The Order 1886 makes for a terrible demo at this stage in its development. It looks like a Gears clone with a Steampunk skin. The demo showed a cutscene where you tap out Morse code, then a QTE melee (press triangle to grab the knife!), and then some lackluster covershootering. Then we get to another cutscene to find out all the fuss was about a crate. Yep, a crate. What’s in the crate? We’re about to find out. It must be important. The crate gets opened. What’s in there? Here we go!
It’s a gun. There’s a gun in the crate. All that for a gun. We just saw dozens of them in action and here’s one more, in a crate. QTEs, covershootering, and a gun in a crate, coming — exclusively! — to a Playstation 4 near you later this year.
So why am I eager to see how The Order turns out? Find out after the jump.
Ru Weerasuriya is the co-founder of developer Ready at Dawn and one of the creative leads on The Order. Along with anyone else making a steampunk game, he seems to love zeppelins. He shows us a few from The Order: 1886 and then explains that during focus testing, no one questioned that there were zeppelins flying around London in 1886.
“If you just use a slightly different twist, people believe it,” Weerasuriya explains. That’s one way to look at it. I didn’t know when zeppelins were invented either, so if a game told me zeppelins were flying around in the 1880s, I also might have assumed they did their research. But in this case, it’s a matter of Ready at Dawn tinkering with history. Victorian London didn’t have zeppelins. But it’d be a lot cooler if they did. So in The Order, they do.
It’s easy to dismiss The Order as a clone of Dishonored, Bethesda’s Thief inspired steampunkish shooter/RPG set in its own Victorian fantasy world, unconcerned with whether zeppelins or long-legged war machines or teleportation powers were present in London in 1886 or any other year. Both Dishonored and The Order have a similar sense of style, and a similar emphasis on action. But what makes me curious to play The Order is Ready At Dawn’s insistence on using a historical setting. It’s the upheaval of the Industrial Revolution, the racial tension of Imperial England, and characters from fiction and history.
One of my recent favorite games is A Study in Emerald, a boardgame about an alternate history Victorian Europe where Cthulhu has ruled the world for hundreds of years. It’s a mix of the familiar and the strange, the historical and fictional, the mundane and the supernatural. Sherlock Holmes gets eaten by a shoggoth. President McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, instead assassinates a horrible creature ruling America called He Who Would Rule the Free World. He goes insane in the process. A zombie apocalypse breaks out in Rome. You could argue that steampunk is nearly played out, but if there’s one thing that can keep it going, it’s the introduction of a little history, a supporting cast of familiar characters, a dash of the real world. That sweet and sour is a big part of what keeps my attention in A Study in Emerald.
And based on my brief conversation with Weerasuriya, I get the sense Ready at Dawn intends to leverage the specifics of a real-world setting. Well, as real-world as their take on alternative history allows. They’re most outspoken about their idea that Arthurian Legend has persisted for hundreds of years, with the playable characters being descendants of the Knights of the Round Table. Okay. I’m on board. If Sherlock Holmes can take on Cthulhu, I’d love to see the Knights of the Round Table take on an outbreak of monsters in the Industrial Revolution.
The Order developer Ready at Dawn is mainly known for bringing Jak and Daxter and God of War to the PSP, helping Sony add value to their handheld systems. This is their chance to start a new IP and to work with the latest gen tech rather than squishing everything down onto a handheld. The Order: 1886 will be out later this year.