Posted by Pip
F188- No Pressure
What has humanity done for me lately?! Well I guess the whole being their batteries and producing small children that revel in the Sins's adorability and wise life lessons. With their mark put on the cave people and probably creating a vast yearning for merchandise, it's time to actually set out and save this rock.
Quick Critique: The Order 1886
From almost the moment you pop in the disc, The Order sets you up for a bad experience. It starts with an overly long cutscene of some guy being tortured by some other guys. It means nothing, it's not interesting, and it's not entertaining. Nothing about it raises questions about who they are or why this is happening, just that it's long and boring. This is followed by a series of quick time events and then followed by your character slowly crawling down a hallway, all while constantly having control taken away from you every few seconds for a cutscene. Followed by a fake-out that all this is happening in the future so let's jump back to the past. Following by now having control over the character but followed by your character walking ludicrously slow through a hallway. All that sadly sets the pace for what you're going to see throughout The Order. A character that walks at a snail's pace, quick time events, and tedium. There are entire chapters in the game of your character just talking, slowly walking down a hallway, picking up an object and turning it over until the game lets you stop doing that, and multiple cutscenes, without a minute of gameplay. One chapter consists of two cutscenes and then it's over. Unfortunately, the gameplay is just a by-the-numbers cover-based shooter so the time between the cutscenes isn't entertaining either. You shoot people with inaccurate weapons, move forward, repeat until injured, hang back and let your health regenerate until you can kill them all, then move down a completely linear hallway until you get to a slightly open space where a fight will break out and you start this all over again. There's a scene where you're just murdering the heck out of so many people with a science bazooka and it's surprisingly boring. You fire this slow bazooka that takes too long to wind up and it has a small blast radius, and the sequence goes on way too long because you have to constantly take cover and let your health regenerate while enemies continue to pour into your view as you stand in one place tediously mowing them down. "Shooting people with a science bazooka" is the kind of back of the box quote that would get me to buy a game, but here it's just padding for time. At least those enemies kind of deserved to die, unlike the likely dozens and dozens of innocent people you murder with the justification of "it would take too much time/effort to find out if they're actually bad". Nobody in the game comes out well. Your characters have this magical juice that makes them semi-immortal and heals all their wounds, but the game doesn't really explain how it works until about halfway through the story. So in one scene, you're with a police officer who gets shot and a member of your team gets nicked by a bullet. Your guy drinks his magic juice, heals up nicely, and you just stand there and watch this officer die with nobody giving him any help or medical care. Your characters are total assholes, but the game doesn't acknowledge this. It plays them up like super cops but they're terrible. And despite their magical juice, your allies are useless and no help in combat. In one segment where you're fighting what amounts to an arena of enemies, I took the high ground to snipe them but my ally wouldn't stop enemies from running past him, so I died when one got to me with a shotgun to the head. Every single enemy would have had to walk directly past my ally and he did nothing. Or in another area, my group was pinned down, we murder everything around us, your ally runs forward into the courtyard, and then she shouts "all clear!" back to you. So then I advance forward, am immediately shot in the back of the head by the multiple enemies that are still out there, and I have to murder them for the next cutscene to start. I quickly grew to hate every member of The Order.
The main selling point here seems to be that the game looks really nice graphics-wise. I mean, it's mostly gray and brown and uninteresting, but it's a really well-rendered gray and brown uninteresting. It's pretty but due to the focus on how pretty it is, you notice all the stuff that's wrong with it. Characters don't appear in mirrors, but the game throws a lot of mirrored surfaces at you in the opening so it's super hard not to notice it. If you so much as lightly touch a physics objects, it goes flying and bouncing away from you like you punted it. Sometimes when swapping weapons (you can only hold one pistol and one other weapon, so you have to swap A LOT), the gun will fly away from you like you hurled it with all your might. Characters have to be in specific places to interact with objects, so when you press the button, you lunge forward at the object, even if you're just inches away from it. Occasionally, it messes up and your character lunges back and forth, constantly missing the spot to be in until the game gives up and you disappear and reappear in the defined spot. Your allies' guns are glued to their palms, but they don't put them away when pushing objects. So there's a scene early on where an ally puts his palms up to a wagon to push it, but his gun is magically floating in front of him and phases through the wagon. Character's heads occasionally become opaque, even in cutscenes. Normally, I could ignore all of these ticks, but when the game's main selling point is how good it looks, these things stand out. There's even an issue, where the game overrides the system's display settings and it doesn't have any way to modify them. So for me, the UI extends beyond the screen so things are always cut off and I have no way to fix it. Every other PS4 game I've played displays just fine, but not this one.
