Game review: The Order: 1886 – Out of order

The Order: 1886 feels like an attempt to blur the lines between video games and movies. Its recreation of Victorian London, complete with cobbled streets and smoking chimney stacks, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s not just graphical fidelity, either.

The art direction is first-class: from the detailing and stitching on the protagonist’s cloth pauldrons to the architecture of the period-accurate buildings. Unfortunately, the world often feels like a movie set.

It’s a game in love with its own story. It even opens with a QTE – a cinematic sequence where you press buttons as prompts appear – and these are prevalent throughout. As a result, it often feels like the short bursts of gunplay are interrupting the story, and the story – while brilliantly acted and motion captured – isn’t strong enough to carry the game.

The setting, however, is fantastic. Events take place in an alternate history where blimps fill London’s skyline, Nikola Tesla is a gun manufacturer and The Knights of the Round Table shoot people in the face.

You play Sir Galahad, a knight of the titular Order. The knights are tasked with ridding the world of werewolves, but everything isn’t as it seems – except it is, because not even London’s smog could obscure these plot twists.

Gameplay is a blend of shooting, QTEs, stealth and a lot of enforced slow walking and exposition. The action itself feels satisfying and the cover system – with different buttons mapped to getting in and out of cover – works well, with the peeking and leaning fluid and contextual.

Guns fire with pleasing weight and enemies react to damage convincingly. Some of the weapons are brilliantly imaginative: like the arc gun, an experimental tesla coil that fires an electric whip of death; or the thermite rifle, which fires a cloud of flammable gas with one button and ignites it with another.

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The two-way gun battles feel exciting and tense, but they’re unfortunately too few. Werewolf encounters attempt to mix the action up, but end up only serving to make it feel more repetitive by repeating the same tricks. Old dogs and all that.

Then there’s the stealth; what could have added variety is instead cordoned off into specific, frustrating sections, with the game shooting you dead in a cutscene when spotted, instead of letting you react and adapt.

These insta-fail stealth sections make even less sense in the context of the game – one thing The Order: 1886 does well is marrying the story and mechanics. The knights all drink a healing substance called Blackwater which grants regenerative properties to those who consume it – this explains why your character can shrug off a shotgun round to the crotch.

Most games don’t offer up a justification for the Wolverine powers of their heroes, so it’s refreshing to see. But The Order: 1886 then goes and spoils it by killing you in one shot during stealth sections. Ironically, considering the game’s apparent aspirations, this is a constant reminder you’re playing a video game.

The Order: 1886 is enjoyable when it grants control, but these moments are too fleeting. Even the sections where you’re just exploring have the barest minimum of interactions – most of the scenery is bolted down, and interactive items are just picked up to be rotated and ogled at in what’s essentially a 3D model viewer.

No matter how much you enjoy the game, you’ll likely be left feeling unsatisfied by the end of its six hours, with multiple plot threads left undercooked to set up a sequel. While it’s easy to recommend The Order: 1886 as a graphical showcase, there’s just not much game here. I’d suggest hanging on until the price is in order.

The Order: 1886 is available for £45.92 from Amazon, exclusively on PlayStation 4. It’s 18-rated and contains violence and nudity, so not recommended for children.

The Order: 1886 Rating – 6/10