Hey there every peoples!
The demon has been really giving me a hard time lately. It has interfered with everything, including this blog. Not helping the matter was a most worthless comment my last post had gotten. I thought about responding to it, but in the end determined that it wasn’t worth wasting the effort and thought (and when you take into consideration that I once responded to a blustering creationist, that’s really saying something). But i decided that it might be good to talk about some offbeat, casual topic to try and keep my mind solvent. With the recent buzz around PAX, what better thing to talk about than video games!
Specifically, I’d like to talk about an upcoming exclusive for the Playstation 4 called “The Order:1886”. The game is about a group of knights (the knights of Arthur’s Round Table in point of fact) struggle for order in an alternate Victorian-era London. In this universe, not only are the lower classes rebelling against the wealthy and ruling elite (the knights are fighting for the elite) but are also waging a centuries old battle against half-human monsters, nicknamed “half-breeds”.
Before we continue, i just want to say: i don’t video games. I have played a few. But my learning disability made it difficult to ever be any good at them. Besides, I have always been the kind of square who got more enjoyment out watching people play games than playing them myself. That being said i can still get rather into a game; I just focus on its story (or lore, as us nerds call it), it’s design, and it’s ideas. That I what I’ll be discussing here.
Now you should know by now that i am all about what is different, what hasn’t been done to death. So off the bat we have characters from the most adapted and popularized English story out there: the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. So what does the Order do with that? In this universe, the knights long ago discovered a mysterious substance called black water. This substance has the power to heal grievous wounds and prolong life. So the knights in the Order are many hundreds of years old. Ok, not bad. You have me interested.
Now what is supposed to be one of the major plot points of the game are the half-breeds. When i saw the initial E3 trailer, I was a little apprehensive. It just looked like yet another romp with werewolves. Werewolves are right up there with vampires, zombies, and demons as the most overdone monsters in fiction. But this game started to win me over a little with some little snippets in interviews and the like. One synopsis for the game said that “In the game’s history, around the seventh or eighth centuries a small number of humans took on bestial traits. Doesn’t specifically say werewolf. I’m listening.
Then came the following video detailing the creation of the half-breeds:
What particularly stuck out to me was the line about lycans (the trendy name for werewolves these days) being a “particular species of half-breed”. If this reference to them being just one species of half-breed is true, then I’m on board. If it truly is something that is half human half animal, and not just the same old werewolf, then the sky is the limit. Use that to get creative! Like the werewolves are expert hunters and are fast because they are half wolf. Maybe another species, being half ox or bear, or even rhino or elephant, could be a slower but stronger enemy requiring different tactics than the werewolves. Very little about the game has been revealed, so i am still wary that we will just be stuck with werewolves.
Another big plot point is that the industrial revolution has allowed for the creation of all new never before seen weapons that will hopefully turn the tide against the half-breeds. The guns not feeling very impactful has been a complaint from those who have played the demo. And i feel them. From my spectator, lore and concept viewpoint, the weapons in this game feel very lackluster. The thermite rifle and arc gun are really the only ones who stand out. The thermite rifle is a double action weapon. First i sprays a cloud of thermite at the enemy; then a flare launched into the cloud to ignite it. The arc gun basically fires bolts of electricity (because, by the way, their weapon maker is Nikola Tesla). But the rest of the guns just feel… lazy. Rather than unique creations, it seems they just used slightly modified versions of guns from the 20th century:
They just look out of place and not very inspired. “But Bioshock: Infinite had guns that looked a lot like later guns. Why aren’t you raging on that?” That’s different. In Bioshock:Infinite, a major aspect of the universe is the interruption of the space time continuum. In that universe, Columbia had such advance technology for its time because many of its scientists and industrialists were able to peer through holes in the fabric of time. That’s how they had modern pop songs and vigors (derived from plasmids, which were invented in the 1950s) and how Comstock was a prophet: they saw things in the future and adapted them to their own time. So the weapons resembling future ones made a lot more sense in Bioshock. And since the game took place in the early 20th century, not that long before their inspiration was invented, they didn’t feel so out of place.
Seeing world war 2 guns in the 1880s is just jarring and feels like cheating. Now we have seen plenty of fantasy and action games featuring fantastical weapons and thoroughly modern technology. But I have always been interested in how real ancient cultures, particularly more primitive ones, would have dealt with such super natural monsters. I have been intrigued since reading some of the “accounts” detailed in The Zombie Survival Handbook, as well as an old video in “Howling 3: The Marsupials”. I know for game play sake you need weapons like these, and it’s supposed to be a big part of the lore, but i find it a little boring. I’m actually more interested in how people fought these wars when all they had were spears, axes, bows and other just weapons. That or even primitive guns, luck harquebuses, muskets, single action revolvers, and early rifles, where the highest magazine capacity was 14. One of my side interests is ancient warfare. While everyone is into Mideival knights, Japanese ninjas and samurai, and Classical Greek soldiers, I’m into the primitive and tribalistic parts of the world. Why? Because it’s easy to made just impressive weapons when you have metal. How do you fight, protect yourself, and wage war when you have only natural materials such as wood, stone, teeth, etc. Their solutions are far more fascinating. That’s how it is with the Order. It’s not as interesting watching people deal with these monsters when armed with the luxury of modern high capacity firarms (or the couple fantasy guns they created).
Bottom line: I feel there is a lot of potential here. The Order: 1882 could be a neat spin on the shapeshifters genre. But it’s lazy weapon design and possible use of just werewolves is cause for concern. So far, we have two conflicting images here. One trailer showed a a more survival horror vibe against one of fiction’s most dreaded monsters. But most of the gameplay shown so far, with human antagonists, hiding behind cover in a fire fight, and the thoroughly modern sounding gun fire makes this game feel like “Ye Old Call of Duty”. Hopefully the game will do well enough that it will get a sequel where the creators can really cut loose. Have take place in ancient times without modern type guns where the knights have to rely more on skill and fortitude than just being able to hold down a trigger. And maybe explore things from the half-breed side. Maybe you could even play as a half-breed. If there are different species of half-breeds, they could at some point splinter into different groups and duke it out in some kind of half-breed civil war. Of course, such radical directions are rarely taken. Being creative is a liability these days. Same sells, so what need is there for different? Just how The Order plays out is anyone’s guess at this point. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Till next time!