We got some hands on time with The Order: 1886. Here’s how we got on.
The Order: 1886 may be set in that titular year but there’s a lot of other stuff going on – and in this case that means nothing less than an ancient tale involving terrible beasts and the men who chose to fight them. Arthurian legend gets involved and by the time the Victorian age comes around they’ve become a deadly order of well-preserved knight who do battle with the spawn of evil for the fate of humanity. Also it’s an alternative steampunk world which allows for some advanced and kick ass weaponry.
That’s all backstory we didn’t get in our limited playthrough, which involved the infiltration of massive airship called the Agamemnon which is pootling around over London 14 years before the turn of the century before last.
Your team of four, including the grizzled Malory, extremely French Layfayette and female Isabeau. Then there’s you – your name is Sir Galahad, though the lore suggests you might not be the first to carry the name.
Developers Ready at Dawn (who previously worked on the port of Okami and the PSP God of War) have some top tech on their hands for their PS4 debut. The character models of the foursome are impeccably detailed and there’s plenty of motion capture and performance capture in evidence in the cut scenes.
The game unfolds from a third person perspective and the opening moments involve inching down the outside of an airship as you look for a place to infiltrate. It’s very much an action-movie moment, with little real freedom of movement and these kinds of restrictive and QTE elements turn up quite often in the short slice of gameplay.
When you are in control, it feels very much like a third person shooter, perhaps closest to something like Gears of War with plenty of snap when attaching to cover and a meaty feel to the weaponry. Some stealth sequences (with a few nasty up close kills) give way to running and gunning set-pieces involving plenty of cover and peek-a-boo headshots. And yes, there’s another implementation of the focus/slo-mo effect.
There’s some variety on offer as well, beyond the QTE’s (which include a violent face off in the cockpit of the airship), with Galahad forced to scout out a room for signs of traitors in the ranks before engaging in a full-scale firefight.
The devs have been heavily pitching the tech which is available in ‘Neo-Victorian’ London. Branching away from history gives the Knights of the Order access to conveniences like wireless communication and some fancy hacking tools but also serves up a solid offering of death dealers.
In this slice of the game there are a couple of modern-feeling but agreeably chunky-looking pistols and machine guns and a sniper rifle. It’s the design which currently stands out more than the feel, with little particularly unique about the implementation or handling. But there are plenty more weapons planned for the full release which should help to set it apart.
The demo finishes fairly quickly and also leaves out another major aspect of the full release – combat against a variety of monstrous sorts including terrifying-looking werewolves. It’s the combination of these crazy weapons with supernatural foes which will be the real meat of the experience, so it’s likely Ready at Dawn didn’t want to spoil that shock and awe so early.
As a first look, there’s plenty to like about The Order: 1886. It’s an exceptionally good-looking game (though a little too find of the drab and grey in this section) and preserves the cinematic feel better than many other PS4 titles.
The combat is enjoyable enough but doesn’t feel particularly unique just yet, while the QTE’s aren’t too grating. The experience did feel a bit on the rails at times, with the game forcing you into a stealth stance for certain sections and almost no freedom to explore beyond the pre-programmed route. But as a demo it’s hard to know if that will be representative of the final product.
The Order: 1886 comes exclusively to the PS4 from the 20th of February 2015.