Taking Cover With The Order: 1886

The Order 1886 is a third person cover shooter. That’s not entirely a bad thing: if you look at the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, many of the best story-focused, cinematic experiences were spawned from that genre. And Ready At Dawn – who have worked on some of the most esteemed PSP titles and takes on Sony franchises, including God of War: Ghost of Sparta – are extremely well versed in crafting a great game and story.

Combine that with help from Sony’s Santa Monica studio, and it seems as though they might be onto a winner. It’s set in a bleak, steampunk version of Victorian London, where the Order must face up against not only human foes but lupine, half-breed beasts.

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This particular preview build doesn’t give much exposition when it comes to the plot, instead choosing to focus on a rather linear shooting segment, where Sir Galahad and the other members of the Order fight their way through the streets of London, facing off against human enemies. It’s the same Nathan Drake-esque mass killing without a conscience which is ever-present in Uncharted, and feels like filler rather than a more distinct part of the game.

The reason for this section being shown off at E3 is up for debate – perhaps they don’t want to spoil the surprises, though a squad mate being fatally wounded dispels that notion. It’s more than likely that they’re just not finished fine-tuning the more cinematic set-pieces, saving those for public showing at a later date.

Shooting mechanics in The Order aren’t entirely traditional, thankfully, and there are some quite unique mechanics, which mostly boil down to the design of weapons themselves. Galahad is armed with a Thermite rifle, which can burst fire a rather inaccurate round of bullets, or more interestingly, fire a thermite round which will burn right through flesh or even parts of the environment, with explosive consequences.

Your squad mates’ weapons are great too, the greatest of these being an electric-arc firing gun which I for one can’t wait for Galahad to get his hands on. It’s not just the Order who have this technological advantage, with many hints towards foes having similar armaments. This is confirmed by the enemy forces sending out a minigun-wielding solider, who fires explosive rounds at the Order’s feet as the demo comes to an end.

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It certainly looks great, despite having quite a dark tone. This matches the mood of the game, but it’s quite hard to be stylish when most of the environment consists of greys, blues, browns, and blacks. Characters themselves boast high visual fidelity and are very well animated, while environments are crafted with a high attention to detail, despite the draw distance not quite being up to scratch, which means that this preview build shows a blurry cityscape rather than a sprawling accumulation of buildings. Explosions definitely need some work too, and look quite underwhelming at this moment.

Overall though, it’s superb, yet this aesthetic mastery comes with some drawbacks: it runs at 30 FPS, rather than 60, and the letterbox view means black bars at the top and bottom, which makes for a higher overall resolution, though many constantly black pixels. Ready At Dawn have stated that these are artistic choices, though it’s suspected that they were instead necessary in allowing them to squeeze every morsel of graphical prowess and match the visuals found in cutscenes.

After all, this is a game which intertwines cinematic moments, cutscenes and gameplay sections extremely well. There are no cuts to black when switching between gameplay and cinematic, and some cutscenes will surprise you when you discover they feature gameplay mechanics, such as firing your gun at enemies while dragging away a downed squad mate. It’s definitely an evolution of Naughty Dog’s work, and it’s often hard to differentiate between cutscenes and in-game moments.

There are also some extremely stylish moments within the gameplay itself. Blacksight acts as a power-up, and can be activated with the push of a button after charging. This slows down time and allows Galahad to take out multiple enemies in quick succession. It looks sublime, though successive use may not be quite as impressive as it is upon first glimpse.

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So, The Order 1886 is a third person cover shooter. That might have been acceptable in the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, and Uncharted proved itself as one of the best story-focused, cinematic experiences spawned from that genre. But Ready At Dawn aren’t Naughty Dog, despite having worked on some of the most esteemed PSP titles. They’ve been extremely well versed in crafting a great game and story in the past, but whether they can achieve this in an original setting on a bigger scale is yet to be seen.

This preview build is certainly not the place to discover just that; it’s simply a short view into a world which we know very little about, and you’re dropped into one of the shooting sections of the game – one of those sections that you’d normally just push through in order to get to the next set-piece around the corner. It won’t be things like this that The Order: 1886 is judged on, but the more cinematic moments, which we can only hope are the core focus of the experience.

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14 Comments

  1. The huge focus on set pieces puts me off unfortunately. I’ll no doubt grab it when its £10 or so, but I don’t see the point of paying £50 for a game which is practically on rails and therefore offers very little replay value.

  2. THis is very much looking like my kind of game. Be nice if it was bit more colourful though but hey ho….

  3. 1920*800 (as opposed to 1920*1080, 1080p) is less pixels pump onto the screen, but I believe them when they say it is an artistic choice as that’s what all of RAD’s other design choices follow with (film effects, minimal hud, in-engine cutscenes)
    The aspect ratio of that resolution also has a greater field of view than you will find with 1080p so could also help with gameplay. And its 1:1 native pixel mapping, no upscaling.

    Personally, I was put off after E3 because it seemed very much like a horror game, which doesn’t interest me as a genre.

    I have no doubt that it will be movie-like in terms of story quality, and will be the next-gen benchmark for graphics, until UC4 comes along.

    • It’s a higher overall resolution than 900p.

