It’s hard to believe it, but in just a couple of days, PlayStation 4 will have launched in the United States. The system is the second eighth generation home console to hit the market, after the Wii U, but it is boasting significantly more powerful hardware and the potential to elevate Sony as the leader of the industry yet again.
So far, there has been plenty of exciting PS4 games announced. On launch day, there will be exclusives such as Killzone and Knack, and in early 2014 players can get their hands on DriveClub and Infamous: Second Son. However, my most anticipated PS4 game of 2014 so far is one title that has seriously impressed me with what I’ve seen of it so far, and that is Ready at Dawn’s first original IP: The Order: 1886.
Knights of the Round
Set in the year 1886 (duh), The Order showcases an alternate version of human history. Around the time of the reign of King Arthur, humans began breaking off into two different species. There’s the regular batch of humans that everyone reading this should be at least fairly familiar with, and then there’s the beastly creatures known as the Half Breeds.
As is natural with humanity, due to being different from one another, a war erupts between the two species (kill that which we do not understand!) King Arthur decides to form a group, known as the titular Order, sworn to protect humankind from these beasts.
These knights are imbued with a magical substance known as the Black Water. This liquid allows them to extend their lives by centuries, allowing them to bring their expertise in fighting the Half Breeds and their knowledge from one era of human history to the next. The Black Water also allows them to heal themselves, though these knights are very capable of succumbing to death with the best of them.
Players take control of Grayson, who goes by the codename of Sir Galahad. In fact, all of the knights in the Order operate under a codename, and when they die, that codename is passed on to their successor. Also in Galahad’s squad is his forbidden love interest Lady Igraine, also known by her real name Isabeau D’Argyll.
The rookie Marquis de Lafayette joins Lady Igraine and Sir Galahad in the story as the third man. However, he does not have a codename yet as he is still undergoing training and hasn’t earned it. Rounding out the squad is the veteran Sir Percival, aka Sebastian Malory.
These characters and this new universe were developed mainly by Ready at Dawn, but with help from the script writer behind the John Adam mini-series, Kirk Ellis. Ready at Dawn started developing the concept all the way back in 2005, but wanted to wait until hardware came out that was powerful enough to support their vision. PS4 meets that criteria.
A different kind of London
These knights are located primarily in London. This London looks historically accurate for the most part, though there are some major differences between this London and the real London as it was in the actual year 1886.
This alternate version of London has gone through an immensely successful industrial revolution. The results have been advanced weaponry to better fight off the Half Breeds as well as advanced forms of communication and travel. The knights can communicate with radio devices as well as call in airstrikes using telescopic lenses.
These airstrikes are carried out by airships that float above the city. Despite these drastic differences to the real world London, the London showcased in the game will still feature locales native to the actual London.
One of these areas is Mayfair, which will be explored by Sir Galahad and his team. Other areas include the Whitechapel. The Whitechapel in The Order: 1886 is where rebels that fight against the British government are located, and those rebels will actually have to be fought at certain points of the game.
Controlling the knights is the House of Lords. The House of Lords in the game is based off the real-life version that has a controlling stake in the government of the United Kingdom. It is unknown whether any government-based buildings or locations will be visited during the game or not.
One thing’s for sure: Next-gen is pretty
With every new console generation comes improved graphics and technical prowess under the hoods (so to speak) of the machines. In The Order: 1886, we are really starting to see the first glimpses of the true power of the eighth generation consoles, more specifically the PS4. The Order: 1886 is a visual treat and one that is absolutely stunning to boot.
At E3 2013, The Order was revealed for the first time with a fancy trailer. Most people assumed the trailer was comprised of CG footage and wasn’t representative of actual gameplay. It has since been revealed that the footage was in-game, and that while the game won’t have such a cinematic use of camera angles and shots, the real game does look that insanely good, on par with CG movies.
Don’t want to take my word for how great the trailer looks? Well, you can check it out right here, but be sure to crank the YouTube video quality up to HD!
While the actual gameplay sections won’t feature such cinematic use of camera angles, the game will definitely have a camera that is meant to have a movie feel. The way the camera works in-game is inspired directly by movies, with the camera that follows Sir Galahad acting like a real world movie camera, with dust from rooms falling on it and the like.
Speaking of dust, the game boasts impressive particle effects like we’ve seen displayed in other PS4 games such as Infamous: Second Son and Knack. The lighting is also highly advanced, and the way that clothing sits on the characters’ bodies and reacts to the world is very natural and realistic.
The character creation process in the next-gen seems to be more complicated than ever. To create their characters, Ready at Dawn is using a combination of real life models, 3D imaging technology for the clothing, and using a hell of a lot of concept art to design the characters and their costumes.
“Soft body physics” are being applied to everything in the game world, which will be used to make objects react realistically as opposed to “rigid” like they have been up to this point in the industry. For example, instead of wood just breaking in half, the wood will actually bend before snapping. This is just one example given by Ready at Dawn in regards to this new graphical technology, and I really can’t wait to see it in action come 2014.
All of this is possible thanks to the new power that is brought to the table because of PlayStation 4, but also because of a new engine built by Ready at Dawn. Instead of simply licensing a tried-and-true engine for use, Ready at Dawn decided to develop their own engine from scratch, which is very impressive in and of itself. Hopefully the risk pays off, but right now it looks like it definitely will.
As Sir Galahad, players will have access to a variety of different weapons that the knights use throughout the game to fight off the Half Breeds. These weapons vary in their uses, but all of them have a secondary function to make sure each weapon is just brimming with possibilities.
Among the guns in the game is the Arc Gun. This long-ranged weapon fires a blast of electricity. The Combo Gun fires non-lethal rounds meant to knock down opponents, but it also functions as a dangerous shotgun-like weapon as well. The Thermite Rifle sounds like the most interesting gun to me, as it fires a blast of pellets that cover the area with thermite gas, and then it can be used to spew flames into that gas to light all the enemies on fire.
Besides guns, Galahad will also have other weapons in his arsenal. Among these weapons will be a twist on the traditional frag grenade. Yes, it will still function like a frag grenade, but these explosives can also be spiked into the ground to serve a double purpose as a land mine.
Melee will have a minor role in the game, for the most part. When close to enemies, Galahad will automatically strike them with a melee attack instead of shooting at them. However, there will be QTE events in which the player is able to choose from a variety of different melee options to change the course of the scene instead of just completing a QTE like normal. QTEs aren’t very well loved amongst the gaming community, but I think this is a smart way to evolve them and make them a more appreciated part of gameplay.
Cut-scenes will also be worked directly into gameplay. There will be interactive cut-scenes that use dynamic, film-style camera angles in conjunction with traditional shooter gameplay.
One of the major improvements that next-gen will be providing is improved AI for NPCs. The Order: 1886 is said to feature this in spades, but we’ll have to wait on the final product to confirm this one way or the other.
If I were to compare The Order to any pre-existing game, it would be Gears of War. The titles share a lot of similarities, with the unique weaponry, an unconventional setting, and monstrous enemies to battle. The Order is a cover-based shooter, though the gameplay will be less cover-based when dealing with the Half Breeds.
Gears of War is also famous for its multiplayer component, which was extremely popular during the early days of the Xbox 360. It would make sense for The Order to have a multiplayer mode. It would even make sense for the campaign to have 4-player co-op considering there are four main characters, but right now all Ready at Dawn will confirm is that there is a campaign for at least one person.
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The Order: 1886 has no solid release date nailed down as of yet. The game will be available at some point in 2014, that much is for certain. Expect plenty more information about this exciting PS4 title in the coming months!