One Year Later – The Order 1886
For the best part 48 months, The Order 1886 was the talk of the gaming industry. The new IP that was coming from the developers of Daxter and the PSP God of War titles, was to be the dawn of a new era in gaming. The melding of cinema and gaming was upon us and prospective buyers were clamouring to get their hands on the game – until it launched. Reviews began to trickle in, and they weren’t as glowing as many had expected. In fact the game was so poorly received that it netted a middling 63 on Metacritic – hardly the be all and end all, but when the majority of gamings media/influencers has turned their collective backs on a game, it’s hard to become commercially successful afterwards. The game went on to shift respectable numbers (predicted to be approximately 1.59million units), but has apparently fallen well short of Sony’s internal hopes and expectations. So what went wrong? Well with the anniversary of the game being a year ago today, it’s time to revisit The Order 1886, and ask ourselves – what have we learned?
Gameplay is King
One of the biggest criticisms of The Order 1886 was with its gameplay. Critics and fans alike were livid with the miniscule number of open combat environments in the game with Ready at Dawn favouring Quick-time events as opposed to more conventional gameplay. It was a sore spot for fans given that these open combat areas were in general quite enjoyable. They weren’t without their flaws, the game would introduce excellent weapons such as the Thermite gun, and then rip them from our grasps as the story dictated, while in a few other cases, combat amounted to little more than taking a cover behind one point and picking enemies off as the waves rolled in. Overall the conventional gameplay experience was well executed, and Ready at Dawn has proven that they know what to do in this space, but their decision to rely so heavily upon QTEs tarnished an otherwise decent gameplay experience.
Good Looks Only Get You So Far
The Order 1886, had people raving in the lead up to release due to its incredible cinematic qualities, impressive visuals and outstanding world design. We rarely saw much gameplay though, with the marketing emphasis being placed on gorgeous CG scenes that stressed how phenomenal the games looked. Visually, it’s still the most incredible game I’ve ever laid my eyes upon, but what disappointed me most was the lack of depth in the gameplay stakes. What pleased me on the other hand was the critics reception to this lack of gameplay depth, where all too often in the past, there were games that got a free pass for a poor/lacking gameplay experience due to their sensational visuals. It seems that in the case of The Order 1886, we all woke up and the game was slammed accordingly.
Gamers Want Longer Games
Game duration – It’s a topic not exclusively linked to The Order 1886, but there is a tight association between them. Fans exploded when reports emerged prior to the release of The Order that the game would be spanning approximately 5hours. That titbit ultimately ended up being exaggerated, but the game was still short, spanning about 6-7hours, and that fact wasn’t well received. What I learned from this backlash is that gamers, rightly or wrongly, have a growing expectation of game length and a subset of this group are beginning to associate game length with game quality.
Does Ready At Dawn Have What It Takes
The biggest query for me personally following the release of The Order 1886 is around Ready at Dawn’s capacity to develop a game. Obviously their games look gorgeous, sound phenomenal and play pretty well, but outside of The Order 1886, Ready at Dawn have taken someone else’s ideas (God of War, Daxter, Okami) and have either ported or created a spin-off to the main series. Okami was obviously a port, however in the cases of God of War and Daxter, they already had the moment to moment gameplay predefined for them, so as long as they followed the formula to script then they were more than likely going to create a great game. In the case of The Order the studio didn’t have a recipe to follow, and while they created an excellent world, an engaging narrative, and sensational audio/visuals, the art of creating a game was lost to them. The studio’s inexperience in developing their own gameplay structures and loops was exposed in The Order 1886, and it was this core deficiency that hurt the game’s reception and sales so dramatically. They will no doubt learn from this experience, and their next work will be much better for what has happened, but has it hurt the future prospects of The Order franchise too much? Fans seem split.
A year has passed since The Order 1886 hit shelves and while the community is split on the quality of the game, it has undoubtedly spawned numerous side-conversations that are helping to drive the industry forward in the future. Ready at Dawn will bounce back, but there’s a lot we can learn from this experience. What did you think of The Order 1886? Has it informed any other changing mentalities in the gaming industry? Sound off in the comments below with your thoughts.