I can vividly remember when I knew my relationship with my fiancé at the time was over. It was probably one of the toughest moments in my life, and for all accounts I failed to save a four year relationship. Yet, from the rubble of that relationship we both grew. Each of us, a little stronger and a little wiser. Of course this story has a happy ending; each of us found love, and if I was to guess, something even better than what we had. Failure happens. It’s a part of life, but a necessary component to achieve greatness. You must fail in order to learn from your mistakes, creating an iterative process that not only improves the person, but the dream they are building. The Order 1886, fails in it’s attempt to create a harmonious experience of video games and cinema. But, from the failure is the potential to create something better than we’ve ever experienced.
Where The Magic Happens
“Well they certainly set the tone for the intro. The music and atmosphere is there and I like the water behind the logo. Wait, there’s more to this water. It’s not just for the title screen, someone is drowning in it. Not drowning, being tortured. Hmm…looks like this is the main character and he’s obviously done something wrong so I guess I’m going to have to break him out of jail. Guess I’ll just have to wait until the cutscene is…oh shit”
At this point I’m scrambling to hit the triangle button to free Sir Galahad from another Victorian-era waterboarding. Usually, I know when a cutscene will end and the action will begin. The letterbox will slowly dissipate, and the camera will pan to a fixed position to let me know that the game has begun. In The Order 1886, the letterbox never dissipates. The game demands you to believe that you are both a casual onlooker and active participant.
After freeing Galahad I’m in the driver’s seat, controlling our hero. The letterbox is still present and the absence of any UI is an interesting choice, but this feels like a video game. It’s familiar territory and I have one objective; get Galahad out of prison and back into the city. But control only last a moment as I’m continuously shuffled from driver’s seat to the passenger seat in a frantic game of musical chairs. I can pick up a gun, but the gun doesn’t have ammo. The only way I actually get ammo is through hand-to-hand combat with one of the guards that takes place during a cutscene with quick-time events. I get the sense that I’m never going to fully be in control, and that’s okay, because the game’s presentation is great. The Order 1886 feels like something I should be watching rather than playing. And it’s only the opening sequence, but it’s also the last time I’m going to experience this feeling before peaking behind the curtain.
Behind The Curtain
Playing The Order 1886 is like watching a magic trick, having the magician walk you through the trick and then watching him perform it live in front of an audience. In the opening sequence you are part of the audience. You spend your time wondering how the hell Ready at Dawn created such a game. Your mind is telling you that this isn’t a game, that it’s some type of CGI movie, but when Galahad can’t open a door to continue the story because one of your comrades must open the door, the magic is broken. Little nuances that you don’t really pay attention to, become blaring signals that this isn’t what your mind is telling you. I had NPC get stuck in one spot and have to wait for them to run to catch up–not being up to jump to a ledge until a NPC was fully out of the scene. These were just a couple of the small glitches that happened during the game. Yet you push on, because even though you know how the trick works, you still enjoy the performance.
When Action Fails Story
However, the pushing becomes the hardest when you’re introduced to the game’s combat. Trying to find a balance, the game leans hard on traditional values, giving up what made the game special in the first place. You go from these great set pieces and narrated moments to a half built third person shooter. The “feel” of shooting isn’t that great and the cover mechanics are ‘iight’. But the most flagrant offense is placing a player in a combat situation without the ability to maneuver in the environment. The Order 1886 is slow paced. You spend most of your time walking and when you actually do ‘run’ it feels more like a jog in comparison to other AAA games. But that’s also okay, because most of the game is built around that speed. But when you have someone with a two-hit kill shotgun running at you and you have no dodge mechanic to get the hell out of the way it’s unforgivable. Your character never feels equipped enough to handle any of the combat scenarios and at a certain point you just wish it was an on-rails shooter so you could get it over with and get back to the story. Speaking of the story, it doesn’t cover any new ground. It’s a story that you’ve seen or read before; werewolves, betrayal and military drama. But just like Rocky movies, if you enjoy a story’s themes it doesn’t have to cover any new ground, it just has to be good. And the story for this game is actually pretty good.
Finding Success In Failure
Near the end of the game I had time to think about all that I had seen and done during my time as Galahad. And one thought continued to shine above the others. “What if Ready at Dawn really developed this like a movie?” What if they hired actual movie directors to work on the game? There were certain moments where a different camera angle would have made the difference in the scene’s impact on the player. And the combat, while needing a complete overhaul, could have benefited from some cinematic direction. I couldn’t help but think how cool it would have been if action sequences played out like Black Hawk Down or American Sniper. Galahad pinned down, bullets flying past his head, screaming for cover fire, all while the camera pans close to his face. And that’s probably the biggest disappointment of all – that we might never get to see what would happen in a sequel. You have to fail to improve, it’s a part of life.
And while The Order 1886 fails at the promise of bringing that definitive gaming/cinematic experience, I left the game believing they could definitely get it right the second time around; That lessons learned would drive them to improve on what did work, and come up with solutions for what didn’t work. Let’s hope someone at Ready at Dawn sees the success in the failure.