Our series of Most Anticipated articles has returned for 2015. This series will chronicle all of our most anticipated upcoming games through March of this year.
Surprise, surprise! A game that previously graced our list of the most anticipated games of 2014 is now one of our most anticipated of 2015. The Order: 1886 was shown off perhaps a bit too early, met with “controversy” over visuals and frame-rates, and was pushed into early 2015. Despite all of this, every indication to us is that the game has kept a consistent vision, through it’s style and presentation, and remains a promising new IP. Let’s take a closer look at this Sony PS4 exclusive single-player game, developed by Ready at Dawn in partnership with SCE Santa Monica Studio.
The first glimpse of The Order: 1886 came via an E3 2013 trailer. The title, which had been in development since 2010, showcased a dark, alternate-history, steampunk, Victorian London, with characters based on Arthurian legend. The goal of the developers was to create a wholly new IP set in a surreal world for the PS4. The game was confirmed to be single player only. It was clear from the very beginning that there was meant to be a “cinematic” feel, which has caused some controversy. It is to be locked at 30fps and to feature a theatrical-style aspect ratio of 2.40:1 or 1920×800. This is most closely matched in the film world by the Panavision aspect ratio, most seen in 35mm anamorphic films post 1970. These are similar specs as the recently released The Evil Within.
Further trailers, throughout the year and at E3 2014, have revealed more of the story, its characters, and gameplay, along with a pushed release date of February 2015. As any quality single player game should, a point of emphasis on story and setting emerged. A co-writer of the game’s script is Emmy award-winning writer Kirk Ellis, who won for his work on the HBO miniseries John Adams. Ellis has never worked in the games industry, and this is exactly what Ready at Dawn was looking for – someone with a fresh perspective. The game aims to tell a story of an ancient organization battling a monstrous threat in the midst of civil unrest in a London which has seen great technological advancements from an industrial revolution.
There will be an emphasis on the squad of protagonists working together to face their challenges. Their relationships will be key to the plot and any separation or injury to members of the team will work to create strong moments of suspense. It’s all about mood and atmosphere, from the visuals to the music and sound design, developing the narrative as our characters struggle against a mighty enemy.
Various gameplay videos have shown the recognized influence of the Uncharted series, which has inspired part of the game’s design. The focus appears to be on battling and navigating through carefully designed set pieces. Transitions between cinematics and gameplay are meant to be seamless, and to our eyes thus far this is achieved. The character moves and fights in the third-person perspective. Cover is utilized in a zoomed-in view that looks to be somewhere between the aforementioned Uncharted and the Gears of War series.
The weapons showcased so far are a mixture of conventional (but futuristic for Victorian London) and electricity-based. This makes sense, as it was revealed last Summer that none other than Nikola Tesla would be the weapon designer for the knights of The Order. Along with the Tesla announcement came the first reveal of one of his character’s amazing weapon designs, the Thermite Rifle. This weapon expels shards of aluminum iron oxide which spread into a metallic mist on impact. The resulting cloud is then hit with a high temperature flare which creates a chemical reaction of burning metal and an excellent representation of the particle effects in the game. Expect there to be more innovative weapons designs like this in the game.
Though the game’s settings and some of its weapons are certainly pieces of fantasy, lead developer Ready at Dawn pledges to keep The Order: 1886 grounded in reality. Inventory management and weapon selection will be key to combating the evils of the world. There will also, of course, be moments where your main projectile weapons are either not readily available, or the wrong choice for the job. Gameplay videos have shown off hand-to-hand combat interactions, punctuated by quick-time moments ending the sequence in dramatic fashion.
This is all fairly standard 3rd-person action game setup. The things that will make the game different will be interesting gadgets and weaponry, how the characters and enemies move through and react to the level design, and perhaps most importantly the game’s lore and narrative.
As was clued in by quotes from Le Morte d’Arthur in the first reveal trailer, our characters are based on an organization tied to Arthurian legend. The main character is Galahad – a member of The Order; essentially the descendants of The Knights of the Round Table. The original King Arthur formed the group in order to combat the half breeds – various combinations of humans and monsters.
Our story finds us at a point where humans have been battling the half breeds and losing for centuries. Subsequently King Arthur and his Knights take up the fight, only to realize that the battle cannot be won, even with the discovery of a mysterious healing and strengthening aid known as Black Water. It is only when the Industrial Revolution begins to churn out advanced pieces of technology that The Order begins to find a way to fight the half breeds in a world now under martial law and rife with rebellion.
We will control Grayson, the third to have taken the title of Sir Galahad upon earning his knighthood. Together with Sebastian Malory (Sir Percival), Isabaeu D’Argyll (Lady Igraine), and the Marquis de Lafayette, Grayson will battle the half-breeds against the backdrop of an uprising of the poor against the rich. They will be aided by the inventive genius of Nikola Tesla and the extensive enhancements provided by the Black Water.
To match the dark setting, composer Jason Graves, with assistance from Austin Wintory, have created a brooding, atmospheric score which relies on exclusively lower octave/tonal instruments and arrangements. The musical score pairs well with the low-key, overcast and dimly-lit sky and settings. It also enhances the dark horror and mystery elements of the beasts lurking in the shadows that our heroes seek to expose and destroy.
This genre of game is a perfect fit for British Academy award-winning composer Graves, whose best and most recent works include the Dead Space Series, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Tomb Raider and F.E.A.R. 3. All of these titles had moments of terror, suspense and mystery combined with key action scenes and elements.
The extent to which Graves and Grammy Award-nominated Austin Wintory have collaborated on this title has not yet been revealed. Graves has been featured in a Ready at Dawn behind the scenes development video. However, the first complete track release, The Knights Theme, is listed as being co-composed by the duo.
Wintory’s work includes the amazing Journey, flOw, Monaco and The Banner Saga. It is safe to say that The Order: 1886 is well represented on the musical front.
Though there have been grumblings about the locked framerate and visuals not fully filling out a 1080p frame, the developer’s arguments for a cinematic design seem to have merit. Their use of aspect ratio, combined with emulation of theatrical camera movements and lenses, appears to hold true to their vision, even if their framerate, which would need to be 24fps to fully emulate film, doesn’t quite hit the mark. Ultimately if the world they have designed is fully realized and its characters have depth, all encompassed within an interesting story with even basic gameplay, this could be an excellent gaming experience and the visual “quirks” will not be an issue. What we’ve seen and heard of The Order: 1886 easily places it on our list of Most Anticipated of 2015. The game is scheduled for release on February 20, 2015.