Developer: Ready at Dawn
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: First-Person Shooter, RPG
Platform: Playstation 4
Release Date: February 20, 2015
I recently had a chance to get together with a Sony representative and play the demo of The Order 1886 for the Playstation 4. I was warned ahead of time that it was a four month old demo, so some of the rough patches and game play elements should be more refined by the release date. I wanted to play the demo originally, but my wife happened to be there with us, so I let her play. She is the regular gamer, after all. We booted up the demonstration and let her run with it.
First thing first – we have almost no idea what the story of The Order is except what we know from the advertisements and the E3 videos. The video starts with the main protagonist Grayson – the inheritor of the title Sir Galahad of the Round Table and voiced by Liam Neeson – getting ready to repel down the side of a large airship with his team to stop some sort of rebel plot from kidnapping all the important people inside (including the head of the Order). Simple enough, my wife was able to do so while listening to the others chatter on about what to expect once they breach the airship exterior.
Once inside, your party splits up, with you following Mallory (Sir Percival) to the cockpit. Instantly, you are required to perform the first mini-game to knock the power out to open a hatch by trying to catch two different moving blobs of mercury at specifically marked intervals in two separate tubes on either side of the device. Basically, you press and hold the R3 and L3 buttons respectively when the mercury moves between the prongs. The entire fuse box shorts out, opening the hatch but blowing out a light bulb near one of the rebel guards.
Thus begins our foray into the one of the more interesting but frustrating parts of the game – stealth. We had to wind our way through several passages without being seen, possibly taking out guards on the way. All the take-downs are real time events – hit the triangle button at the exact right time the game tells you, or the guard spins around really fast and shoots your guy point blank in the head. It wasn’t really bad – any gamer with any skill can do it – but it brings up the other shortfalls. Your character has a nasty habit of automatically trying to take cover on walls near corners randomly, but not trying to automatically take cover when you duck behind a counter, for example. My wife took maybe four shots to the head before she handed the controller to me to get us past three guards.
Taking out the guards is a gruesome aspect, too. I think every single take-down involved a knife and stabbing a guard like at least twice in the most painful ways possible. I sort of recoiled at one such take-down, thinking, “I hope this doesn’t impact how I’m regarded by my peers later.” Of course, the Sony rep then tells me that I could have easily by passed two of the guards without being seen or hurting them, which seemed like something I should have known earlier. We then did a skeleton key mini-game, and then used our first grenade (a smoke one) to rush into the cockpit to perform more real time event button mashes to incapacitate all the crew.
Upon taking the cockpit, we’re rerouted to find the head of the Order who is lurking somewhere in the ship. Isabeau – apparently a love interest to Grayson – reports there are rebels disguised as normal guards on the airship. Great – they plan to assassinate the head of the Order, so we move up to the balcony overlooking the entire scene and pull out our sniper rifle. Another mini-game ensues – this time you have to mark possible infiltrators before time runs out and they open fire. You mostly watch the so called “guards” until Grayson figures out if they are bad or good (not telling you how he figures it out to avoid spoilers). Once you have marked all the guards, you take the first shot, and the head of the Order takes cover. Mostly because Grayson shouts at him.
Grayson seems to do that a lot. Shout at people, that is.
The shooting part was incredibly fun, and you get a good taste of the black water feature. My wife got wounded enough to warrant using the black water to heal herself. It’s a limited resource that takes time to rebuild. I noticed that Grayson can take a lot of shots before he starts dying, unlike the previous point in the stealth bit where one shot to his head killed him instantly. Granted, we were able to switch out weapons quite nicely – from a shotgun, to a machine pistol, to a machine gun. And even a nice powerful rifle that can take down bad guys in one shot if done correctly. I didn’t get to see the lightning gun or any really special equipment, but that’s okay. I was mowing down enemies without much difficulty. We reached the escape pod area (which were really just hot air balloon gondoliers that fall off the airship, and screw that if Grayson was going to get on one). Here we saw for the first time Galahad question his orders. A lot. He seems to be super verbal about all the wrong things happening. I don’t see how he seems to stay employed at this rate.
We then continued on our way, looking for another explosive device on the ship, because we don’t want the entire airship crashing down on London. Not because it would hurt people, but because it would highlight the secret war between the rebels, the Order and the Lycans. It appears regular people are unaware of the entire plot of the story, which is odd given that you have The Order running around with guns keeping the peace everywhere. After a bit more combat, Grayson is separated from Mallory by fallen debris and we end our demo there on an ominous note – “Don’t get yourself killed,” Grayson tells Mallory, which is probably what happens later.
A few other things to mention: you can collect these audio spindles to unlock more story content about the environment that you can play at any time during the game. Much like the audio logs found in Bioshock, they are gritty sounding recordings. You can also pick up and read newspapers, since entire important articles are right there on the front page. Granted, you have to have a large screen TV to read the print, since it doesn’t really zoom into the articles in question – Grayson just holds up the paper in front of your view so you can scroll around a bit and see everything on the page. Some of the headlines and topics seem to reflect on what’s going on around you.
All and all, the demo gave me some good impressions of what the game is going to be like. If you hate RTE, there will probably be a lot to hate about the stealth and quick strike actions in the game. That was my biggest complaint myself – they seem rather backwards compared to the stealth and take-down events of games such as Assassin’s Creed. You just flat out die if you don’t do the action correctly, thus leading to restarting the entire area. Which is awful in today’s game scene. Otherwise, it’s fun, dark and nifty.
Also, the voice acting and music are top-notch. Hat-tip to Sony for getting Liam Neeson to voice the main character – he’s as threatening and menacing as ever.
* Also, they would not let us take pictures or recording of the demo, so all the images used in this preview come from the web.*