The Order: 1886 debuted in a trailer at E3, showing three people in elaborate military formals, riding in a plush carriage through London's Victorian era. Dirigible-inspired hovercrafts float around Big Ben as the carriage rolls into Whitechapel, a dank, industrial part of town, and the trio carry heavy-duty weapons engraved with fleurs-de-lis. When they're attacked by a group of bipedal beasts, one passenger pulls out a gun that shoots lightning. These details caused us, and most other viewers, to casually label the game as "steampunk."
The Order is not steampunk, Ready at Dawn co-founder Ru Weerasuriya told me during Gamescom.
"It's a word that we don't use – it's the 's' word," Weerasuriya said. "We don't use that word purely because I think there's a connotation of 'steampunk' that's already been built into a lot of things out there – movies, anime, all that. That is not exactly the one we try to endear to. I think our world is a lot darker, grittier, dirtier and more real."
If "steampunk" is the "s" word, then "fantasy" is the "f" word – Ready at Dawn isn't interested in creating an exaggerated, fantastical world full of things that could never exist. Weerasuriya wants The Order to challenge the validity of our real history, proposing an alternate timeline of events in Europe, specifically London, directly after the Industrial Revolution.
"What if everything you know today and the events that happened did happen, but they didn't happen for the reason that you believe?" he asked. "What could be different in the way that we view our world? It's full of mystery and it's fun to see where those mysteries lie."