Sony’s Ready at Dawn Studios has an extremely ambitious goal of making the gameplay and movie-like cutscenes completely seamless in the PlayStation 4 flagship game The Order: 1886. Based on a demo I’ve seen, the developers are going to deliver on that goal.
The title is coming out in early 2015, as this kind of cinematic polish isn’t easy to do. But Sony plans to highlight the title at the upcoming Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game show as one of the reasons that players need to buy PS4s instead of Xbox Ones. There’s still a lot more of the game to see, but clearly Sony means The Order to be one of its next blockbusters that capture the hearts of games because of the combination of story, characters, gameplay, and beautiful graphics.
Similar to The Last of Us, The Order immerses you in a believable world. The experience takes place in London during the Victorian era. You become part of an order of knights who defend the world from nefarious plots. By imbibing a mysterious “black water,” you can heal yourself from deadly wounds and fight on, said Ru Weerasuriya, creative director of The Order at Ready at Dawn Studios, in an interview with GamesBeat.
In the latest hands-on demo, you control Mallory who fights in a squad of four knights clad in Victorian uniforms. Although the world is very authentic, you get to use anachronistic, powerful weapons out of science fiction, like the wonderfully fun “thermite gun.”
With this weapon, you spray pellets of “aluminum iron oxide” above the heads of your enemies. The pellets diffuse into dust. At that point, you shoot a flare at the dust, which ignites it into a fireball that engulfs the hostiles. This unique flamethrower-like weapon can turn the tide when enemies are shooting at you from barricade rooftops, like in the demo.
I used the thermite gun in chapter three, entitled Inequalities. In this battle, Isabel, a member of the Order, is pinned down. You come to her aid with the thermite gun. During the battle, a police constable is gunned down in the street. You pick him up and fire at the enemies while bullets rain around you. You and another knight drag the constable into a building.
There, the Order tries to save him, and one of them says a prayer when he dies. The death has an emotional impact on the squad, even though the policeman isn’t a major character. Their appreciation for his life stirs an emotional connection to the characters, who care about those they’re supposed to protect. The game isn’t just about combat.
“The world is very gray, where you try to protect humanity, and yet, the constable dies anyway,” said Weerasuriya. “It shows you the value of a life.”
One part of the scene includes a nice film-like touch. Mallory is wounded in the neck. He pulls out a vial of the black-water elixir. He drinks it, and it heals him. Normally, in a game, you would go into the user interface, open up your inventory, pull out a potion, and press a button to drink it. In this scene, all of that game stuff is gone. It’s a cinematic experience.
The character animation is fluid and accurate. Sony has been conducting full-body motion capture of human actors for use in the game. With this body capture and lip-synching, a new level of immersion becomes possible. The animated bodies of the characters are as richly detailed as the landscapes.
The Order: 1886 looks beautiful, and it might continue Sony’s tradition of creating great new franchises — like The Last of Us and Uncharted — that have the story, characters, and action to match the best movies.