Quite out of the norm for a games journalist, but I deliberately stayed away from anything to do with The Order before its release, as I wanted to get as excited as possible, which for me means seeing very little until I can get my hands on it. As much as I tried, the eventual buzz that circulated around various YouTube videos meant that I had to acknowledge people’s concerns a little early, and I have to admit that my concerns also started to come to the surface. But now that the game is out, and I’ve managed to get the platinum with 100% completion (thank you), does it hold up?
I guess that the biggest issue that we have to address straight away is the length of the game. Much was made of this issue, and we saw a series of YouTube videos coming out only a week before the game’s launch, outlining that the game was only 5 hours long; things were not looking too good. But don’t panic people! Yes you could complete The Order in 5 hours, but that’s like most games you can normally plow through in a shorter time. It took me around 8-9 hours to 100% The Order, which is still a pretty short experience, but it’s not as bad as it sounded at first. What it lacks in time however, it does make up in story. Knights and Werewolves in a steam punk London provides a great backdrop for the plot, and as the games progresses you do become invested in the characters and their plight. Each character has a clear personality and their feelings and emotions are clear to see, without the game having to explain it all.
So like I mentioned, The Order is set in Victorian London and I bet you can’t tell what year it’s supposed to be. You play as Galahad, a member of Her Majesty’s Knights, part of a special order charged with the protection of the realm. Much more detail of these knights are hinted at throughout the game, but basically they are all also really old, due to their exposure to grail water. This base is an interesting premise, and while it may have been tested a thousand times in books, games and films alike, there is still somewhere to go with this. The Order also pulls the Assassin’s Creed card of utilizing real life people and events to bolster its fantasy. In this case, we are introduced to Nicolas Tesla, who servs as the Knights’ armorer and inventor, taking the role of Di Vinci from AC: Brotherhood, or Q from the Bond series. But, being set in Victorian London, we are also shown glimpses of the ripper murder with most of the game taking place in Whitechapel, which in itself may have a greater impact on the story than I want to give away. In any case, making good use of this crossover not only adds a relatable element to the story, it also creates those fun moments when The Order can shove a subtle reference in, and we all have the joy of thinking that we are the only ones that get it.
All of the above is helped massively with some of the prettiest graphics that I have ever seen, and I would go as far as saying that it is the best looking game out right now. Built exclusively for the PS4, you can really tell that it is using every inch of the engine. Everything from the bricks to the clothes on the characters backs work, and look perfect in a way that some games couldn’t quite get right in the past. On an unfortunate note, we can definitely tell where all of the time and money went. Considering that I was not against the length of the game, there is not a lot of gameplay here. Quite a few chapters of the 16 are cut-scenes, only with around 5 chapters containing any lengthy gameplay. Considering the world we are in, I was begging for a chance to explore, but The Order is about as linier as it gets without literally being a straight line. When you do actually get to walk around, movement feels stiff and clunky, more like you are controlling a robot over a human. And as for the speed, don’t get me started. Your character walks painfully slow and while you can run, it’s the best example of a ‘dad run’ that I have ever seen, and to top it all off, you don’t even have this option all the time, leaving you to bumble about various rooms.
One area that the gameplay does pick up, however, is the combat. Others may disagree, but I had a lot of fun playing around with the various weapons in The Order. Unlike the general movement, once you get behind cover it can be a lot of fun to fight your way out of a situation, or hold off against greater numbers of foes. With a multitude of different guns to play around with, there is a lot to try out. Neat new features and weapons, from the air blower that will stun bad guys, to the scientific cannons that will leave your enemies electrified. One gun will even fire out gas that surrounds enemies, leaving you to fire a flair that will engulf all in flames. Despite this choice, you are limited to what you can use per mission, with the story often finding ways to give you a new gadget allowing you to try them all out. While in theory this is a nice introduction, we have no choice in what we play with besides what is dropped. Most of the time you could go through the entire game with a pistol, bringing to question the use of all the other cool gadgets.
One feature that can mix combat up a little is Blacksight. Blacksight is the slow motion mechanic that so many shooters have, but it keeps coming back because it’s pretty cool. Once activated, you will auto lock onto enemies blowing them away with whatever pistol you are carrying. You will also be able to swap between bad guys to try and get the maximum damage. Not only useful for killing villains, but you can also use Blacksight to blow grenades out of the sky, something which not only makes you feel like a bad ass but will also earn you a cheeky trophie.
Speaking of trophies, making sure that you get all of them offers the only real re-play factor here. Unless you want to experience it again, there is no benefit to playing the campaign for a second time. For those who are not quite ready to give it up, there are a host of collectables hidden throughout London just waiting to be found. These range from voice tapes, newspapers and objects that all have their own trophies for completion. While this does provide a reason to go back, it’s not the most enjoyable of experiences. Once found, there is no indication what collectables you have except for the voice recordings, this then leaves you to scour through the internet to try and guess what newspapers you missed, or whether you inspected a certain pipe. Thankfully, The Orders chapter select is good enough to enable you to jump straight in to any part of the game, meaning that you can be closer to the collectables that you think you may have missed.
Overall, while The Order doesn’t bring too much more to the table, it does make what’s already there look a little nicer. Most of the mechanics and gameplay have been done before, and unlike some of the other games that have come our way recently, such as Dragon Age or even Evolve, there is no chance that gamers will still be playing The Order for months to come. But, the story is genuinely interesting and the characters become relevant enough to feel invested in them. The protagonist, Galahad, is importantly a cool character and I would love to see what he gets up to next. There are more loose ends that need to be tied up, and while I would not be shifting uncontrollably in my seat until I found out, I think the game did enough to make me interested in the next one that comes along. The Order definitely feels like a short game, built around an impressive engine, rather than a complete story and that does affect the experience that you will have. Stay tuned for more from this series, but if you are sitting there with £60 in your pocket, you are better off waiting until this game’s reduced in price or is free on PS Plus.