Before I start, I should mention that I have not played The Order: 1886 nor do I have any real urge to. I’m also not trying to play Devil’s advocate to stir up anything either. Everything I’m about to say comes from observations from playing video games for most of my life and talking to people who have played videogames most of their lives.
So, The Order is the latest 60 buck short game to be released and its getting a lot of flack for that. Its length shouldn’t have been surprising to anyone, developer Ready at Dawn had made countless statements with how cinematic and filmic this game was going to be from the get go. Was it any really any surprise to anyone that The Order was as long as it was?
What really gets me about this is that reviewers and players alike will judge a game entirely on its length before anything else. It doesn’t matter if a game was good, you always have to tack on how long it took you to beat it as if that was the crux of whether of not the game was actually good. Theres a number of things that just get to me when I hear people talk about games like this, myself included.
I play a lot of shmups nowadays so I’m constantly paying 60+ bucks on games that, on paper, have playthroughs of less than thirty minutes if you’re just infinite continuing. As a kid up to my teenage years I used to exclusively play RPGs; games that would usually last 50-80 hours. I have a decent appreciation for games that are long and for games that are short. Game length is arbitrary. There is no rule anywhere telling developers that there game must be thiiiiis long to go gold. A lot of people would argue that a publisher charging 60 dollars for a five hour experience should be inexcusable, but how many games do you own that were fifty to sixty bucks (or even more) that were five hours and really good?
On the reverse, how many games do you own that are over 5 hours that you still haven’t completed? How many reviews have you seen about games where the reviewer complains that the game’s fifteen hour playthrough was too long? 5 hours is too short but fifteen hours is too long? What if we held up classics like ICO to this weird standard? I wonder if The Order was made fourteen years ago along ICO what kind of reception it would have had?
What really gets me the most about complaints of the length of video games is looking up how many players overall have beaten a certain game. The PS4 has this nifty feature of showing you how many people have trophies the same achievements you have. This kind of information has actually been been used by publishers and developers since the inclusion of achievements and trophies in videogames a generation ago, but I’ll be using the PS4’s trophy information only because I believe its the only one that that gives you a percentage of how many people have actually beaten games besides Steam’s.
Here are percentage of players who actually beat the last ten games I’ve played:
Life is Strange Chapter 1: 62%
Dying Light: 25%
Resident Evil Remaster: 26%
Dragon Age Inquisition: 17.6%
Alien Isolation: 16%
Shadow of Mordor: 34%
Evil Within: 16%
Call of Duty Advanced Warfare: 26%
Far Cry 4: 28%
My original point was going to be that players rarely beat their games so complaints about the length of a game were pointless in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t it funny that the game with the shortest run time had the most players beat it? Obviously I doubt a billion people played Life is Strange compared to say Call of Duty, but this is the info developers are looking at when they make their games. A shorter game means that their easily distracted player base has more of a chance of actually completing the game they’ve worked for years to finish. Is it really so shocking that a developer might make a short game if it means people will actually complete it?
If you want to slam The Order, there are probably an assortment of things that it actually has done to deserve it, but leave length out of it.