Generally, I’m against the idea of franchise-building. It’s a transparent, financially-propelled imperative that dilutes a good 350 pages of novel into a trilogy of Hobbit films, and dictates that whatever good ideas Ubisoft Montreal has must forevermore be dressed up in a dozen fancy belts and a hood.
Marketing types might argue that it’s somehow immature or naïve to ask for creative media to stand on its own two feet rather than rest on the crutch of a roman numeral or ostentatious subtitle. But they would say that, wouldn’t they?
However, in the case of The Order:1886, I ally with my marketeer foes. As a video game it’s an inarguable letdown, but of a very specific type: technically spellbinding, built on a fascinating alt-history universe, and almost entirely bereft of engaging content. There’s another proviso: RAD’s previous output with the God of War franchise on PSP was demonstrably better. It’s not like the studio’s incapable of making its games fun to play and look at.
The Order’s bizarre pile of QTEs and gunfights smacks of time constraints getting the better of a big project, but it’s impossible not to notice the imagination and creative vision laying underneath the rubble. On those grounds you could argue it’s more worthy of a sequel than the superior Far Cry 4. At this point you know with unerring certainty that you’ll be turning wildlife into wallets and climbing signal towers in a new and dramatic natural environ in the near future, but a follow-up to The Order is a much more interesting proposition.
Public opinion dictates the direction of the industry to a greater degree now than ever before (thanks, Metacritic), which means Sony and RAD have a Herculean PR job to pull if they want to make good on the first game’s potential after the critical panning (guilty) it received. But The Order also earned itself a lot of fans, and perhaps if they shout loud enough the powers that be will be inclined to have one more stab at making a return on their investment that paid for PS4’s graphical benchmark.