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Design Impressions: The Order, 1886

The Order: 1886 was a highly anticipated PS4 exclusive title developed by Ready At Dawn Studios. Upon release, it was criticized mainly for being too short. It’s not hard to imagine the game being much more satisfying with a few extra levels to give the characters more time to develop at a natural pace. Still, it’s a fun shooter built around an interesting premise.

The Order: 1886 cover     Gameplay
• Gunfights feel solid, although melee combat is extremely basic.
  ○ Why not have custom close-range attack strings instead of instant kill on a single button press?
• There are a couple of creative instances of forcing players to use handguns: once while dragging a wounded officer to safety and once while holding a lantern.
  ○ The first felt surprisingly good, possibly because it was so short.
  ○ The second seemed like a good idea, but started to feel a bit clunky the longer it went on, especially as taking cover seemed to be arbitrarily disabled too.
• Quicktime boss fights are kinda lame.
  ○ Non-randomized quicktime events are silly and pointless in general.
• Lock-picking mini-games can be surprisingly rad, as it turns out.
  ○ The rumbling sensation changes with just the right balance of subtlety and clarity.
  ○ Plus they’re quick enough not to get annoying through repetition.

    Navigation
• Having two sets of walk speeds for exploration and combat seems pretty common nowadays, but still strikes me as arbitrary and weird.
  ○ What’s the reason for it, anyway? Smaller level spaces to house narrative dialogue?
• Holding down L3 to sprint feels okay but not great, especially in rare cases when it’s disabled without indication.
• Platforming at full speed feels surprisingly legit, the few times it comes up.
  ○ Would probably feel good to get around an open world, if progress wasn’t so restricted.
• Being barred from revisiting old rooms is irritating, especially when choosing between two doors without knowing which is an item storehouse and which is the level/chapter exit.

The Order: 1886 M86 Thermite Rifle     Weapons
• Standard weapon selection is a nice way to keep basic combat varied, while making the unique Order weapons feel special whenever they appear.
  ○ There’s even basic handgun variety, with three choices that seem different enough to feel like a real decision after every gunfight encounter, without adding much design complication.
  ○ This might be too much work on the modeling/animation side for a budget title, but it certainly feels like a AAA touch.
• M86 Thermite Rifle is pretty damn fun!
  ○ It’s a bit messy and hard to control precisely, but in a good way, like struggling to tame a massive mini-gun.
  ○ The two-stage setup/payoff feels powerful whenever you set off the embedded explosives, regardless of actual damage output.

Disclaimer #1: This is not a review of the game. These scattered notes are just my personal impressions as a player. Please don’t take them too seriously.

Disclaimer #2: I’m not trying to say i could do better by any means. If i point out a flaw, it’s usually because i think it’s interesting; not to criticize anyone involved. There are countless reasons why a feature might be imperfect, buggy, or incomplete. Game development is a chaotic human endeavor, and it’s very rarely easy to figure out why something went wrong. Anyway it’s a safe bet that the dev team thought of most ideas or solutions i might suggest, but they couldn’t be implemented due to some unfortunate constraint.

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