Sony let the cat out of the bag in February 2013 by unveiling the Playstation 4 console to eager gamers craving for the start of a new generation of gaming. Along with the console, one of the early games showcased running on the new hardware was a new IP by Sony’s Ready at Dawn studio — creators of the two fantastic portable God of War titles for the PSP. Ready at Dawn was overdue for their AAA console debut and it came in the form of “The Order: 1886,” a Victorian London-era cover shooter that presented the Knights of the Round Table as Lycan hunters ridding the city of half-breed human werewolves. The game looked absolutely stunning and quickly became one of the most anticipated titles for Sony’s newest console, especially given Ready at Dawn’s pedigree.
Unfortunately for Sony, The Order: 1886 was a bit of a flop. Sales were decent but not what Sony was hoping for and reviews were extremely mixed. The gaming community slammed the game for its five hour campaign length, lack of content and bland gameplay. Combining all of these common complaints, The Order: 1886 became quick trade-in fodder and found its way into bargain bins quickly. Ready at Dawn certainly deserved better due to their undeniable talent but overall they failed to resonate with gamers this time around. Despite the negativity surrounding The Order: 1886, I picked up a copy and played through it. Hell, I’m one of the folks who thought Ryse: Son of Rome was an enjoyable experience! While I do agree The Order had many flaws, it also had many triumphs that I believe warrant Ready at Dawn giving the series another shot. Should Sony allow Ready at Dawn to take another crack at The Order?
Let’s start with what The Order did wrong in my eyes. The biggest sin this game committed was simply being a product of a previous generation. Ever since games like Gears of War and Uncharted exploded onto the scene during the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 generation, cover shooters became a dime a dozen. It felt as if every developer had to shoehorn cover mechanics into their games in order to compete. Ready at Dawn took a similar approach with The Order: 1886 and it certainly felt as if the combat was going through the motions and lacked any creativity. The game introduced Lycan battles that turned into obnoxious QTE marathons while also asking players to shoot at jittery beasts that constantly knocked the player down, which made these encounters the worst parts of the whole experience. It didn’t help that the campaign was over very quickly and gave no incentive to return to the game once it was completed. Most of the gameplay creativity came in the form of interesting weapons that were ultimately no fun to use, making me drop them for more traditional tried and true firearms like shotguns and machine guns.
Now that we got that out of the way, what did The Order do that Ready at Dawn should be commended for? Quite a bit actually. The narrative was actually very cool and the characters were all enjoyable, making these elements one of the highlights of the experience. Sir Galahad and his entourage were all likable characters and the political intrigue surrounding Galahad and his treason against the Knights of the Round Table in order to complete his mission was a fun story to see unfold before us. Lady Igraine was a great character as the noble, honorable yet loyal member of the team who constantly teetered on the edge of both sides of the internal conflict at hand. I loved how the game opened up foreshadowing Galahad as being a traitor as we spent the rest of the game discovering why he was perceived this way by his peers while also watching the twist and turns unfold. Seeing Nikola Tesla play the role as the equivalent of James Bond’s “Q” was a treat too.
Graphically, The Order: 1886 is one of the best looking games from this generation thus far. The game is a technical marvel by sporting a beautiful yet stable graphics engine, amazing lighting and texture work and some fantastic facial and weapon animations. The Order is easily one of the most cinematic games I’ve played in recent years and the tech behind the game helps breathe more life into the narrative. Also, the Victorian London setting and art style of The Order crafted a fantastic environment to explore and immerse yourself in. Audio design was also stellar with great effects, solid voice acting and a good musical score.
Circling back to our original question; should The Order: 1886 and Ready at Dawn be given another chance by taking a stab at a sequel, giving them the opportunity to right their wrongs? Absolutely. If Ready at Dawn can take all of the complaints as a focus for improvement while retaining and enhancing all of the positive aspects of the game, we may have one hell of a sequel on our hands. Even though The Order wasn’t a favorite of mine from last year, it certainly left an impression on me by delivering a great world, memorable story and set of characters that I would love to return to. The talent is surely there and maybe Sony put pressure on the team to get the game out quickly, but I think this series shouldn’t be thrown to the wolves (pun totally intended).
How could Ready at Dawn improve a sequel to The Order: 1886? Start by cutting those stupid Lycan fights out and just throw Lycan encounters into the standard combat without the need of QTEs and matches of hide and seek. Take the cover mechanics and do something relatively unique with it in order to make the combat feel fun and fresh. Use the technology surrounding Tesla and his gadgetry by making fantasy weapons more fun to use and gadgets far more interesting. Give us a lengthy campaign filled with wonderful set pieces and reasons to return to it once we wrap the experience up. A 4-player cooperative campaign was a wasted opportunity so designing the game as both a single player and cooperative experience would work well. Maybe even a horde-styled co-op mode with RPG elements would be a great addition — it worked for Mass Effect 3!
Ready at Dawn doesn’t have to necessarily reinvent the wheel in order to make The Order 2 a success. If they can craft a more fun yet simply competent combat system into another beautiful world with an even stronger story, I’m totally okay with that! Look at games like Spec Ops: The Line for example. Spec Ops was a cover shooter that didn’t do anything necessarily ballsy in the gameplay department but made the experience worth playing due to including an interesting story concept that made players think outside the box. Ready at Dawn could take this approach and still deliver a great game. How about next time we leave out the letterbox presentation during gameplay though, eh guys? We already learned that lesson with The Evil Within.
The Order: 1886 may generally be considered a bland game, but there are so many positive aspects of this game that it would be a total waste to toss this world aside and forget about it. I say allow Ready at Dawn to give The Order another shot, expand on the already strong story, throw a bigger budget at it and market this thing hardcore. In my opinion, The Order: 1886 is far from a terrible game so allowing the team to dig it out of the rubble and make it the game it should have been the first go-around would be a good move. If Ubisoft can make a bland Assassin’s Creed game and totally turn the series around into a annual groundbreaking series, what’s stoping Ready at Dawn from saving the franchise with a sequel? The Order: 1886 deserves to be a great series and Sony should pump out the resources to make this happen. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for E3 2016!