Many gamers have been quick to bash or defend The Order: 1886’s short length. Yes, five or six hours for a game doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too short. Vanquish is a similar length and is insane amounts of fun from start to finish.
The thing is, for the Order’s, let’s say six hours, you only actually ‘play’ it for around half of that time. The rest of the game involves a lot of cutscenes or an abundance of what I’ll call ‘walking cutscenes.’
By the latter I mean scenes where you are allowed to walk around while another character talks to you, such as an early mission while you and Igraine descend into the tunnels of London. During scenes like this your speed is locked to a slow walk and you have no control over your weapon. Essentially you’re pushing forwards on the analogue stick and that’s it. Doesn’t really sound like gameplay to me.
The game is packed with scenes like this that serve no purpose that a cutscene would not. Sure we can freely look around (albeit at a snail’s pace), but as good looking as the graphics are, there really isn’t much to see and do in these environments.
Many of the game’s interactions, aside from the gunfights, feel so arbitrary too. For example, there are numerous collapsed beams that you’ll move aside for an ally via a perfunctory QTE. There’s no reason the two characters couldn’t just duck under / hop over the diagonal beam. The Order: 1886 is so bereft of things to do, Ready at Dawn have peppered the game with these meaningless interactions, just to pad out the experience.
The ‘proper’ cutscenes convey the story well enough, and after a slow start, the story builds up into an interesting tale of conspiracy and the rebel movement threatening the realm. The thing is, it’s an interesting story by the standards of regular video games. This is not a film and if this was a film, you’d probably say it was more on the average side of the scale and you’d also wonder where are the ‘big moments’. If this was the first few episodes of a TV show, you probably wouldn’t be hooked for the next one.
Forget big set pieces too, the boss fights are over before you realise they were supposed to be boss fights and before you know it, the game itself has ended. The Order: 1886 has turned out to be a serious of conversations linked by slow-walking corridors and the occasional shootout. I’ve seen more variety in a pack of Twiglets.
It’s important to emphasise on the game’s length again. These runs of six hours are in no way speed runs. I finished the game in about that time having attempted to make it last by looking for collectibles and gawking at the pretty scenery.
The only time I felt like I playing a game was during the admittedly enjoyable shootouts, or during the incredibly frustrating stealth sections, the latter of which probably added to the runtime thanks to numerous restarts caused by instant-fail fuckups. No wait, to be fair, I do think there was around five minutes of risk-free ledge climbing that was impossible to fail. For all but the most casual of new gamers, the parts around the shooty bits could not be a better example of a game going through the motions.
Not being able to skip any of the cutscenes makes a second playthrough to pick up any missing collectibles an awfully long-winded experience too. I fired up the game for a second run just to try out the combat on a higher difficulty for my review only to find that I was going to have to wait half an hour (again) until I was able to even fire a gun.
I’ll never be able to say The Order: 1886 is a bad game, it really isn’t. But it’s so incredibly average in multiple departments, particularly imagination (beyond the interesting setting). The art department have done incredible things, but the rest of the team has let the side down. Pick up The Order at full price and you’re getting royally fleeced.
Ready at Dawn have clearly thought of The Order: 1886 as a cinematic project rather than a game, so you should too. Would you pay $60/£40 for a slightly interesting three hour CGI movie consisting mainly of conversations? Didn’t think so. Be smart and wait for the price to fall for this one, it might not take as long as you think to become more reasonably priced.