Before stepping into a recent Sony preview event in New York, the last time I had played The Order: 1886 was at E3. The E3 demo threw me straight into the action and established the game as a cover-based shooter where I could use fancy weapons like the thermite gun, which is a dual fire weapon where you cover enemies in volatile dust and then ignite it with a flare. Although this new demo still has plenty of cover-based shooting, it shows off much more of the game's stealthier side.
For those that don't know, The Order: 1886 is an alternate reality story about how the Knights of Camelot, through taking a potion that prolongs life, survives to the Victorian era. Much has changed, including their weaponry, but they're still dedicated to fighting evil and malicious creatures. In this new demo, members of the Order rappel down the side of a large airship owned by the East India Company, then try to quietly make their way across it. Stealth, not run and gun, is the emphasis here. Being discovered leads to quickly being shot in the head.
A couple of places require you to use a device that uses fast moving balls of mercury on either side, to override electronic locks. You have to trap the metal between small prongs as they pass by to complete some sort of electrical circuit and cause the bulb to light up. Similarly, you later use and electric lockpick to rattle tumbers until you get through. Although I can see the necessity in having these minigames, I'm not yet convinced that they add much to the story and gameplay. Especially considering how easy they tend to be, with no consequences for making mistakes.
Performing a stealth kill is a quicklime event. As you sneak up on an unsuspecting person, a prompt appears, and you have to hit it as it lights up. They're not very difficult, and your kill animation changes slightly depending on how far you are from the target. In one instance, you kick out their knees before stabbing them in the neck, in the other, you just go straight for the neck stab. Screwing it up, of course, earns you a bullet to the head. The stealth sequences are a little unforgiving in that respect. I had no opportunity to say I blew the stealth bit, now it's time to gun everyone down. The ones I played felt like getting caught meant instant death, and causing me to restart from a nearby checkpoint. Although the stealth sequences aren't complex as some other games - all you need is a little bit of patience - I ended up memorizing movement patterns in some areas strictly through trial and error.
One thing that bothered me about the demo was that there's very little in the way of direction. For example, I had to make my way up to the airship's cabin and take out the piloting crew. But which way was cabin? Later on, I have to find my way to the ballroom. Ok, where's that? The levels are linear enough so that I could figure things out in short time without getting too turned around, but a little bit of direction would have been nice. Maybe even a mission reminder, because I kind of lost track of what I was supposed to accomplish after getting caught up in the action.
The stealth portion ends when you reach the ballroom and a dignitary enters. My character, Galahad, sets up a silenced sniper rifle and settles into position. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing at first. Was I there to assassinate the dignitary? As it turns out, I was there to protect him from a number of rebels posing as friendly soldiers. I pointed my scope around the room to identify each disguised rebel based on a detail on their uniforms. After discovering two of them and validating the others, I was clear to take them out.
The Order returns to being an action shooter once the sniping sequence is done. That meant that I could take more damage, and could recover from injuries by hiding behind cover. However, I still had my sniper rifle, and I used to eliminate a lot of the incoming soldiers. That's when the rebels started to "get smart" by making more extensive use of cover, and blind firing from doorways. Although some tried to shoot me from the opposite balcony, none actually crossed the room and came up the stairs to get me.
A detail that struck me while I was playing was that the weapons shown here aren't quite as showy as the thermite gun. Sure, they were a little anachronistic, with things like assault rifles and fully automatic pistols, but they all fired plain bullets. Still, even without the showiness, they got the job done. It seemed as though the auto pistol generally had low accuracy and high recoil, forcing you to get in close, and the assault rifle packed a good punch, but used up a lot of bullets.
After seeing the dignitary off on a lifeboat, which was pretty much an enclosed pod with a parachute on it, I was given a chance to raid the armory, then teamed up with Percival to hunt down the remaining rebels. It's in this part that stealth and action really blend together. Although I was a little bothered by how enemies just seemed to pour in from out of nowhere, I was able to go around certain areas and flank enemies while Percival kept them distracted. Alternatively, I could have taken them all head-on to fight my way through the area. The gameplay demo concludes shortly after the firefight.
There might be a few quirks to work out, but the game looks pretty solid right now. I wish there were a few more stealth tools, like creating a distraction or setting traps, instead of simply waiting and sneaking up behind people. But the inclusion of stealth aspects and multiple approaches certainly help the game stand out among the crowd of action shooters, as does the alternate reality Neo-Victorian setting. However, I'm still only getting a small sense of what the story and characters are all about. I don't really understand who the dignitary I saved was, why he was important, or who the rebels were and what they stood for. So far, the game gives me a general direction, and I try to follow it, shooting or stabbing anything that gets in my way. But there's still time, and I look forward seeing bigger reveals, like some of the creatures the Order is fighting against.
The Order: 1886 releases for the PlayStation 4 on February 20th.
Steven Wong posted a new article, The Order: 1886 Impressions: Don't Get Caught
hmm I was super excited by the teaser, but now I'm getting conflicting reports about it being an interactive movie...basically I have no idea what's going on
It always appeared to me as interactive movie.
Im not jazzed about this game at all.
I was quite interested in this game until they started with the "We aim for 30fps because it's more cinematic" bullshit. Lost all interest at that point.