games / Previews

E3 2014: The Order: 1886 (PS4) Preview

June 14, 2014 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

My very first gameplay experience of E3 2014 was at the Sony booth with the upcoming PlayStation 4-exclusive title The Order: 1886. I have long been intrigued by the title. I love Steampunk stories, and what instantly grabs me about The Order is the setting of an alternate history of London, where the line of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are still in action. So a mix of like a sci-fi/Steampunk style in Victorian legend along with Arthurian legend, which I also love, is a winning combination for a videogame premise for me. The game features a great visual, gritty, and dark design style. The setting looks amazing. And you get to use some very interesting weapons that are highly advanced for the setting, but still fit in with the world of the story. In this game you play as Sir Galahad, a member of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. In 1886, the knights appear to now be an elite military or police force for the monarchy. The demo throws you right into the action against a group of human rebels who feel they are not properly represented by the monarchy, and it appears as if the knights have been sent in to put them down.

At the start of the demo you are fighting rebels in the alleys of London. You are armed with two weapons in the demo: a sidearm pistol and the glorious thermite rifle. The thermite rifle shoots iodized rounds that can be ignited with a sparking flame shot. This weapon was a lot of fun to use because you could take out groups of enemies at once. It’s fun to shoot the rounds in the air and then ignite them, basically raining fiery death down upon your enemies. They are also great to blow up the wooden barriers enemies take cover beyond. Galahad also has a special advanced aiming ability called Blacksight. When you activate Blacksight, the gameplay goes in slow motion and you can chain together a series of kills together by targeting your enemies with your pistol one after another. It can only be used for a limited time, and then the Blacksight meter needs to charge up again.

The play style for the game, more than anything, reminds me of the Uncharted series. The way it mixes a cinematic narrative with third-person shooter action and gameplay reminds me a lot of Uncharted and how you almost feel like a director of an action-adventure movie. The controls and shooting mechanics work well for the game, and it has a good cover system.

The visuals for The Order are very impressive. All the main characters were created using performance capture as well as visual facial capture from the actors’ faces. I was told by Ready at Dawn Studios that the main cast did not only the voice acting for their roles but the physical motion capture actions as well, something else this game shares in common with the Uncharted franchise. The story looks very involved and intense. The visuals look impressive. I especially like that the color palette looks and feels like Victorian London. It’s a little drowned out and grey. The game does not look overly glossy and colorful, and that fits perfectly with the setting. It looks a little darker, grimier, and smokier than most modern games.

After the first initial battle, Galahad and Lafayette have to carry a wounded comrade into the safety of an abandoned distillery building. One of the wounded knights uses a substance, which I believe is referred to as black water, to instantly heal a gunshot wound on his neck. After a little exploration of the room, Galahad puts his ammo on a distillery and ignites because it was blocking their path. After they head out to the loading area, the knights are ambushed by an armored foe who has a thermite rifle of their own. Earlier dialogue mentions that the rebels have somehow gotten the thermite rifles illegally smuggled to them. A giant fireball heads right in front of the nights before the end of the demo.

So far, I am liking the game. The premise is great. It has some amazing visuals, and I’m really enjoying the cinematic, third-person shooter gameplay. Now that being said, I think the demo was quite short, a lot shorter than I expected. Story details were also incredibly thin. There’s no impression of how this threat with the lycan hybrids is related to the human rebels, if at all. Perhaps the human rebels are ticked off about the lycan hybrids praying on humans and they blame the monarchy? The demo ends quite abruptly and the actual play through segments were quite brief. So those are my main complaints. The Order: 1886 comes out on February 20, 2015 exclusively for the PS4.

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Jeffrey Harris