      (you probably know this, I just wanted to chime in for the sake of others)

  4. Steampunk, for some reason i really dislike that word.

    • Remove the team and you get… actually lets not go there.

  5. Good article but a few things really irk me.

    You mention “third person cover shooter. That’s not entirely a bad thing”. That’s not a bad thing at all!? Maybe for you but that’s the same as me saying “football games are terribly unsatisfying” because I don’t like the genre. I don’t quite know where people get this idea that the new-gen consoles will instantly revolutionise the gaming industry but the genres (and sub genres) we’ve seen form over time are well established for many reasons. However, they’ll shift and evolve as the years roll by. I’m just confused as to what a 3rd person shooter could ever be deemed a “bad thing” in any way. Sure, it might get old one day but until something else comes along (and the fact that millions of people around the world buy this genre type in their droves), it cannot really be a bad thing.

    “It’s quite hard to be stylish when most of the environment consists of greys, blues, browns, and blacks.”
    Film noir would disagree. :-)

    “It runs at 30 FPS”.
    I’m just not sure how this is a drawback when we have some truly fantastic games from decades of gaming which are wonderfully entertaining at 30FPS. Locking the frame-rate at 30FPS will hopefully see these notions (when applied to action/adventure games) put to rest. Sure, 60FPS should be a higher priority with twitch-based gaming and competitive multiplayer but after playing countless games on consoles and a PC, I can definitely say that a locked frame-rate (of thirty frames per second) can be an absolute joy. Massive fluctuations and screen-tearing are far more important. However, if you can sort that out and lock it to thirty FPS you’ll be rewarded with wonderful visuals. Sure, competitive racing games (online) might/will benefit from 60 frames per second but even then, one has to question the number of variables (from controller lag to broadband speeds, to server distance) to really see why it’s always going to be an uneven playing field.

    The article has a tone of “this is how it is” and that’s simply not the case. Millions and millions of gamers could not only give a flying crap but can actively say that the above is their feeling on the matter. Along with everyone who does give a crap.

    Apologies for the critical nature but I fancied chipping in with an opinion.

    • Everyone expected something new and original from The Order, but were disappointed with the realisation that it wasn’t entirely original, and following in the footsteps of many other third person shooters, but the very next sentence points out how some of the best games fit into that pigeonhole. That’s the point I was making, that it hopefully doesn’t matter too much.

      This isn’t film, and certainly not noir. Gaming is – in my opinion – something that needs a good colour palette to be visually appealing, just look at No Man’s Sky. The Order finds it hard to be stylish with the washed out colours it uses, but the animations are wonderful.

      Compared to a locked 60FPS, it is definitely a drawback, but in the very next sentence I’ve said how this makes other areas better and that’s clearly their aim. Every game could benefit from a higher (but still locked) framerate if it did nothing to the other visuals, but that’s not how it works.

      Millions of gamers would say the opposite too, and these things that I’ve highlighted would be the areas they care about. These aren’t even my big problems with the game – I’ve given counterpoints to them straight after, saying why it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The fact that I played a linear shooter section is the bad thing.

      Anyway, I had a brilliant article before, but it didn’t save so I had to rewrite the whole preview. The other one was amazing; you would’ve been in awe.

      • It was balance that I was looking for and the tone felt like it wasn’t there. Obviously, that in itself, is personal preference. However, your mention about colour (or lack thereof) is interesting. Limbo, for example looked wonderful. Playdead’s new title, Inside, has a wonderful mood to it already (both audibly and visually). I mean this with absolute respect (none of this half-hearted respect nonsense here :-)) but you might just be used to the blazing colours of Nintendo’s games a little too much. Or… you’ve gravitated towards that because of the vibrant nature they often have when it comes to colouring. God knows my other half (Hannypoppie) can barely look passed bad art direction in a game but she’s weird like that! :-)

        No Man’s Sky looks wonderful, at times, but from a colour perspective things are very garish at times. It’s by no means a tour-de-force in the style department but massive games like that rarely are. Heck, even the recent Thief had a lovely (miserable, germ-infested) style of its own and that was bereft of saturated colours from start to finish. However, one man’s style is another man’s hideously beige corduroy so I’ll stop here! Thanks for the reply, fella.

      • Tenacious D had the same problem with one of their songs ;)

  6. I really don’t understand the negative feeling many people have towards this game. I hear people saying, “Oh, The Order has great looking graphics but its just a third-person shooter.” Whatever happened to judging a game once you have your hands on it? Blair has put together a thoughtful and interesting preview here, but articles like this are in the minority. One of the reasons I use TSA as my main gaming news site.

    Personally I am intrigued by The Order, partly because its a third person shooter that isn’t about American accented space marines with armour that resembles my tumble drier running about on inhospitable alien worlds. Hopefully the plot/setting will provide the variety we gamers crave.

    • It’s so moronic it beggars belief. Fanboy arguments need fuel and people are happy to utterly lay into a title months before it’s launched. Hell, remember people commenting on the anti-aliasing (or lack thereof) in Driveclub? It’s still in development for god’s sake. Stop commenting on what might be when you have no basis for how it will end up. Drives me mental, Steelhead. It really does.

  7. Day one. Looks and sounds incredible.

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