Imagine, if you will, a 19th-century steampunk London in which the Knights of the Round Table are still dashing about serving the monarchy. Actually, you don’t have to. The graphically otherworldly Order: 1886 does it for you.
Galahad and Co. are dressed in a blend of steel armor and stylish waistcoats and tails as they dispense their deadly derring-do. But I guess in some ways you might call them imposters, as this noble group—known as the Order—symbolically bear those well-known heroes’ names. Still, they have the power of instant healing and unnaturally long lives thanks to the Holy Grail, a black magical elixir discovered back in those days of yore.
The historical and fantastical blend doesn’t stop there. Playing as the upright Sir Galahad, gamers run and sneak through steaming back alleyways and cobblestoned London slums in search of a deadly rebel resistance. It’s a terrorist-like group that’s more than just heavily armed malcontents: Their ranks also seem to be teeming with mythical beasties.
It’s a pile-on kind of supernatural fantasy, then, but it’s actually not that much of a creative concoction. Because even as we spar with werewolves, rub elbows with the likes of Nikola Tesla and stumble across threads of the Jack the Ripper story, The Order ends up feeling like it’s much less than the sum of its parts. It wants to play out as an intriguing, interactive moviescape, but is actually a lopsided, illogical hodgepodge that doesn’t live up to even a tenth of its potential. And the actual gaming side of things turns out to be little more than a lot of clunky and bloody one-dimensional trigger-pulling.
Yes, some of the standard gaming machine guns and missile launchers are replaced in this steampunk version of a shooter by electricity-blazing Arc Guns and explosive Thermite Rifles. But foes still writhe on the ground in flames, die in gushes of gore and have their limbs or heads obliterated in splats of meaty goo during the regularly spaced descents into bullet-riddled chaos.
Up close, in the midst of quick-time button punches, we’re called upon to break bones, batter faces and slam a foot-long blade into the gullets and necks of beasts and brothers alike. Many a scene is filled with mutilated and mauled bodies that lay in putrid pools of blood. As Galahad, we’re subjected to a long torture scene that involves being brutally beaten and nearly drowned.
We wander around a London brothel at one point, having the option to closely examine winking women who lean against the wall with little to nothing covering their upper bodies. The sounds of various sex acts echo in the building’s hallways. And we barge into one of the rooms to briefly watch a couple in the throes of copulation before the fully naked guy jumps up to charge at the camera.
During that scene and others, interjections of f- and s-words, blasphemes of God’s name and crude exclamations of “son of a whore” and “arse” dirty things up even more.
The Order: 1886 is a graphically well-appointed game with rich old photo-looking surroundings and some of the most realistic facial animations seen to date. But pretty sepia-tone graphics and a jumble of quirky fantasy elements by themselves don’t a good video game make. And not even the gallant Sir Galahad himself could elevate this atmospheric mess enough to be worthy of your family’s table … even if it’s a nice big round one.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.