The Order: 1886 preview – God Of War dev rewrites history to sex up Victorian London

Aren’t you glad you were born in the modern age instead of Victorian times? The poverty, the ‘imperfect’ sewers, inhuman horrors lurking in the foggy streets at night? Good job we nailed the whole Industrial Revolution thing and beat them down for good, right? Okay, that bit totally didn’t happen, but developer Ready At Dawn hopes you might find it at least a faintly plausibly alt-history of Dickensian Britain – it’s the narrative core of new third-person action shooter The Order: 1886. Go on. Guess which year it’s set in.

The Order: 1886 preview

The supernatural enemies are purposely shrouded in that famous Lahndahn mist in the sliver of in-engine footage showcased at E3, but they sure don’t look like they’re here to improve the drains. Nothing your equally supernatural (or at least history book-tearing) armoury of energy weapons can’t handle, of course. In keeping with the neo-Victorian art direction, which owes a lot to Dishonored, Thief and a dash of Bioshock Infinite, your weapons carry the ornate engravings of centuries ago, but emit blue death-pulses the likes of which are seldom seen outside of mad scientists’ fantasies.

The Order: 1886 PS4 trailer. Subscribe for more PS3 & PS4 videos.

Early indications suggest you’ll feel anything but overpowered, though. Outnumbered, surrounded and blinded by smog, the cast of The Order’s moody reveal back nervously up to their carriage, tracking menacing shapes with their sights. It’s a lot like a chapter in Victorian Gothic classic Dracula involving guns, wolves, mist, and a carriage, suggesting there’s been considerable thought and effort spent on giving this PS4 exclusive an air of authenticity and depth. Besides making you feel clever for referencing a book, the game also uses its environment as both a character and an enemy. Any of you who played ten minutes of Fuse will know how important not cutting that corner is.

The Order 1886

There’s been considerable thought and
effort spent on giving this PS4 exclusive
an air of authenticity and depth

In The Order, the Industrial Revolution was the catalyst that turned the tide on millennia-old war, and, perhaps because the stakes were so high and the era’s brightest inventors worked a few extra all-nighters, you’ll find more advanced technology than you’d expect. Exhibit A: zeppelin gunships. The familiar Big-Ben-graced skyline is enveloped by one of these just before the aforementioned carriage standoff. Let’s hope it’s heading in the right direction to save your ass.

Ready At Dawn doesn’t treat Victorian London like Saints Row 4 treats presidential responsibilities, though – there’s familiar, accurate history at the foundation of The Order’s universe. It seems developers often forget what a rich storytelling resource history can be, often eschewing period settings for ‘near future in which everything’s orange or blue’. But it was a desire to tap the olden days’ narrative goldmine that formed the genesis of The Order: 1866, according to Ready At Dawn. It’s been in production since 2010, and on the studio’s to-do list for even longer.

If you’ve not heard of the studio, that’s because it’s specialised in PSP until now, putting out two God Of War games – Chains Of Olympus and Ghost Of Sparta – that nailed the art of cramming a blockbuster into handheld. The primary God Of War studio, Sony Santa Monica, is also working in collaboration with Ready At Dawn, so there’s pedigree behind the code. Just don’t expect Kratos in a deerstalker punching tweed-clad men.

Instead, The Order plunges down a cinematic path, doling out action only when your nerves are taut as razor wire. One of the project’s key goals is to ape big-screen cinematography like no game before it, and if that means exploring via filmic cutscenes and grand set-pieces rather than scuttling up and down repeated alleyways, chase that dream, devs. There’s an encouraging clan of new IPs emerging for PS4, and even in such esteemed company The Order looks set to merit a place in the history books.