The Order: 1886 and style over substance

Ever since gamers first got a glimpse of The Order: 1886 last year, it has been one of the most eagerly anticipated titles, and perhaps gave many consumers cause for choosing the PlayStation 4 over the Xbox One. The main reason was most likely the stunning graphics and atmospheric design; upon seeing that first cinematic trailer, The Order: 1886 looked dark and original.

In an interview with GameSpot, Ready at Dawn’s co-founder Ru Weerasuriya has confirmed that his studio made the game with this firmly in mind. “This was the onus at the very beginning, was to showcase what the PlayStation 4 could do through this game; visually, graphically, technologically. This was really the drive behind creating this.”

That weaponry doesn't look very period accurate...

However, is it really ever a good idea to make a game focusing solely on looks? Weerasuriya has more or less said as much; that The Order: 1886’s raison d’être is to showcase the PS4’s graphical capabilities. The style versus substance debate is as old as art itself, but in many ways it is particularly relevant to a medium as interactive as games. Even in a gaming environment in which graphics are considered a very important aspect of any major game, it is still the quality of the gameplay that will make or break a series.

Sure enough, when the gaming community first saw gameplay footage of The Order: 1886, the reaction was generally one of disappointment. The gameplay looked pretty linear for a next-gen title, particularly when we have projects such as Destiny, The Division and Drive Club to look forward too. In fact, every upcoming title beginning with ‘d’ seems to be less controlled than The Order: 1886.

Not that there is anything wrong with linear storytelling in games in general; it still has a crucial role to play and a lot to offer gamers. But for a flagship game that was supposed to be up there with the best PS4 has to offer, it was a little underwhelming to see the same weary cover shooter mechanics that populate modern shooters. Players expect a little more substance in their interaction with games’ stories these days, which is why nobody plays the campaign mode in Call Of Duty; they just skip straight to the multiplayer.

Victorian London could even out-smog modern Beijing

Of course we could be jumping the gun a bit. After all, we haven’t seen much more of the game, and if it does tell a terrific story and can offer some unique gameplay quirks, it could be fantastic. It certainly does look gorgeous, and the setting of Victorian London has clearly been lovingly crafted. But if that is all it set out to do, as Ready at Dawn have sort of suggested, then gamers, and Sony, could be in for a bit of a let down.