Leaving the EGX demo stand for The Order 1886, I can't say I felt I knew a great deal more about the game than I had before picking up the controller. Without any kind of backstory fanfare, or introduction to the characters and the mission at hand, the demo simply plonks you straight into the third chapter of the game, with only a light roster of seemingly arbitrary objectives to achieve, and a handful of toys to complete them with.
It's a rather blunt introduction to Ready at Dawn's steampunk story, then, but at least those toys are good fun to play with. The mutton-chopped man-of-war you assume the role of in this party of four packs a particularly creative weapon, for example. Using the right trigger, you first of all spray a dusty sort of substance about the place, coating whatever enemies and scenery it comes into contact with. Next comes the fun bit, as you unleash your secondary shot: a white-hot projectile that reacts with the dust and detonates it to glorious effect. After a flurry of such flambés, the enemies are soon on their knees, and the building is secured.
While you have a fair amount of freedom to complete this first objective as you wish, the next section of the demo feels rather jarringly like a set-piece from an on-rails shooter. Into your hands falls a more traditionally chunky Victorian pistol, which you use to pick off behatted gentleman rogues who peek out from behind crates and corners, all the while dragging a wounded colleague to the safety of the now-clear building. If the action feels a little scripted at this point, the primitive pistol still shines alongside your more exotic weapon, sending enemies to the ground with a blunt and weighty bang.
There's enough time to catch a few more glimpses of the game's steampunk aesthetic before the demo concludes, such as the clunky metallic binoculars that also pack unlikely electrical enhancements to help you scope out the road ahead. I'm also particularly taken with my colleague's own primary weapon - a sword-like device that appears to have a taser cracking ominously on the end of it.
Alas, how that weapon actually works in combat will have to remain a mystery for now. Inside the safety of the cleared building, I blow up a barricade and the demo ends as abruptly as it had begun. A jarring experience, then, but one that nevertheless highlights some tantalising toys. We'll have to wait for the game's February release to see how coherent and satisfying the final form of The Order 1886 turns out to be.