent trend, they probably didn’t set out to receive the “well, it just works” award either. Instead, what they have created is one the most gorgeous looking games, ever, period. The PS4 came with the screenshot function and I’ve used it here and there with other games but with The Order, I was constantly compelled to capture the scenes unfolding before my eyes. Phrases that come to mind are “stunning”, “breathtaking”, and more importantly “pushing the envelope”. The bar has now been set for the next developer to come along and craft a game which demands your visual attention and then rewards you tenfold for it.

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Gameplay:
Leading up to the release, I had a chance to play The Order at PAX Prime in Seattle. Media and fans alike were able to get their hands on a scene in which the enemies were bearing down on us from above and we had to use a Thermite gun to move from building A to building B. At the time, late summer of 2014, I had concerns over how the cover and shooting mechanics felt. Many echoed the same concerns coming out of E3. But I’m happy to report, the concerns I had were addressed. Are they reinventing shooting mechanics? No. Are they delivering a world class shooting experience like Destiny? No. But neither did titles like Bioshock Infinite or The Last of Us. Instead the shooting is a necessary byproduct to move the story along, which of course is the real reason, I think, many of us decided to purchase this game.

If you’re not a fan of Quick Time Events or in-game prompts then this might not be the title for you. I read on Twitter that one of the executives at Ready at Dawn called the QTEs in The Order “sparse”. Such a comment would be an incorrect and insincere statement, as all boss battles (of which two exist) are nothing but QTEs. Plus, many of the other confrontations require them as well. Again, I will repeat myself, if you don’t like QTEs, then this might be a game you want to skip. However, if you have the stomach for them, there are many other enjoyable gameplay aspects to sink your teeth into. Shooting the various weapons, climbing on roof tops, lock picking, and exploring for collectibles are all part of the experience.

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Conclusion:
The Order: 1886 is a hot button topic as it brings the economics of gaming to the forefront. Some will argue that spending $60 on a 6 to 10 hour game (depending on difficulty settings) is not worth the money. I will counter that I categorize gaming much like I do movies, as entertainment. How much would it cost you to go the movie theater and watch 8-9 hours of new movies. The same if not more than the $60 required to purchase The Order. Unless you’re a trophy and/or collectible hunter, it is true that there is little to no replay value in this title. There are no in-game decisions which will alter the story. It is a linear experience and it is ultimately up to you if you want to get on and enjoy the ride.

For those willing to take the plunge, you shall be rewarded with a story where the The Knights of the Order serve and protect the realm from many issues, namely the half-breeds and the rebellion. It is a story which holds your attention and takes many turns along the way. A sign of good story telling is when the writer(s) leave you wanting more. Such is the case with The Order: 1886, as many story lines came to a conclusion, but just as many were left unanswered. Some might say the writers took the lazy way out by not wrapping everything up in a nice neat package or did they purposelessly leave lose ends to signal a sequel of sorts. As mentioned in the opening, Sony needs new IPs and The Order: 1886 is a good start to a new potential franchise. It is not a game without faults but neither does it deserve the harsh criticism which many of the established media seem to be throwing its way.