Game review: The Order: 1886 - a mess of pointless violence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 March, 2015, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 April, 2015, 11:30am

The Order: 1886
Sony Computer Entertainment

They're mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more. A sea change is taking place in the video game market - long plagued by the gaming pundits' overly positive reviews, players are starting to stand up for themselves.

The tipping point? The Order: 1886, a much-hyped release that - fairly or unfairly - is being made an example of by the greater media world. The game isn't exactly bad, but should have been so much more. All the parts are there: a unique concept, fitting gameplay and a built-in legion of fans desperate for something original.

Set in an alternate-history Victorian England, The Order is a quick-cover third-person shooter in which you play as a member of a secretive order of knights sworn to protect king and country. Think Gears of War meets Uncharted, set in a steampunk world. From the outset, the game lulls you into this fully realised world, with its highly detailed graphics, believable characters and a refreshing, if short, narrative that intrigues through such names as Sir Galahad, Nikola Tesla and even Jack the Ripper.

But to maintain this entire illusion, The Order sacrifices gameplay, with players often relegated to impassive observers. Opportunities to grab the controller are often limited to a button-mashing quick-time event or the chance to walk to the next scene.

When a shoot-out finally does present itself, the game turns oddly mechanical, music blaring in the background as you robotically lean in and out of a conveniently placed table, gunning down predictable AI baddies before having to find the next cut scene. It's old-fashioned and not in a good way: an unsatisfying mess of pointless violence bubbling beneath a beautifully rendered surface.

Still, it's far from terrible. Five years ago - whether through bribes or threats of intimidation - reviewers would have pegged the game as a four-star release, no doubt proclaiming it filled with "invention and innovation". But developers don't have that kind of clout any more, and even the smallest of creators is able to dream big.

The news stream is having a field day with The Order's poor reception. And while it's never nice to point and laugh, especially at something that seems to have tried, the consensus nowadays is that only if you're aiming to be as good as a big-budget movie will you be treated as such.