With its gorgeous, next generation graphics, interesting setting, and decent enough story, The Order: 1886 is sadly saddled with just about every same old action adventure gameplay element you can imagine. Stop me if you've heard of these before: excessive quick time events, instant fail stealth sections, lock-picking/hacking minigames, third person, cover-based shooting, two weapon inventory, unnecessary platforming, hunting around the environment to find the prompt to progress the mission, waiting on NPCs to open doors, and the list goes on. Any number of these are no reason to immediately discount a game, but The Order: 1886 is just a dearth of any gameplay innovations. Another developer might be able to craft these together in a more exciting or interesting mixture, but it just feels like a slog in The Order: 1886. For instance, a door hacking or lock-picking minigame might be well implemented in a stealth game where you risk detection, but here it's just busy work.
The combat itself is at least well made and fun to play at times. The cover system isn't overly cumbersome and everything feels natural and smooth. The non-mundane weapons are extravagant and offer some interesting gameplay changes. There's an Arc Gun which shoots lightning, but because it essentially homes in on enemies it's perfect for blind firing over cover. Then there's the Thermite Rifle, the primary fire of which shoots out a cloud of thermite that you then need to ignite with a flare from its secondary fire. The flare also lingers in the area for you to shoot more thermite at, so it's particularly good for denying enemy an area to advance from. Unfortunately, that exhausts all the fun weapons. There's a grenade launcher as well and a specific section with a rocket launcher-esque weapon, but everything else is just a normal gun of some sort. To make matters worse, even if you do get one of the interesting weapons, thanks to the inventory system, where you can only have a primary weapon and a secondary pistol, you generally ditch it since you'll quickly run out of ammo - if the game doesn't take it away in a cutscene. Though also remember that you're going to be killing the same normal mooks, shotgun dudes, and armored bullet sponges over and over.
There's just a lot of these poor design choices peppered through the game. Like the whole Black Water system being basically pointless. Black Water, which is a really interesting setting and gameplay element that doesn't get nearly the amount of time it should, allows an injured knight to quickly recover from otherwise fatal wounds. In game, it's essentially a downed state that gives you a one time chance per level to recover. The problem is that it's almost completely ineffectual in actual gameplay. While you're downed you can only crawl around on the ground waiting for the prompt to appear in order to drink, and most of the time you're only getting killed when an enemy sneak up on you or you got overly aggressive. So, 9 times out of 10 you just get shot, put into the downed state, and then shot and killed before you could recover anyways.
Finally, it does need to be mentioned that the whole game is not very long. Instead of discussing the minutia of adding an hour or two depending on the difficulty and how many audio logs you hunt down. Just know that you're going to finish The Order: 1886 in probably two sessions or one long afternoon into the evening, maybe three if you don't like playing games for more than few hours. While I would still normally leave this as a personal value judgement, there are some problems so egregious with the game's ending that it needs to be addressed for anyone thinking of buying it. So, from here on out spoiler warnings for the end of The Order: 1886. There are two major issues with the end of the game. For starters, part of the problem with The Order: 1886's game length is that is doesn't even properly end. If the developers had delivered a really tight paced and entertaining story that would be one thing, but the end of The Order: 1886 doesn't resolve most of the major plot lines. There's even a mid-credits cutscene of Grayson telling Nikola that he's got more to do. Also, the final boss fight is quite literally ripped animation by animation from a previous fight earlier in the game, which is just utterly unacceptable. My last thoughts for your game shouldn't be "that's it?!?".
Ultimately, I feel one of two things happened. Either Ready At Dawn wanted to make something bigger and better, and there are glimmers of that in The Order: 1886. When they started, they might have set out wanting to make some grand adventure akin to the Uncharted series but in a new unique setting, and somewhere along the line that fell through and we're left poorer because of it. The other option is that The Order: 1886 was supposed to be a release title, think along the lines of Ryse: Son of Rome. It was never going to be more than a glorified technical demo showing off the new hardware, but instead of coming out around the console release it got pushed back. Whatever the reasons, The Order: 1886 is a beautiful shell that's mundane in execution.
Bottom Line: The Order: 1886 is bland gameplay wrapped in admittedly gorgeous next generation graphics. It's not bad through and through, it's just disappointing.
Recommendation: It's still pretty and serviceable enough for a playthrough, but you're better off renting it or borrowing it from a friend for the weekend.