What if the Knights of the Round Table became immortal and lived to fight the forces of darkness across centuries? That's the question asked by The Order: 1886, a video game coming to a PlayStation 4 near you on February 20. It's about a group of secret, high-level British operatives that share their names with famous knights from King Arthur's court — but might even be those very knights, somehow still alive.

It's a tantalizing idea. There's so much romance and fantasy surrounding the stories of Camelot and the Round Table that the notion of those knights living into modern times is irresistible. But these knights are done fighting the likes of Mordred or Morgana le Fay.

After hundreds of years of defending mankind, they've found that a far more powerful villain exists, and someone must stand between it and humanity.

The Order

The Round Table, so the story goes, formed the foundation of a secret society of warriors called the Order of Knights, who found a new purpose when they discovered the existence of a race of werewolf-like creatures bent on destroying mankind. (More on them in a minute.) By the 1800s, the Order works with the full support of the royal family, and its members are known and deferred to by British police.

The Order: 1886 focuses on four distinct members of the Order. Sir Galahad, who you play as, is one of the Order's most revered knights. The Arthurian Galahad was the purest of heart, the most noble and sinless of all the knights. The 19th Century Galahad is a world-weary professional, a lethal instrument of precision who's lost his innocence to years of daily violence.

Galahad's mentor is Sir Perceval, an older member of the Order and de facto leader of Galahad's group. Strong, brave and cunning, Perceval is willing to do whatever he has to do to ensure that humanity is safe.

Lady Igraine is Galahad's protégé and friend, and though she has no Arthurian counterpart, she's the youngest person ever inducted into the Order and one of its most capable knights.

Another newcomer is Marquis de Lafeyette, a real-world historical figure recruited by the Order and now serving as Perceval's apprentice. Lafeyette was a skilled soldier with unparalleled tactical acumen, having served in both the Revolutionary War (in the U.S.) and the French Revolution — and both times on the side of freedom. He's also quite the lady's man.

Are Galahad and Perceval the actual men who served in King Arthur's court? Or might these names merely be honorary titles, passed down through the ages to new and different individuals? Developer Ready at Dawn Studios has created an ARG ("alternate reality game") blog that explores this and other mysteries from the game.

Half-Breeds

The primary enemy of the Order, in fact the very reason for its continued existence, is the Half-Breeds. To an outsider, Half-Breeds might be mistaken for the werewolves of legend, but in The Order: 1886, Half-Breeds are an evolutionary offshoot of humanity. Yet these vicious, wildly dangerous creatures are no mindless beasts. They're every bit as intelligent and cunning as humans, and the game even goes so far as to call them "the dominant species on the planet."

Half-Breeds are not vulnerable to the traditional weapons against werewolves like garlic or silver. They are, however, vulnerable to the plant wolfsbane, which acts as a poison. They are not slaves to involuntary transformation under a full moon; these creatures are fully in control of what form they take.

Also: they're really big.

Nikola Tesla

The Order's quartermaster is none other than historical figure Nikola Tesla. Thanks to the advent of the Industrial Revolution and Tesla's ingenious creations, the Order finally has the chance to gain the upper hand over the Half-Breeds after centuries of war.

Tesla provides the Order with advanced (steampunk-ish) communication devices and experimental weapons. Perhaps his most powerful creation is the Arc Gun, a prototype device that fires a massive electrical current at a target. The Arc Gun causes enough damage to kill its target, often in nasty ways.

Blackwater

If the Round Table knights have managed to live well into the 19th Century, then obviously something supernatural has extended their lives. Even if the Order is not comprised of the original knights, they still show an incredible resilience and ability to heal far beyond that of any normal human. The Order's knights would not be able to stand against an enemy as powerful as the Half-Breeds without it.

The answer lies with Blackwater, a mysterious concoction that extends human life and heals injuries almost instantaneously. Exactly what Blackwater is, is the knights' most guarded secret. Long-term use results in something called Blacksight, which allows one to slow his or her perception of time.

1886

The year 1886 plays an integral part of The Order: 1886, and was chosen by Ready at Dawn with great care. In the game's lore, hushed clues and references to the Order appeared throughout history, but they abruptly stopped in 1886. Whatever the Order did that year, or whatever happened to them, was intentionally lost to history.

Beyond the Half-Breed threat, the Order also lends its services to the Metropolitan Police in fighting London's increasingly violent riots and protests against the monarchy. Somehow, these rebels manage to get their hands on advanced weaponry similar to that created by Tesla and used by the Order. This instability may even give the Half-Breeds the perfect opportunity to rally.

This alternate version of 1886 London is also home to gigantic airships, the world's first subway and plenty of odd occurrences. For example, the game's backstory mentions that normally tranquil animals like cows and pigs became strangely violent in 1886, attacking and even killing humans.

What happened in 1886? What's Blackwater? Who are these knights? We'll find out when The Order: 1886 arrives on Friday, February 20, 2015.

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