Ready at Dawn’s The Order 1886 E3 2013 trailer sold me on the game but the lukewarm reception at launch scared me away from purchasing it for more than $20. The complaints were completely justified and ending with only one of many loose ends tied up was a little frustrating. It felt like it was the first episode of a multi-part adventure game that will unlikely see a conclusion.
Having just played another game filled with British voice actors in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between it and The Order 1886. Both featured gorgeous depictions of British life with an eye for detail. I spent a lot of time walking slowly in commonplace locales looking at everyday objects and learning about the lifestyle of the time. But unlike the “walking simulator”, The Order 1886 broke up its exploration moments with third person cover based shootouts.
Although the game shared mechanics with other third person shooters like Gears of War, it’s ultimately an adventure game. Action wasn’t the game’s strength. I was fixated to the story and the unraveling workings of this world where King Arthur’s Knights of the Round table continued well into the 18th century and fought lycans and vampires for a living.
I’m not intimately familiar with the original source material; the extent of my King Arthur knowledge starts with Disney’s animated feature, The Sword in the Stone, and ends with Capcom’s Knights of the Round. So I was more than willing to accept the creative liberties they took with Arthurian lore. I was fascinated with how the Knights of the Round (aka The Order) functioned and what their role was in this world. To describe them as a late 18th century version of MI6 that fought half-breeds wouldn’t be too farfetched. They even had their own version of Q in Nikola Tesla.
I also found Ready at Dawn did a wonderful job dangling the next plot point in front of me. I wanted to know what that mysterious fluid inside those vials around their necks contained. How did everyone manage to stay alive for centuries? The pay offs were enlightening to me since I had forgotten about key aspects of King Arthur’s adventures.
The third person shooting action sequences were utilitarian. They didn’t present much of a challenge even on the highest difficulty. All the action took place right in front of me with very little motivation to shift from cover to cover. A humorous amount of enemies would pour into these tight little spaces. I know they were trying to pad out these moments of interactivity but I would have been happier if they cut those encounter times in half and moved forward to the next story beat.
I would have also been happier if they got rid of their spin on quick time events. I realize QTEs have their place and I’m fine with the well contextualized implementations but Ready at Dawn’s quirky spin was annoying. Suddenly having to move a reticle to a spot on the screen in the midst of other traditional QTE mechanics never felt natural and resulted in numerous unnecessary deaths.
Only one area of The Order 1886 drew universal praise and I will join the chorus: the audio visual presentation was phenomenal. The Order 1886 was a genuine looker; easily one of the most visually impressive console games to date. I thought the letterboxing would have been a distraction but I was completely fine with it. I even forgot it was there at times because the action was framed well. The voice acting and performance capture were even more impressive to me. I was drawn to the seething anger from Isabeau when she discovered Galahad’s “betrayal”.
I would have loved to seen Isabeau’s inevitable confrontation with Galahad. In fact, there were many story threads I would have loved to have seen resolved or explored but The Order 1886’s mediocre sales and reception puts all of that in jeopardy. With so many unresolved issues, it’s easy to see The Order 1886 as the first part of an episodic adventure title. Unfortunately, Ready at Dawn probably spent the entire budget of Life is Strange, The Walking Dead and Tales of the Borderlands in a single episode. It’s a shame but I will hold a sliver of hope for a sequel.
I liked it