The story starts off with the political infighting for a group you know next to nothing about over a matter you're just barely aware of. It name drops like an Assassin's Creed game only somehow sillier due to how stuffy it is over everything and tries to sell its story as serious and dramatic. Once you do find out more about what's going on, none of it really seems to matter in the slightest. There's a reveal that your characters are (maybe? probably?) the Knights of the Round Table kept alive for centuries but that doesn't matter at all. It has no bearing on the actual game and the story makes no use of it other than to explain their magic juice. But that explanation would have been fine if your team was just a bunch of dudes anyway. The most interesting part of the story is utterly irrelevant and doesn't serve the story or gameplay. Also, there are vampires and werewolves, because video games, and nobody is phased by this in the slightest. Your character addresses the revelation that the werewolves are helping bring about vampires with the kind of shrug that says "Yeah, I should have figured it would be vampires". Granted, the reveal was even less for me because I was figuring that the magic juice and your characters not appearing in mirrors would have been the game's big reveal as to what's going on with your group, so I was waiting for the big vampire reveal but on the other side of things, but no, just sub-Buffy looking vampires hanging out is the big reveal. The magic juice robs the story of a lot of the drama. Characters get shot or injured, but after a few sips, they're up and fighting again. It really prevents you from being invested or caring about their well-being. Once you see a character's spine get broken and then a few minutes later it's up and running about, you lose all sense of danger. Even before all the supernatural silliness, it's hard to root for or be invested in your team. The "Rebels" you're fighting against are rallying for better working conditions and not wanting children working in factories. Those people are your enemies. You're fighting FOR oppression and child labor!
The writing can be pretty cheesy at times, especially for the lead female character. They show she's a "strong female character" by going the route of having a bunch of characters disparage her abilities because she's female, but then she's snarky and puts them in their places! It's that heavy-handed kind of "empowerment" that feels more insulting than anything else because it comes across as "she's a woman, yet she's still competent somehow" rather than "she's a woman and she's good at her job". If they dropped all that dialogue, she would have been just fine and completely stood on her own. She runs around with a science lightning gun shooting werewolves (and evil people trying to get children out of factories, but let's ignore that) and being pretty cool about it. That's what makes her a strong character, not her mouthing off to some random dude that tells her women should hang back. And maybe it's just my ignorance of history, but were people in England really calling the United States "the new continent" in 1886? You typically don't call something "new" when you've been involved with its affairs for over one hundred years. Despite the writing, the voice actors are fantastic. The lead acts the hell out of some of his scenes and their performances were one of the only things driving me forward in the game. That is, up until the mandatory instant-fail stealth needlessly shoehorned into one of the levels. Yes, the marker of quality game-making, cramming a needless stealth section into what had been a fairly mindless shooter up to this point never fails to be the thing every game player desperately wants. I mean, murdering random night watchmen just doing their job so you can find a key to get past a small, easily avoided gate when you've been spending the whole game picking locks and breaking down gates is clearly the thing that calls for an instant-fail stealth section. And how does being spotted go down? A guard shoots you with a single shot from a pistol and that is most definitely enough to take down the nigh-immortal magic juice carrying super cop that just ten minutes ago took multiple rounds to the chest, was stabbed, and then was knocked off a balcony only to be mauled by multiple werewolves and grenadiers after that. But hey, guard with a pistol. After failing that section eight times in a row, mainly due to the character not moving to cover when I wanted him to or sticking to cover when I needed him to move, The Order was ejected from my system and resides in my closet, hopefully never to be played again.
Just about everything in the game screams that it was pushed out the door solely to be a launch game for the PS4, regardless of its quality or even playability. And that's why today, you can buy it for less than $10. Yet even at $10, I don't think I got my money's worth. Barely existent gameplay that isn't remotely enjoyable when it is there and a poorly told story versus some great voice acting and ladies in Victorian dresses. Despite the world's need for more characters in Victorian dresses, I think I can safely recommend people passing on this one.