E3 2014: The Order: 1886 Hands-On Preview – Light ‘Em Up!

The Order: 1886 has received a lot of attention since its announcement at least year’s E3. It was debuted as a game that sells next-gen with its miraculous graphics. However, Sony hasn’t been to up-front about what makes it feel like an evolutionary game. Well, we had a chance to get our hands on it for almost 30 minutes, and we’re ready to talk about our experience.

On the surface level, The Order: 1886 is your standard third-person shooter. Cover humping is absolutely critical to surviving the onslaught of enemy attacks. Sir Galahad, the protagonist you play as, is a mere mortal. Just a few bullets are enough to take him down. Since he isn’t mobile by any stretch of the animation, using cover and precise aim are key. In this sense, it feels like a standard third-person shooter such as Uncharted.

However, you won’t be relying on bullets to take out your enemies. Instead, your bread-and-butter weapon, the Thermite Rifle, has two modes which let you combo application of thermite in the environment, and then set it ablaze. This one-two punch is as flashy as it is interesting, and frankly took a bit of practice to execute. Coming from games that prioritize headshots over everything, it took me a bit of time to adapt to a system which is more about environmental observation than having the finger dexterity to aim at heads quickly. Though, poorly placed thermite will do nothing for you, so good aim is as necessary here as in any great shooter.

There are other weapons that will make their way to the final release, including an Arc Gun that fires an immensely powerful electrical current, and a Combo Gun armed with a concussive blast. However, these weren’t available in the demo so I can’t comment on them.

There’s also a focus system that lets you slow down time and take down enemies with ease. It’s unlocked by filling up a gauge, and once used will let you alternate between locking onto certain enemies before firing a hail of bullets their way. Gameplay-wise, it isn’t too intricate, but is extremely satisfying and effective. It’s a great way to get out of a tough situation, or just let a few enemies pay for not being on your side.

The Order: 1886 is a very linear game. Between combat sessions you’ll walk around the environment as dialog unfolds story before you, and then walk up to interactive objects and press triangle to move the narrative forward.

The benefit of this focused experience is that it’s allowed the development team to cram an immense amount of detail into the environment. Really, I can’t say enough about how good The Order: 1886 looks. When the game first transitioned from its initial cutscene to in-game, I had no idea I had assumed control of the character, I thought I was still watching a grade A pre-rendered cinematic. The Santa Monica Studios employee next to me chuckled when this happened and shared that most players who try out the demo have a similar experience. If you’ve seen footage of the game already, you know it looks good, but you need to see it in person to really understand how much of an accomplishment it is.

Before playing the game, I was hoping it would have a unique setting and atmosphere. In that regard, The Order: 1886 delivers. There’s a certain style about the game that feels unlike anything else on the market, whether it be the dialog delivery or the dark, 19th century Victorian London-esque city that it’s based in. Seeing a AAA game not only try but succeed at creating a unique setting is something you won’t see very often.

However, I’m not completely sold on the gameplay… yet. It needs a bit of work in terms of combat structure and gameplay design before I’ll feel comfortable saying it’ll be a member of Sony’s 2015 elite. That said, if it were to release today, it would be remembered as a game that had despicably good graphics and a setting that feels individualistic in a world where 99% of games are derivative. It is a game with more than 6 months until release (it releases on February 20th), so if that time is taken advantage of this could easily become an all-star title worth every bit of attention its acquired.