The Order: 1886 gameplay & preview – Ready At Dawn’s ambitious PS4 Uncharted-beater

You haven’t seen graphics like this before. At least, not running in real-time. Ready At Dawn has gone stark-screaming-crazy with the levels of fidelity in just about everything you see in The Order 1886. From armour glints and hair swish to cloud… cloudiness. Our first, enthralling look at The Order’s fictionalised version of Victorian London – infused with a Tesla-fueled industrial revolution – has been established beautifully because every element feels that bit different to other games. It’s exactly the tingle of excitement a new IP should deliver – the promise of a world worth exploring.

The Order: 1886 gameplay & preview

It starts on the rooftops. We can see for miles – church spires and historical landmarks poke out between terraced slums. Above the characteristically grey clouds, a double-zeppelin floats. Order members Grayson and Lafayette, who look like they stumbled through the Doctor Who props cupboard on the way to the set of Les Misérables, chat to someone back at their base via wireless radios, with tubes that glow orange as they speak.

“A lot of developers are sometimes
gun-shy about how far they can go
with narrative. But you take risks”

Ru Weerasuriya, Ready At Dawn

There’s more to the demo than cloud-watching, of course. A rebellion’s brewing on the streets, and it isn’t long before Grayson and Lafayette run into it, filling dingy alleyways with gunpowder smoke and showing off The Order’s slick cover-shooting and melee mechanics. It isn’t that Ready At Dawn’s reinvented those time-honoured staples – it’s that they’re placed in a new, impossibly pretty environment you’d be just as happy counting the paving slabs in if it meant more time marvelling at the game engine.

The Order 1886 gameplay. Subscribe for more PS3 & PS4 videos.

For Ready At Dawn boss Ru Weerasuriya, building fantastical worlds that remain grounded in real-world history is a true passion. The Order’s fiction – in which humankind has been plagued by mutated ‘half-breeds’ since the time of Arthurian Legend with an order of knights has kept that threat at bay for centuries – began purely as an exercise in storytelling, with no game attached to it. Only when development of a next-gen project powered by a new engine began did the two combine, he tells us. “At one point I told the team I had something I knew I could instil into the project. The design then started feeding the gameplay, the gameplay was feeding the design. It was a perfect storm where everything started working.”

The Order is set in a Victorian London full of monsters.

At this early stage we’re inclined to agree. Seeing a strange and esoteric world brought to life so confidently, you start to wonder why devs don’t try the fictionalised history path more often. The answer lies in risk and mass appeal, says Weerasuriya: “A lot of developers are sometimes gun-shy about how far they can go with [narrative]. But you take risks. I still remember the moment in God Of War: Chains Of Olympus when Kratos has to push his daughter away – I was so adamant about that moment being in, and one thing I learned about it was that afterward the reaction was really polarised. So then we wondered, should we do it again?”

We’re not talking about an obtuse indie oddity here – there are still men with guns, after all. But in contrast to its fellow next-gen peers-in-waiting The Order is still a huge commercial risk on both Ready At Dawn and Sony’s part. What if people aren’t interested in neo-Victorian London? What if moustachioed knights carrying lightning guns doesn’t sell? There’s not much precedent within the industry to make your sales projections on. Still, Weerasuriya and Ready At Dawn take the risk: “Early on we told ourselves that this is what we believe in, we have to do this right. I hope people attach to it.”

Yes, it could yet be a disaster – we haven’t seen enough of the gameplay itself to make the call – but what a beautiful disaster it would make, and what a risk worth taking. There are shades of Naughty Dog-level polish and storytelling nous here even in this early build, so cross every digit in the hopes this gamble pays off.