The recent delay of Ready at Dawn’s upcoming third person action game The Order: 1886 was a disappointing blow to the PlayStation 4's holiday lineup. Sony made the wait a bit more tolerable by showing off a gameplay demo for the first time at this year’s E3. The demo was one of the most popular attractions at Sony’s section of the show floor, with an elaborately designed booth inspired by an underground train station complete with a life-size wax figure of the game’s protagonist Sir Galahad.
Visually, The Order: 1886 has a grim, grey look befitting its setting in Victorian London. The character models are soberly detailed and uncannily lifelike. Everything from their hairstyles to costumes suggests a great deal of care went into constructing the game’s unique revisionist history. The transitions from the cinematic cutscenes to gameplay also appear to be virtually seamless.
At their E3 press conference Sony showed off a tense one-on-one showdown between Sir Galahad and a ferocious werewolf, but the demo on the show floor involved a more general confrontation with human rebels. The segment began with our small band of Knights and their compatriots, including a French military officer, being ambushed in the middle of the street. Abandoning the carriage they were traveling in they take to the back roads and alleys to stave off the rebel attack.
The cover-based third-person combat system is reminiscent of the Uncharted series, which the developers have professed to drawing inspiration from. Strangely, the button to enter and exit from behind cover are listed as being mapped to different buttons on the controls list, but in practice I had no trouble doing both simply by pressing the O button and maneuvering with the analog stick. When it came to gunplay, the primary weapon at Sir Galahad’s disposal is a machine gun-like projectile that fires a white ashy gas (known as “thermite grit”) when holding the R2 button. Initially I was puzzled at how ineffective this method of attack appeared to be, leaving all my enemies choking on the gas but otherwise unharmed. It was then that one of the developer representatives let me know that by pressing R1 I could fire off a flare that would ignite the gas, causing a raging fire to engulf the area and burn any enemies caught in its midst.
This primary and secondary system of firing imaginative weapons reminded me of the Resistance series from Insomniac Games. That series also played with history and tasked you with taking down a hostile inhuman threat in London. I assure you that for this writer at least, that association has positive connotations. Once I had nailed down using the Thermite Rifle, the rest of the demo was a breeze. After taking down several similar looking lower class rebels, who perched themselves high among balconies and rooftops, our group found itself in a bit of a crisis when one of our party was severely wounded by enemy fire. This led to a segment where I had to venture out into the open to drag his body to safety while firing back at rebels with my semi-automatic pistol sidearm.
The coolest moment of the demo was when I used the Thermite Rifle to blow up the interior upper level of a building housing numerous sneaky rebels. We also came to a point, after our wounded comrade had died, where I had to clear a pathway into the street with the same two-step firing method. After a few more brief encounters with rebel forces, Sir Galahad and his group resolved to make their way to a nearby hospital, at which point the demo ended quite abruptly. This left me wanting to play more, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Rather, I could not believe that Sony would showcase such a short and straightforward demo for one of their most anticipated titles.
I would like to reiterate that the demo itself did not leave me with a poor impression of the game per se, primarily because it was so brief and unremarkable that it did not allow me to form an inspired opinion of how the final product will turn out. Nonetheless, based on what I played at E3, the main game will have to much more inspired. Still, I have confidence in the team at Ready at Dawn, who are taking the reins of their first original console IP after producing some of my favorite handheld games on the PSP.
The Order: 1886 is scheduled to release on February 20, 2015 exclusively for the PlayStation 4.