When The Order 1886 was first revealed at Sony’s press conference in 2013, the gaming world was aflutter about one of the most interesting new IPs to come out of the show. After all, this is a third person shooter set in the 1800s that sees gentlemen (and gentlewomen) fighting off hordes of monsters. What concept could possible be better than that? Developed by the solid Ready at Dawn Studios, The Order was the first PS4 game that seemed like a must-buy. Fast forward to 2014 and The Order is playable at E3 2014. Not surprisingly, schools of attendees gathered in a persistently-long line to be among the first to get their hands on the title. Going into the show, it seemed The Order could be this year’s big hit and a strong Game of Show contender. Going out of the show, however, The Order is now a game consumed by worry and doubt.
The Order is a gorgeous looking game; there’s no doubt about that. It looked incredible last year and even the ridiculously short stream of the game last month managed to impress even with the inherent shortcomings of the format. Playing the game does nothing but add to the wonder. It runs smooth as butter and features some of the best — if not the best — character models ever to grace a video game. The feeling you get when first walking around as the protagonist is a sense of wonder I haven’t felt since first trying a PS2 game nearly a decade ago. There are a few shortcomings with a grainy overlay and drab environments, but it remains one of the best looking games ever created anyway you slice it. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the gameplay.
“Bog standard” is the best term we can think of to describe the demo on display at the show. In a painfully short 5 minute demo, you’re taken through a few firefights with little explanation for what’s going on and what to do. But even in such a truncated form, it felt repetitive. Go hide behind pillars, lean around the pillar to shoot a flammable liquid at enemies up on balconies, set them on fire, repeat. Cribbing from Gears of War, nothing felt remotely original about the gameplay.
Sadly, it calls to mind last year’s Ryse: Son of Rome. Frequently touted to show off the Xbox One’s visual capabilities, the game turned out to be a mediocre hack and slash with a devastatingly short playtime and repetition to the point of exhaustion. Much like Ryse, character models were top notch, but it seemed like the entire budget and development time was spent avoiding innovating gameplay to focus on graphics. This led to a mediocre launch title that will likely be forgotten in years to come after a seemingly unstoppable amount of hype.
The Order faces the same problems. Ready at Dawn have provided an incredible graphical experience that easily outclasses any other game of the generation currently, but if what we’ve seen so far is representative of the final experience, they’ve done it at the expense of an enjoyable gameplay experience. Not only is this troublesome for gamers, but should also be raising a few red flags for Sony. Becoming known for style and no substance is a dangerous pitfall for console and one they should be desperately trying to avoid moving forward.