Luke has been playing video games and reading comic books since childhood. He's a bearded family man in plaid.
A Little Late to the Party
Red Dead Redemption 2 was released late October in 2018, and because of my limited time that I get to play this game without my kids around, it took me 115 days to complete the main story. That is by far the longest it has taken me to complete a game. But it was worth every second. Red Dead is so incredibly expansive, and it seemed like there was no end to the side missions. For a few weeks, I just hunted and fished for legendary animals. I spent another week helping a recently widowed woman try to survive in the rugged wilderness. Her name is Charlotte.
It's moments like those that kept me in Red Dead Redemption 2. I firmly believe that video games are art. Visuals, music, and story can be found in many genres of art, but video games give the player a unique experience that cannot be found anywhere else. That experience is that a player becomes the driving force in the game. Master Chief cannot be the hero of the Halo series unless the player decides for that to happen. The hero of RDR2 is Arthur Morgan, and your whole gaming experience can change depending on what dirt road you take on what time of a particular day. This game is full of wonderful tangents that give the player an unrepeatable experience.
- Warning: some spoilers will be discussed. I will not ruin the ending for you like it was for me, but there will be some details revealed below.
Arthur Morgan: Hero or Scumbag?
You inhabit the boots and hat of Arthur Morgan. Your past has already been decided, but whatever happens from the moment you start the game is really up to you. The player is presented very early with making choices, and it sets the tone of the game. The world of Red Dead is harsh and unmerciful. I was riding through town one time, and a guy threw a bale of hay in the middle of the road about a foot in front of me. My horse trips and DIES and I know in my heart of hearts that it was intentional.
The game has a morality mechanic, called honor, and it affects the world around you and how Arthur's story will end. Doing good deeds, sparing people, giving to the poor, and NOT committing mass murder will net you an honorable playthrough. Robbing people, kidnapping, murder, killing livestock, and being just plain greedy will show you an Arthur Morgan that is so dishonorable that he'd steal a red-hot stove from his grandmother.
I normally choose to play the good guy in games that have morality gauge and being a good Arthur felt right. He comes off as a guy who has lived a hard life but is doing the best he can most of the time. I made some choices that were considered dishonorable but felt that at the time, that's what I would have done if I were in Arthur's boots.
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The Gang's All Here
For those that played the first Red Dead Redemption, there are quite a few characters that reappear for this prequel. Dutch, Javier, John Marsten, and Bill Williamson are important supporting characters in RDR2. The gang is made up of a large cast of unique characters, each with personalities and side-quests. Not only do the characters act like real people, but they are also all animated beautifully well. This can be said for almost all the NPCs in the game. I remember feeling genuinely upset when a particular character had died and that it bothered me so much that I had to tell my wife about it.
The game makes it so easy to like or absolutely hate its characters. Having realistic NPCs, incredible animation, and awesome story-telling helps immerse the player into a gritty western world that is out to get them.
Horses: More Important Than Your Gun
Oh, the horses of RDR2. The way Red Dead Redemption 2 designed their horses was genius. In order to unlock all the stats, you have to bond with the animal. This means brushing them when they're dirty, comforting them when they're upset, and making sure that they're securely tied to a hitching post when you stop in town. The more your horse likes you, the better they get. A fully bonded horse can run faster and longer, its health is higher, and will come for you every time you call it. If your horses die or are stolen, then life has gotten extremely harder for you as the player. Saying that the map is big is an understatement. There are dangerous animals in the wild and dangerous people too, so finding another horse is vital for survival.
"Nosey" was my first horse, named by my son, for the markings on his face. Riding through some woods, we were attacked by a cougar, and he was tragically killed. I never told my son what happened to him. Later on, I purchased a "war horse" and named him Achilles. His fur looked like gold, and he was tough and strong. His death was my fault. I wasn't paying attention, and we rode off a cliff. The game asked me if I wanted to "mercy kill" him and that was heart-breaking. Since then I always carried horse medicines and revivals. My most valued horse was Bonita, a black Arabian mare, and she was so fast. I bought her at the same time as Achilles. I know that they aren't real animals, but the game makes you care.
This game has everything that the player could ask for: action, racing, gambling, hunting, fishing, and the chaos that a Rockstar game has to offer. Playing as a gunslinger feels realistic and honest. Hunting for food and trophies, getting a 3-star animal is satisfying. The fishing is relaxing. Watching Arthur clean his gun is fun somehow as well.
This Is a Life Experience
You need to play this game. Red Dead Redemption 2 is art that the player can manipulate. It evokes emotion through its storytelling and creates excitement and fun with its gameplay. If you've been looking for a sign telling you to get this game, then consider this your confirmation.
© 2019 Luke St Clair