The Order: 1886 is a game which had many people excited, and that is always a dangerous thing. Everybody knows the feeling of a game or film that didn’t live up to their expectations, and despite my eagerness, I was growing cautious about The Order as discussions leading up to release day turned somewhat negative. Thankfully, my concerns were misguided. Though it does indeed have its issues, The Order is by far one of the most stunningly well-crafted virtual worlds I have ever experienced, and those few small gripes are easy to dismiss besides everything else that Ready at Dawn gets so very, very right.
Much of the advertising and early looks at The Order focused very heavily on the visual aesthetic and technology behind the game, and it’s easy to see why. Every inch of 1886 London is crafted masterfully, with an eye for detail beyond anything I’ve seen in a game before. The technology used to make the game is quite impressive, as is the amount of time that must have been put in to creating each environment, as there is not a single asset I saw to be notably lesser in quality. No walls with rough textures or discarded piece of rushed scenery. Items that only appear in the game for a brief moment in time are rendered with such intense detail they near begin to edge into photorealism. It’s not just the technical aspect that the visuals impress in however, where The Order truly excels is in the aesthetic design of its visual elements. The scenery, characters and weapons are all brimming with minutia that is a joy to behold, from the small ornamental details on outfits to the much broader architectural design of buildings. The room in which The Order holds its meetings is a notable example of shockingly beautiful aesthetic design, and sky high production values working hand in hand, with the walls, floors, ceilings and everything they contain appearing more like a pre-rendered cutscene than anything that you could be experiencing during gameplay.
The presentation of these visuals is equally well-crafted, with the camera movements and editing choreographed wonderfully, and the transitions between cutscenes and gameplay is almost unnoticeable. Shockingly it’s possible to play the entire game from start to finish without a single loading screen, with even the menu screen leading directly into the game without taking a moment of your time to show a spinning wheel or expanding bar. It’s probably for the best that the transition between gameplay and cutscene is so seamless, as it will happen very, very frequently. The Order is certainly a game that wants to show you something, and as such player agency has little role to play. You are set a task to complete and you must do so precisely as the designers want for you to do it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly when the events the game leads us through are so delightful to behold, but it is certainly something that does not appeal to those more enticed by games with moral choice systems and wide open worlds to explore. As a result of this, gameplay is somewhat sporadic and at times slightly unpredictable. At its core The Order is a third person cover shooter, and the combat does little to stray from the formula most games in this genre set forth.