[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]f there’s one game that’s completely perplexing gamers, it’s The Order: 1886. With an incredibly compelling backdrop of an alternate history of London, mixed with practically seamless transitions from cutscene to gameplay, The Order: 1886 was definitely a “next-gen” game from the very beginning. But as more information and media trickled through Sony and Ready At Dawn, gamers became more and more concerned with how the game actually played and whether it’s just a glorified tech demo. Does The Order: 1886’s gameplay have enough going for it to hook players in? Or does it even matter if the world created in this game is vivid enough? Let’s discuss.
Before I begin, I’d just like to point out that all of the material I’m basing my opinion on is not a representation of a final product. I don’t have a lawyer with a gun to my head as I type this out, but I’m a believer of fair opportunity and if Ready at Dawn is not releasing their game until 2015, I’m not going to critique a game that isn’t out yet. I will, however, discuss at length what I think of the promo material released — including brief gameplay videos — and what it could possibly mean for the end product if things were not to change. Developers change things constantly, so what I write now could be incredibly irrelevant six months down the line. Got it? Good.
The Order: 1886 made a brief appearance at this year’s E3, showing off a rather short video of the main character, Galahad, coming in contact with a Lycan — a type of unique werewolf to the game. I’m going to break down the video into two parts; one for what we are watching and one for what we are playing.
Visual: Galahad creeps around in what we assume is an abandoned asylum or hospital. His lamp light shines off the glinting tiles until he comes across a man gruesomely eating a corpse. The man notices Galahad and transforms into a horrific wolf-like beast, his arms and legs stretching the fabric of the clothes he’s wearing. Galahad retreats, dropping his lantern and pulling out his pistol to try and kill the beast. He is suddenly thrown through a window and is bleeding heavily. Galahad takes a drop of his potion before scurrying away to hide. The Lycan smells the blood on the floor and searches for Galahad before the main character opens fire with a large gun. The beast jumps toward Galahad and the camera fades to black.
Gameplay: Galahad searches the room with his lamp, almost like in The Last Of Us. He continues down a hall and sees the Lycan. We see a cutscene and then transition to Galahad shooting with his pistol (presumably hold R1). Next, Galahad has to take a potion which comes in the form of a quick time event of pressing Triangle. Another cutscene. Galahad then pushes forward and there’s another cutscene of him grabbing a new gun. The final piece of gameplay is of Galahad shooting the gun before the Lycan jumps.
Watch the video below and keep track of the cutscenes versus the actual gameplay (i.e. the shooting):
Can you see the difference here? How simple the gameplay is compared the complexity of the visuals? While I understand that this was probably more a demo to show off the visuals more than anything, a lot of people said the same thing about the last video. Gamers everywhere are commenting on how “linear” it looks, how it just reminds them of Uncharted or Gears Of War and so on. And for the most part, I agree. I’m actually very worried about the gameplay for The Order: 1886 because it’s too traditional and, from what we’ve seen, filled with cutscenes.
Sure, they have a very well-thought-out idea for the setting and the complexity of the weapons and gadgets is brilliant also, but at the end of the day, will it just be a linear cover shooter with the typical linear cover shooter gameplay? Will it also be a game that can seamlessly transition from cutscene to gameplay to cutscene too often? Time will tell what The Order: 1886 will turn into as we near the release date, but I’m going to offer a counter-argument to myself and all the other commenters who are really irked by the gameplay and rapid interchange between gameplay and cutscenes.
I’m always the guy that says that gameplay should be the main focus over everything. If it doesn’t have good gameplay, you’re wasting my time and I don’t care. However, I’ve changed my tune a bit since 2013 when I played Spec Ops: The Line. It probably has the worst gameplay I’ve ever had to grapple with, but I was urged to keep playing by peers as I was told the story is really really good. And damn, it certainly was.
That’s when things changed for me and I thought of games as having three different categories: one where the focus is on a story, another where the focus is on gameplay and another that perfectly balances the two. I often don’t need this boring gameplay section in BioShock when I just want to get to the next stage of the story, and I don’t need a story for Battlefield if I just want to fly jets and capture flags. Maybe The Order: 1886 is offering us the former category where the focus is on story, but they still need to show gameplay because: a) that’s what gamers want to see at E3; and b) they don’t want to give away too much of their story just yet. It’s definitely apparent that the story is a key point to The Order: 1886.
We’ve just passed a year filled with games full of stories that have certainly left their mark. From The Last Of Us, to BioShock Infinite, to Gone Home, we’ve played and experienced impeccable tales that can rival great works of literature, film and television. But a common complaint at times was often, “I played through the game for the story, the gameplay was just in the way.” This was the definitely the case for Bioshock Infinite which many gamers felt that it took away more elements than it brought forward. However, these games have still received rave reviews and have definitely earned a spot in gamers’ hearts as an experience they’ll never forget.
While I’m not condemning The Order: 1886 before it even leaves the starting gate, I believe that it has a high chance of suffering from lacklustre gameplay if the recent videos are any indication. It definitely has the potential to create a thrilling story that will entertain from start to finish. I’m more interested in the characters, the setting and the lycans more than anything. And if, like BioShock Infinite, I have to play bog-standard gameplay wrapped up in an engaging world, then so be it, though I really hope that’s not the case and that the gameplay is something that keeps me coming back for more.
You really shouldn’t worry about The Order: 1886’s gameplay too much. If the world building and characters are engaging enough, chances are we’re going to get a stellar game, regardless if you think the gameplay is rubbish or not. Ready At Dawn want to make this IP something huge so I can really see them going above and beyond to create a game drenched in lore that will create some hardcore fans and sway opinions. Don’t knock The Order: 1886 just yet, there’s definitely a lot more bite to it than we’ve witnessed.