By Hudson Prichett
The Order: 1886 does many things well, and I am definitely in the minority when it comes to praising these certain approaches to the cinematic view. Diving in a month after release left me with knowledge of the game’s swing and miss, but being a lover of film led me to believe that I would appreciate the structure a little bit more than the critics. I noticed the lingering moments of absent gameplay, when it’s either a long cutscene or a linear walk down a tunnel or alleyway, but what I came to terms with was the fact that because of this cinematic take on the atmosphere, I could relax and give in to the “hand holding” moments where there is no gameplay. I understood that that is the gameplay. The cutscenes stopped feeling like cutscenes and started feeling like a part of everything. That was what Ready At Dawn was trying to accomplish and I think the game should be looked at from the point of view of intention.
Video game narrative is becoming more and more predominant in the industry and the demand for talented writers is insane. The Order is focused on story, and I loved it. I thought it was engaging and well executed. But the issues I had with the game were all related to the story itself. In order to master a full bodied story, the dialogue needs be dialogue through conversation that is important to the outcome of the events leading up to the conclusion. The problems in the game, the problems that made me cringe, were the moments in dialogue or conversation that revealed information by using the easy way out. If Ready At Dawn was really trying to execute the game from a cinematic standpoint, then the dialogue is the single most important part of execution. It all just came off as lazy. But what made me forget about the one-liners was the full scope of everything.
The aesthetic of it all (not emotional aesthetic) is where The Order takes home its prize. I haven’t seen a game as rich in detail as this one and it’s incredible, just walking down a 19th Century London alleyway with the echoing scuffle of boot on cobblestone as the moon reflects off of water that has accumulated on the ground from the aftermath of a rainstorm. Metal glares from actual diegetic light and cloth looks like real cloth. Everything looks so real it’s incredible, and the film grain textures compliment the intention. Ready At Dawn has always built their engines from scratch, which is a hassle, but it’s given them more leverage into realism that has to be appreciated.
If the aesthetic is appreciated and the style of execution is accepted, The Order can definitely be looked at as an under looked gem. Ready At Dawn definitely brought something new and interesting to the table. It’s a work of visual art. I’m not disregarding its flaws, because there are definitely flaws, and I know a lot of people are thinking, “It’s supposed to be a video game, not a film,” but this game is foreshadowing the future of narrative games. Video games are most definitely experimental and that’s what I love about the medium, from Killer Is Dead, to Saints Row, to Minecraft, and to Fez, games bring forth different ways of portraying characters and story arcs that leave consumers thinking, “Wow, that was unique.” What The Order did for me was leave me with that feeling. I left thinking, “Wow, for what it was, it was pretty good. Not amazing, but pretty good.” And that’s what it was. Not amazing, with a script lacking edge, but definitely a nudge into what’s to come of story driven games.