Preferences are an extremely interesting concept to me. Evolutionarily, there is no reason for humans to really develop a desire for one thing over another, yet nonetheless, each and every person has unique tastes in regards to food, music, clothing, and especially video games. I’ve lost track of the number of discussions I’ve had explaining why I don’t like games like Fallout 3 or Portal. One game I will defend, however, is The Order: 1886. I’ve gotten quite some flak from my friends for enjoying this game, but I feel that many of the criticisms towards it are overly harsh and a product of sensationalism.
Hype is the great game killer. Overhype is what ruined games like Destiny and Watch Dogs. Constant advertising and build-up of an unreleased game creates expectations, and often times developers make promises in announcements that they cannot live up to upon release. The Order’s fall was primarily due to the former. Developer Ready at Dawn claimed that their new IP would be a showcase of what is possible on the then-new Playstation 4. Showing off stunning visuals and the potential for a new universe of stories, it was the fans who began to expect too much from the game. Many people I spoke to said they were expecting a long-form third-person shooter, a la Gears of War. It was never fully stated what the game would be, but players wanted to fill in the gaps with what they wanted out of the game and, when released, their individual visions fell short of the final product.
One of the main complaints I’ve heard about The Order was its $60 price tag on release, which is too much to ask for a game that is as short as The Order. That’s completely fair and valid; asking people to spend $60 on a game is a lot, and players want the most value for their dollar. If a game doesn’t reach a certain length of playtime, one can feel ripped-off. I can understand people’s complaints in that regard. What I cannot understand is why people claim it is not a good game because of its short length.
Games are no longer about racking up points; they involve immersive stories and experiences that get the player to think about what they just played. Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us did not have groundbreaking new types of gameplay, but they’re so well received because of the emotional journeys they bring us on. Journey can be completed in just over an hour, but people play it because of the pilgrimage of discovery and wonderment they embark on. A game does not need to be innovative or long-form to be successful, so long as the experience itself is enjoyable. And The Order is an enjoyable experience. The alternate-history story is engaging and imaginative, the graphics are incredible and push the limit of the types of visuals we can create today, and the gameplay is fun and fast-paced. What The Order does, it does extremely well.
The Order did what any launch title should do: establish the power of the system’s hardware, set up and deliver a new game experience, and leave open the possibilities of what can be done by developers in the future. Galahad’s quest to rid Victorian London of werewolves did exactly that. Lack of replayability and inclusion of quicktime events do not make a bad game in and of themselves. A bad game fails what it sets out to do, delivering to the player an unfinished, incomplete, and broken experience. By that definition, The Order is not a bad game. It did everything it sought to do, and did it well, and I’m looking forward to what Ready at Dawn brings us next.