We take a close look at the forthcoming action/shooter from Ready At Dawn Studios.

The Order: 1886 hands-on preview: world on fire

By Robert Workman, Sep 03, 2014 6:00am PDT

Ever since its introduction over a year ago at Sony's E3 press conference, The Order: 1886 has been gaining momentum as one of the company's top exclusives for PlayStation 4. And why not? The mixture of a Victorian theme, demonic and human enemies to bring down, and inventive weaponry (like a lightning gun) have all been quite promising. This past week at PAX Prime, Sony invited us to go hands-on with a new build, putting us in the shoes of hunter Sir Galahad as he leads his team of hunters against angry citizens that will stop at nothing to stop them.

The game's storyline weaves around the theme of half-breed monsters, who have been fighting a painstaking war against the humans for centuries. The introduction of new technologies and a strange, life-giving liquid called the Black Water turns the tide, but also makes the Knights enemies with certain monsters and humans alike, forcing the team to battle all odds in order to bring back justice and order.

Ready At Dawn Studios has put more than four years' worth of effort into The Order, its debut effort for the PlayStation 4, and upon glaring at the game for the first time, you can see just where a majority of the work has gone. The game boasts some truly impressive visuals, with a fine polish spread over the shambled town, as well as in character animations and details, such as fire shooting across an alleyway. In fact, during one point of the demo, a seamless transition between cinematic and gameplay was made, to the point that the producer actually told us that it was time to start playing. That's how good the graphics were here.

Visuals can only do so much for a game without gameplay, but, fortunately, The Order is very inventive in this department as well. The main weapon we were introduced to in the demo is a pellet-shooting gun, which actually combines with a secondary firing tactic to create a flame effect. The pellets themselves are flammable, and can be fired a few at a time at an enemy. On their own, they're not lethal in the least. However, with the secondary fire, you can shoot a flame arrow that causes them to burst into flames. Thus, your enemies, covered in the pellets, become flambé in a matter of seconds. It's a great weapon to use, especially when it comes to drawing out enemies that are hiding behind cover. This stuff will burn through that in no time flat.

In addition, The Order utilizes a strong cover system, and strongly encourages it. Enemies are pretty deadly with their fire, so you'll have to duck and cover in order to avoid succumbing to damage. If you do, you can use a shot and revive yourself quickly, but you only have so many to use. Your best tactic here is to hide behind objects, and wait for the key moment to plug your enemies with the pellets, then let loose with the fire arrow (or the other way around, if you want to create an effect similar to a flamethrower).

The Order has no shortage of destruction, as we watched a distillery crumble before our eyes with a well-placed shot from Sebastian's hand cannon. The game runs very smoothly at 30 frames per second, with nary any loss in visual quality at all. Even when running a distracting secondary mission, saving a citizen that's fallen in the street, the action doesn't let up, as Sebastian can fend off enemies by using a conventional pistol.

Although the game's demo was a bit too short for its own good (and also confirmed that the final game will not have any multiplayer to speak of), it definitely has promise behind it, especially closer to the end, when one of the tougher half-breed enemies, a fire-spewing knight with a score to settle, shows up and practically scorches one of Sebastian's allies in a large-scale attack. It'll be interesting to see where the game's events go from here.

We'll find out when The Order: 1886 makes its way to PS4 next year.

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