Hitbox Impressions — The Order: 1886

Victorian London, Knights of the Round Table and werewolves, The Order: 1886 has it all.

Developer: Ready at Dawn

Release date: Feb. 20, 2015

Platforms: PlayStation 4

Price: $19.99

The Order: 1886 is a fairly short third-person shooter that combines elements of Arthurian legend with London. The player controls Grayson, otherwise known as Sir Galahad. Galahad, along with other Knights of the Round Table are attempting to suppress a rebellion while also dealing with what are termed “half-breeds.” These half-breeds are essentially werewolves from what I can gather.

The first major problem Grayson and his fellow knights, Isabeau D’Argyll (Lady Igraine), Sebastien Malory (Sir Perceval) and Marquis de Lafayette are tasked with investigating a breakout of Bedlamites, from a hospital caused by the rebels. In case you didn’t know what a Bedlamite is, like me, it’s an old word for a mentally ill person; “insane” or a “lunatic” according to dictionary.com.

The main characters of The Order: 1886: Marquis de Lafayette (left), Isabeau D’Argyll (center) and Greyson (right). Screenshot courtesy of playstation.com.
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As the name implies, The Order: 1886 takes place during the late 19th century in London. There are several moments which offer fantastic views of the city and its architecture. However, that beauty is often undercut when Grayson and company travel through the filthy streets and alleys. The colors in The Order: 1886 are very dull and muted which lends itself to the setting, with its polluting factories. The sky is almost always filled with smog.

Intriguing, The Order: 1886 runs in a widescreen format, meaning there are always black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. There’s not really any reason for it as far as I can tell. If the intention was to be more like a movie, I think Ready at Dawn left too much video game in the video game. It’s still fairly easy to tell the difference between a cutscene and gameplay even though the game never switches from widescreen.

Victorian London in The Order: 1886 offers stunning vistas in addition to grimy backstreets. Screenshot courtesy of playstation.com.

Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are very impressive. It almost feels like playing during a cutscene with computer-generated graphics, it looks so good. But mostly the black bars just get in the way of the player seeing more of what’s on the screen. The restricted field-of-view led to a few problems such as not being able to tell where to climb up to a roof and not being able to see over cover.

So how does the shooting feel? Well, it’s fine for the most part. The assault rifle with an underbarrel air cannon looks and sounds exactly like what it is. The variety in weaponry so far has also been pretty generous. There are the usual suspects, like a semi-automatic shotgun, bolt-action rifle and a submachine gun. The real standouts so far have been the triple-barrel shotgun that obliterates anything unfortunate enough to get near Grayson and the thermite-rifle, which uses rounds of combustible gas with the primary fire and then ignites it with a magnesium shot. The latter is particularly horrifying when used on rebels. The screams of people on fire are blood-curdling.

The Thermite Rifle fires rounds of combustible gas and then an incendiary round to ignite it. Screenshot courtesy of playstation.com.

Those screams are particularly awful because I kind of agree with the rebels. They seem to be trying to abolish the monarchy, which I’m all for, so there is a bit of a disconnect with the story when being forced to take on the role of a knight to defend the established order and the incredible inequality it produces.

Nothing about the story is explained particularly well. The best example are the vials of water, or maybe blood, that the knights wear around their necks. The knights can drink the liquid when injured and their wounds will heal extremely quickly. The healing effect also seems to work on certain lethal wounds. In one instance, Isabeau’s spine is quite literally snapped in half by a werewolf. I say “seems to” because in another life-threatening situation, the liquid can’t be used. So maybe it’s a time-dependent thing.

The story of The Order: 1886 seems perfectly serviceable much like everything else about it. The only particularly interesting thing about it besides the setting, is a readable newspaper I found that insinuated that the queen may be dead because she hasn’t been seen publicly in months.

The Order: 1886 is one of the best looking games on the PlayStation 4 and for those craving more of this setting with some steampunk technology, then you could do a lot worse, especially if it’s on sale for $5 or $10. The Order: 1886 is one of the most mediocre third-person shooters I’ve played in a while, but it might be exactly what I need right now in between bigger games like God of War and Ghost of Tsushima.

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