In perhaps the most hotly anticipated unveiling of the year so far, Sony has fanned away the fog surrounding PlayStation 4 exclusive The Order: 1886 for the first time since its official announcement at E3 last summer. In addition to a brand new cinematic trailer – which you can observe in all of its filmic glory through here – select members of the press were also treated to a whopping 20 minute demo of the alternate history adventure in action. With more videos, images, and impressions than a London library, though, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to act all Samuel Johnson and compile the key information for your perusal. Here are the key things that you need to know about Ready at Dawn’s greatest undertaking yet.
There’s more to this war than half-breeds
While the developer has managed to keep them under wraps since the release’s initial reveal, we already know that The Order: 1886 will feature some form of ancient opponent known as half-breeds. The latest trailer gives us a brief glimpse of one of these enemies, as a hairy hand twitches in its closing scene. Speculation suggests that these will resemble werewolves, but creative director and company co-founder Ru Weerasuriya prefers to describe them as the “devolution of man”.
However, it’s worth stressing that these foes are not a new threat. For centuries, humans have fought against the feral faction, hence why its noblest warriors – of Arthurian influence – formed the titular Order, which has successfully suppressed the enemy for hundreds of years. The advent of the Industrial Revolution has changed the tides of battle, though, allowing the Knights to not only impede its antagonists, but also bring the fight to them.
Alas, the hairy adversaries are not the only opponents that protagonist Galahad and his band of meticulously moustachioed accomplices will have to fight. Technological progression has brought about civil unrest in the underbelly of England, and a rival uprising known as the Rebellion has sworn to shut both the monarchy and its servants down. As such, you’ll not only be tussling with mysterious monsters, but also the people that you’re supposed to be protecting.
The firearms are actually feasible
Without the support of the state, the revolutionaries lack the equipment to truly take on the Knights. However, it’s suggested that they intend to steal weapons from the Order in, er, order to aid their cause. As already alluded, the Industrial Revolution has allowed the faction to manufacture firearms far more advanced than those actually available at the time. However, these are all based on real world parts and materials that actually existed in the late 19th century.
The title’s very first trailer included a glimpse at an arc rifle capable of shooting electricity, but there’s also a very brief look at a shotgun that blasts enemies with non-lethal, wind-based force in the latest gameplay footage. Other artillery available in the game includes a thermite rifle capable of spreading fire. What’s crucial about all of these items, though, is that they are all somewhat plausible – well, assuming that you squint a little.
“We're building weapons that were not only cool and technologically advanced but believable at the time,” Weerasuriya told Polygon. “These weapons did not exist, but every piece of it... the research [is pulled] from things that existed at the time.” That includes the metals, capacitors, wooden stocks, and more. Clearly, they’re influenced by more modern-day attack options to create something a little more outlandish, but the studio insists that they belong in the title’s so-called Neo-Victorian setting.
It’s a cinematic third-person shooter
Ready at Dawn has spent the past six months or so avoiding the topic of The Order: 1886’s actual gameplay, but the new footage shows that it’s a third-person cover-based shooter similar in style to Gears of War or Uncharted. However, while this has disappointed legions of outspoken online observers, the outfit implores that it’s hoping to enhance the familiar formula.
One way that it intends to do that is through so-called soft cover, which means that the knee-high walls that you take refuge behind can be crushed by your adversaries. It’s also aiming to strike a balance between gunplay, interactive cut-scenes, and, yes, ‘branching’ QTEs. Much like a Quantic Dream title, the latter will mean that should you fail to hit a button prompt, the game will simply author a different sequence of events for you. You’ll also have autonomy over your actions in some circumstances, such as the opportunity to use different objects to execute alternative finishing moves.
And all of this will expand to the cut-scenes, which have been designed in a way to keep you engaged. For example, when you pick up a new weapon, you’ll be able to rotate it in your hands, while you’ll be able to move around the camera whenever Galahad looks down the eyeglass – a kind of nifty telescope that allows the protagonist to inspect London’s skyline. These additional interactions are enabled by the title’s engine, which employs the same technology during both cinematics and gameplay.
The title’s been in production for a while
The Order: 1886 may have only been announced a year ago, but the release’s origins date much further back than that. According to Weerasuriya, the concept first came up in late 2006, when the company had just finished work on popular PlayStation Portable spin-off Daxter. While it went on to produce two handheld God of War titles in the interim, it kept the intellectual property alive – and the game was eventually signed by Sony in 2011.
"In the beginning, The Order was a project – that’s all it was," the creative director told Eurogamer.net. “It was on PC. We didn't know what platform it was going to be on, but we knew the core mechanics. Rumours were going around because we were working on stuff. When we were ready to talk about it, we showed it to Sony – we said, ‘This is what our future's going to look like, and we hope that it aligns with yours.’”
However, despite a lengthy gestation period and three years of active development, the studio still hasn’t attached a firm deploy date to the title. Earlier speculation suggested that it was aiming to get the game out this year, which Weerasuriya has since acknowledged in several interviews. Alas, some previews have suggested that the developer’s reluctance to reveal too much about the title may see it delayed into 2015.
Are you still eagerly anticipating Ready at Dawn’s alternate history affair, or has today’s big blowout dampened your excitement somewhat? Were you hoping for something a little more than a third-person shooter, or do you think that the gameplay looks great? Have the visuals lived up to your expectations, or are you a little disappointed by the title’s cinematic approach? Flaunt your outrageous firearms in the comments section below.