One Man’s Defence Of The Order: 1886

One Man’s Defence Of The Order: 1886

Tom Bissell is the author of my favourite book on video games, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, which I called “the finest account yet of what it feels like to be a video game player” when I reviewed it in The New York Times. These days, he is a writer for video games like Uncharted 4, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Battlefield: Hardline, and Gears of War Judgment.

Once upon a time, Tom was a video game critic, most notably for ESPN”s Grantland. But he hasn’t said a word in public, to my knowledge (or his), about video games since reviewing Grand Theft Auto V almost two years ago. He broke his silence, though, to defend The Order: 1886, the critically panned PlayStation 4 shooter, on Shall We Play a Game?

Yes, The Order. The game that motivated Kotaku‘s Kirk Hamilton to write: “Do you like movies? Do you like video games? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions, you should probably skip The Order: 1886.

You can listen to the podcast, which I co-host with former NPR producer and correspondent JJ Sutherland, here.

“I thought it was really technically astounding — so technically astounding that I think anyone who’s interested in digital art, or animation, or world-building, or just lighting, whether cinematic or virtual, should play this game,” Bissell said. “It is a craftman’s playground, to just watch the minute details in the game. Its eye for detail is just absolutely stunning.”

He added: “I just like looking at all the stuff, just the looking at the tea sets with the steam coming off of them, and the pots and pans in the kitchen. And this might be coming from the last five years of being embedded in development teams, but those aspects of the game, to me, I found unbelievably moving and compelling, and just so amazingly realised. … Maybe The Order is not a gamer’s game, but it’s a developer’s game.”

The Order is full of “relatively subtle, hard-to-notice things,” he went on to say. A shootout in a kitchen “has so much going on sonically”: “Just the way the bullets sound in that tiled room, and when you hit a pot and a pan, and the pot falls and hits the floor, just the directional audio that you’re hearing — I was just blown away by how much aural detail they were able to work into that space.”

Bissell concedes that the opening scene is “one of the most off-putting sequences in video game history” and that The Order is, in the end, a game about an elite corps of werewolf hunters who do not hunt very many werewolves. He enjoyed it anyway.

“I guess I’m a sucker for style, and The Order has a lot more style visually and atmospherically than most other games,” he said. “That’s enough for me to recommend it.”

For the record, I do not think you should play The Order: 1886.

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Chris Suellentrop is the critic at large for Kotaku and a host of the podcast Shall We Play a Game? Contact him by writing or find him on Twitter at @suellentrop.


  • A developers game? Makes the order sound like an unreal engine demo. I like the style of some of those, but lets be honest. They arn’t good games and their length is short…

  • OK – am going to give this a go as nothing else good out at the moment. Just bought one off ebay for $20AU. Hopefully will get me through until MGS5

    • It’s easily worth $20. I bought it at double that and found it to be quite good. Yes it’s short, but there is almost no “dead time” unless you go exploring every nook and cranny just for the hell of it.

  • Fair enough, but it seems all the positives he’s found in the game are aesthetic. You could enjoy all that stuff just by watching some YouTube videos without having to actually buy or play the game.

    • I disagree. I think it’s about the agency as much as the observation. Being neck-deep in the atmospherics of the London Underground or in the slums is hard to appreciate unless you are the one who success is riding on. Much as I hated the gameplay of the werewolf sequences, I appreciated the tension and the atmosphere.

  • I don’t care about what anyone says, as i game i got with my ps bundle I enjoyed the order. I agree completely with what he says. You would have these amazingly graphical cut scenes that just kinda grind to halt and your thinking what’s going on? then you realise that the cut scene has ended your back in the game. Was just jarring cause the usual drop off of visuals was so subtle and out of the norm

  • This game doesn’t deserve the hate it gets. Definitely worth playing if you can get it cheap and slog through the first few uneventful chapters.

  • I really enjoyed The Order. My only gripe (besides wanting it to go for longer) was that the ending was somewhat anti-climactic. Not that an anti-climactic (or unexpected) ending is always a bad thing – it was just I felt there could’ve been so much more. Like that ending wasn’t the real ending, and there should’ve been an even bigger fight with an even bigger boss (a certain political figure perhaps). Nevertheless, I thought it was beautiful and interesting, and if there were DLC I’d definitely be buying it.

  • i still don’t get all the hate this game got, i loved the order. im actually disappointed that it wasn’t received well because the potential this game has as far as characters and story, i was hoping they would do a trilogy. i liked the ending, they did it on purpose because i truly believe they were setting this game up for a sequel. shame its probably not going to happen now..

  • For the record, I do not think you should play The Order: 1886.

    I suddenly feel more motivated than ever to play The Order.

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