The Order: 1886, In case you’re concerned human history isn’t wild enough

There’s something intrinsically compelling about cleverly crafted alternate-history fiction. It provides a glimpse into another dimension of “what if?” scenarios, allowing us to view humanity’s past through a kaleidoscope of possibilities. It lets us see what happens to the world when we spin the wheel in a different direction. That’s the most fascinating aspect of The Order: 1886, the soon to be released PS4 exclusive that’s set in Victorian-era London and flips our notion of history upside-down.


The story goes something like this: many centuries ago, a small group of humans are transformed into Half-breeds half-human, half-beast with more than a passing resemblance to werewolves. War breaks out between humans and this new threat, and for the next few centuries the Half-breeds dominate the conflict, despite the humans vastly outnumbering them. The balance of power swings in humanity’s favour when King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table appear, calling themselves The Order and assembling the greatest warriors, tacticians and scientists of the time to push back against the Half-breeds but even they are incapable of turning the tide completely, and it becomes obvious that it’s only a matter of time before the knights would be thwarted. Fortune shines on The Order when they discover an elixir called Blackwater, which grants the knights increased strength, enhanced healing capabilities and supernaturally long life. Knights could still perish, however, and upon their death they would pass on their name to a worthy successor.
“The visuals are outstanding, with a range of eye-catching effects and incredibly detailed animations…”
By the 18th century, after the rapid progress stimulated by the Industrial Revolution, a barrage of new technology and supremely lethal weaponry finally allows the humans to gain the upper hand in the war with the Half-breeds. The population of London has grown steadily, bolstered by the promise of safety delivered by a fresh array of protective technologies. Naturally, the relative peace gives rise to new problems the poor are still largely at the mercy of Half-breed attacks, while the wealthy elite swell in their opulence, always protected by the watchful eye of The Order. Rebellion ensues, and it’s not long before rumours arise that the rebels have allied themselves with the Half-breeds. Thus, the stage is set for The Order: 1886.

After spending some time with a very brief pre-release demo for  The Order , its most striking feature is the universe it inhabits, and the lore on which it’s built. Weaving in and out of history at will, it presents an incredibly attractive steampunk-ish aesthetic, a mix of Victorian pomp and highly advanced technology. The demo starts off with a raid on a zeppelin, wherein you and three of your Order allies rappel your way onto the airship mid-flight. The visuals are outstanding, with a range of eye-catching effects and incredibly detailed animations ensuring that there’s never a lack of things to gawk at. There’s an overall sense of exceptional production quality throughout the demo, and even in its early state the music and voice acting are excellent. It’s also very clear from the camerawork and pacing of the demo that Ready at Dawn are finding loads of inspiration in film.

You’re cast as Grayson, a knight of The Order and the third to bear the title of Sir Galahad. The demo doesn’t show off much of his character at all, but it does showcase a slice of the gameplay variety on offer in The Order. Some areas require careful stealth and the use of a stash of curious gadgets (like a very fancy lockpick, and a device which seems to overload circuitry) to traverse safely. Stealthily disposing of foes is done in a very cool, very cinematic fashion: when you sneak up behind enemies, Grayson will reach for his knife and you have to time a button press with an on-screen indicator in order to successfully eliminate your target. If you fail, you’ll alert the enemy and be rewarded with instant death. It’s very gimmicky, but it does add an extra layer of complexity to sneaking up on unsuspecting guards. Gadgets like lockpicks, meanwhile, require the completion of simplistic mini-games to ensure their success. There’s a super-slick object inspection view, which lets you pick up objects in the game world and move Grayson’s hands using the analogue sticks to get a better look at them fromevery angle.

When battles break out, it’s everything you’d expect froma cover-based third-person shooter. The action is beefy and the weapons packa satisfying clout, with some of them offering secondary fire modes there’s an automatic rifle which fires a blast of air to knock back enemies, for example. There’s apparently far more exotic weaponry on offer in the game as well, but none of it was available in the demo. Expect lightning guns and other such wonders to join the arsenal of more traditional firearms.I didn’t geta chance to fight any Half-breeds, but the human enemies are interesting enough and come in different flavours, like riflemen and shotgunners.

Everything about The Order feels solid and well made, but I couldn’t shake concerns that Ready at Dawn is a tad too obsessed with cinematic pursuits. It often wrestles control fromyou, not just during cut-scenes and the like, but during general gameplay as well. Traversing the frame of the zeppelin at the start of the demo, your actions are relegated to single button presses and quick flicks of the analogue sticks to get Grayson moving along a predetermined path. Every movement is deliberately animated, which means it looks great, but the stop-start motion feels jarring. Elsewhere, the game constantly dictates when you crouch, when you stand, howfast you can (or can’t) move it feels very controlled, very sterile.

Quick-time events pop up occasionally (like during close-quarter scuffles), and during these events time will sporadically slow to give you a chance to scan the environment for something to use to overcome enemies. The transitions and flow of the camera is extraordinary, but it often feels too much like you’re watching the game rather than playing it. That said, the demo is so short  that  it’s  difficult  to tell if the entire game will share similar tendencies, or if it’s specific to the level to which I was confined. Either way, I’m excited to see more of The Order. The setting and narrative are endlessly fascinating, and I’m eager to dive into the rest of it.



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