Feature

Everything We Know About The Order: 1886

by Matt Helgeson on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Ready at Dawn's alternate-history Victorian shooter is one of Sony's most critical games this year. Will this occult action game be the blockbuster exclusive PlayStation 4 needs?

The Order: 1886 has been much discussed since its announcement during Sony's triumphant E3 2013 press conference - which is most remembered for its direct assault on Microsoft's since-reversed used game policies. Public opinion was running strongly pro-PlayStation 4. This goodwill, coupled with a very impressive trailer created by developer Ready at Dawn, put The Order: 1886 on many gamer's list of most-anticipated games.

The game was slated to be the anchor of Sony's fall 2014 lineup, but was delayed until 2015. At the time Ru Weerasuriya, the game's creative director, said, "To deliver that experience that we've wanted, and that we hope players expect, we're targeting an early 2015 release on the game. We're really trying to hone in on getting the whole game to that level of polish."

Hopefully the time was well spent. The Order: 1886 will be released on February 20, and is an opportunity for Sony to start the year strong, as well as jumpstart PlayStation 4 sales which has been outsold in the last few months by the now-cheaper Xbox One. For Ready at Dawn, it's the opportunity to establish itself as one of Sony's premier studios, after years of steady work on other developers' franchises.

The Order: 1886 was featured on the cover of the November 2013 issue of Game Informer. It's still the most extensive coverage of the game, and the digital issue is still for sale. I also encourage you to check out our The Order: 1886 hub page for a ton of extra content and information on the game.

Next page>>>More on Ready at Dawn

The Developer

Ready at Dawn was founded in 2003 by Ru Weerasuriya, Andrea Pessino, and Didier Malenfant. The trio have impressive credentials; Weerasuriya and Pessino come from Blizzard, and Malenfant was a senior member of Naughty Dog. Many on the staff have close ties to Naughty Dog and Sony Computer Entertainment.

Ready at Dawn took a cautious approach to expanding its business, steadily delivering high-quality craftsmanship in franchises that already had established fanbases. The studio did great work on the PSP, creating highly praised spinoff titles like Daxter, God of War: Chains of Olympus, God of War: Ghosts of Sparta, as well as the Wii port of Capcom's gorgeous Okami.

Much like a pitcher that's worked his way up to the big show, Ready at Dawn's consistent track record on smaller-scaled projects led Sony to give it a shot at creating a brand new, triple-A IP from the ground up. The team also spent a significant amount of time building its own, internal PlayStation 4 graphic engine - which, so far, appears to be paying off with one of the most detailed and beautiful new-gen games we've seen.

Watch this video for a more detailed look at the history of Ready at Dawn.

Next page>>>More on The Order's story

The Story

The Order's plot falls squarely in the well-worn video game tradition of the "alternate history." This refers to any plot that reimagines a historical time period or ponders what would have happened if a pivotal historical event ended differently. A classic example of this is sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (currently being adapted for Amazon Prime as a series by Ridley Scott), which imagines an America in which the Axis powers won World War II.

The game doesn't feature such a dramatic historical twist, and falls more in line with what's conventionally known as "steampunk," in which occult, paranormal, and advanced technology is incorporated into a world inspired by Victorian England.

The game focuses both on otherworldly threats and strange weapons while weaving a tale that has deep roots in English myths like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The Order: 1886 revolves around a centuries-old conflict between humanity and the "half-breeds" - a new race of humans that became mixed with fearsome beast sometime in the 8th century. Since that time, a group of knight, including King Arthur, battled the menace, but were unable to stem the tide. During the battle, the Arthurian knights discover a substance called "black water" which allows them to heal quickly and live far beyond the years of a mortal human.

Ru Weerasuriya says, "The salvation comes as a curse. They will protect humanity at the cost of their own humanity."

Now, in the midst of the late-1800s industrial revolution, mankind has hope in the form of new weapons technology. The weapons are, of course, far advanced past what was available during that historical period - and in some cases even today. While some weapons, like the high-powered combo gun and the fragmentation grenade, will be familiar to gamers, others are more exotic. The arc gun shoots out a high-voltage electrical blast while the thermite rifle expels a cloud of aluminum oxide that is then triggered to form a cloud of molten metal. The lead characters can also use a communicator device that's akin to a modern-day walkie-talkie.

You'll also see large Zeppelin airships above the skies of London and other displays of new Industrial Revolution-inspired technology. It's a compelling setting, and we all know that the intersection of science fiction and historical fact can be fertile ground for video games - just witness the great success of the Assassin's Creed series.

