Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Almost indefensible

This may be my Waterloo.

Every generation or two games get out ahead of themselves, technology wise. There is a leap that they do not know quite what to do with and decide that discretion is for the weak. Something can done so it will be done, only in the gaming world this does not result in dinosaurs who can open doors, just very pretty shambling corpses of games.

Dragon's Lair is one of my favorite examples of this. Laser discs offered so much storage that someone decided to fill one up with a game, regardless of whether it was a good idea or not. The result was an interactive carton that went from wow to yawn just as fast at it ate quarters. It looked great, was animated well, was honestly funny in places, but the entire experience could be boiled down to changing tracks on a DVD player. Not surprisingly, as technology improved Dragon's Lair came out for everything, including DVD players, and one could literally play the game with a DVD remote and get the same experience.

FMV reared its ugly head again with the Sega CD. Sewer Shark and Night Trap were just the next iteration of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. All flash, zero substance, though Sewer Shark and Night Trap were never good while Dragon's Lair and Space Ace can at least be enjoyed nostalgically.

Storage is no longer the technological marvel that it once was. Downloadable games regularly clock in well over a gig and retail releases can top 30. Size is meaningless. So what is the new hotness? Power, specifically the magical beast that is the PS4 (and to a lesser extent the XBox One). The hardware is capable of churning out graphics previously reserved for only the most elite of the PC master race. Sixty frames per second, 1080p visual masterpieces. Its a new world for console developers, so what do we get?

Dragon's Lair.

This is where the spoilers begin.

The Order is one of if not the best looking game I have ever played. Every nook, cranny, desk, wall, floor, gun and environment are rendered it startling detail. The people look and move like people with the illusion only occasionally breaking due to sporadic problems with lip syncing. One scene in particular, when Sir Galahad finds himself somehow alive after a zeppelin crash, forced me to stop and stare for almost a full minute and the wonderful destruction,

But what is the cost? For the game to look this good, what have we lost?

For starters, large sections of the game could literally be played with a DVD remote. The game's opening could have been a very compelling start. The nameless protagonist with a sweet mustache escapes from  prison. I say could because the player was not required to actually do anything. Every action was prompted, every re-action canned. Press circle to kill the guard. Press R2 to open a gate. All games operate on the illusion of freedom as the player is bound by what the game can and cannot show but The Order makes no attempt to hide the boundaries, instead telling the player what to do and when to do it.

This was the price for looking so good. The player is not allowed to explore, not allowed to do anything as it might show a seam or an angle that should not be observed. Large sections of the game are not played, they are simply viewed and the player skips between chapters, one for success, one for failure, the difference between the two being nothing more than if a button was pressed at the correct time.

The Order is the best looking hallway I have ever been bored in.

There are times when the game does open up and the player is allowed to actually play. Unfortunately all the game has to offer is the same cover based shooting that has been around since Gears of War, only Gears of War did it better. Most fights are against nameless rebels who jump up and down behind their cover to make sure the player has enough time to shoot them. Fights with non-human enemies are not much better as werewolves run back and forth in predetermined lanes to keep their admittedly excellent animations from clipping into anything.

Combat can be best summed up by one of the premier weapons, the arc cannon. The arc cannon fires bolts of lightning across the battlefield, rending the flesh from whatever appendage it hits. Sounds good, looks good, but the problem is in the execution: the player is not actually required to aim it. Hold in R2, let it go, and the game decides who it will hit.

Beautiful and pointless.

Ready at Dawn has a good story to tell in The Order but it is significantly lessened by how little impact the player has on the outcome. The idea of the knights of the round table, a group of semi-immortal guardians, doing battle with werewolves and vampires in steam punk turn of the century England is awesome. They should have made that game. Instead they made an incredible looking movie with interactive sections that are either pointless or cliched. Playing the game is no better than watching someone else play it on YouTube.

Truth be told, I haven't finished The Order yet. Galahad just escaped, aided by Tesla and the rebels. One of his crew, the saucy french man, found him and let him go while another, the love interest, has decided that she is going to kill everything until she finds him and makes him pay. I predict the last few hours will be gorgeous and that the fate of the world will be decided not by how well I can aim, shoot, run, fly, use tactics, plan, react or any of the other skills that are now associated with high quality action games. No, it will decided by a quick time event, the best looking bull shit that money can buy.


  1. I haven't played it and as such, i want to belive in the best it has to offor. But man... a game about fighting vampires and werewolves where you spend hardly any time actually doing that? And in itsplace is a cover shooter we were all bored of 6 years ago? Indefensible indeed.

  2. There's another awesome game that came out lately with a huge emphasis on player skill, tactics and meaningful action... But you didn't like it :(