Over the centuries, this small brotherhood has stood watch over humanity, with a new apprentice taking the place of a fallen knight as the years wore on. This game will center on Sir Galahad (a man named Grayson who is third to use the Galahad name) and a trio of comrades in arms. The Order finds itself in a precarious situation. While now armed with weapons that can help them defeat the half-breeds, they also face resistance from a new rebellion of lower-class citizens upset with the aristocracy with which The Order has always been aligned.

While Ready at Dawn has been loath to reveal any plot spoilers, the premise is one with a lot of promise. This, coupled with the amazing graphics on display, should result in a game that succeeds in delivering a compelling vibe and storytelling.

Next page>>>More on The Order's characters

The Characters

The game is rooted in the saga of Galahad, who will emerge as a somewhat troubled hero.

"Galahad is one of the elder knights in the Order," says creative director Ru Weerasuriya. "He's connected with a group of people in the knights who have given him purpose, and that purpose happened to be to never question anything. He comes to the point, when the game starts, where there are things he's always taken for granted and he realizes things are not as they seem."

The political tumult that surrounds him will be a struggle for Galahad, who has spent his long life in a tense - but philosophically simple - battle with the forces of evil and destruction. "He's the blank canvas that you start painting on," says Weerasuriya. "Everything that is going to happen in this game is going to define who he is. And it's going to bring back who he was - who he has repressed."

Galahad will be accompanied by three others with whom he shares deep ties.

The most tangled relationship is with Isabeau D'Argyll who is known as Lady Ingraine. Ingraine and Galahad are close - and seem to share deeper feelings for one another that they must repress due to edicts forbidding romantic relationships between members of The Order. She's a fierce warrior and, at times, clashes with Galahad.

Sebastian Malory (a.k.a. Sir Percival) is named for the 15th century author of the original Arthur legend. He's older and has served as a mentor of sorts to Galahad, and has an unshakeable loyalty to The Order.

Finally, we have Marquis de Lafayette, an actual historical figure from the French and American revolutions. He's not a full-fledged member of The Order, rather a knight in training. As such, he doesn't have a title. Still, he's a very canny warrior, with a tactical eye for the battlefield honed in his years in the military.

Next page>>>More on The Order's gameplay

The Gameplay

The gameplay, graphics, setting, story, and characters all look to be to be top notch. However, games are to be played, and it's on gameplay that The Order will ultimately rise or fall.

Despite its steampunk-inspired setting, the game is a shooter at its core, and will draw many comparisons to Epic's Gears of War series. Third-person corridor shooting with a heavy dose of familiar cover mechanics is the basic template. We've seen some pretty tense firefights in the footage and demos that Ready at Dawn has given, and the overall impression is of a polished experience that's not necessarily pushing innovation.

The weapons, especially the aforementioned arc gun, add a lot of excitement to the action - recalling at times the more elaborate weapons of Insomniac's Resistance series. There are also some light puzzle-solving mechanics, like having to rotate the analog stick to unlock a door. More controversial will be the game's quick-time events. In one we saw, Galahad lunges towards enemies and the player must do a quick succession of button presses to survive the sequence. It recalls similar moments in Capcom's classic Resident Evil 4 - though to some it might feel archaic.

Ready at Dawn also promises that there will be some impressive, one-off set piece moments to break up the action, inspired no doubt by Naughty Dog's Uncharted series.

Where's Multiplayer?

This will be a short section of the article. There is no multiplayer in The Order: 1886. For better or worse, the game is strictly a single-player, story-driven experience. The leads on the project made the decision to exclude multiplayer to better focus on creating the main story experience. It's hard to judge this decision until we see the end result; let's hope this extra effort was successful in making The Order a truly special experience. It's also worth noting that there is a long list of single-player focused games that included tacked-on, uncreative multiplayer modes that did not innovate or only found small followings online. Still, it can be done, as the Uncharted and Assassin's Creed series have proved.

Next page>>>What's the outlook on The Order?

The Outlook

While much has been revealed about The Order: 1886 since its announcement in 2013, in many ways it's no easier to judge its prospects. Without question, this is a triple-A, big-budget game that will offer production values on par with anything on the market. It's got a unique setting, an interesting premise, and characters that appear to have depth.

Ready at Dawn has also proven itself to be a talented developer. In particular, it's notable for creating two great God of War experiences on the far-less powerful hardware of the PlayStation Portable. The studio has technical chops, and this should be one of the first PS4 games to look truly new-gen.

As for the game itself, the GI staff has been somewhat divided on what we've seen. A few of our editors have had extensive demos and/or hands-on time with the game. Some, like Matt Miller and Matt Kato, came away impressed by the experience. Tim Turi, who saw a more recent demo, wondered if the game stuck too close to familiar third-person action formulas to be truly noteworthy. Hopefully, the game has more up its sleeve than what we've seen. The Order: 1886 certainly has a lot going for it, let's hope that Ready at Dawn can step up to the plate with a classic.