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Games The O.D. on Games

The O.D. on Games: Red Dead Redemption Part Two

A Wild West Story

  • ROW: This week we’re talking about the story of RDR2 (no major discussion though, so you should be good in regards to spoilers) and the story missions; first though, we’re talking a bit about some of the systems we didn’t mention in the first part.
  • ND: Specifically, we’re talking leveling up Arthur, upgrades for Arthur and the camp, and why the emergent systems work and don’t work for us.
  • ROW: First: Leveling up. As you do stuff in the game, Arthur levels up corresponding “abilities”; for example, if you hit headshots, you level up your dead eye, if you run, you level up your stamina, etc. Pretty straightforward and streamlined leveling up system, but it fits like a glove for this game.
  • ND: It does and the “core” system also streamlines the survival elements of the game, without removing them or making the feel unnecessary; basically, you have 3 cores: One for your health, stamina, and dead eye, and each core drain as you do stuff or don’t eat, drink, or rest. The cores determine how much of that category can be replenished on the go and how fast (e.g. a full health core will replenish your health faster and fully, but a low core will replenish less health, slower).
  • ROW: These are really good ideas, implemented excellently; I didn’t spend enough of my time worrying about those meters and I got punished for it in a fair way. Later on, I decided I valued health over stamina, so I started hunting and eating a lot more to get my body “overweight” because that helps the health core (underweight does the same for stamina). But, I never felt forced to do these things, I just did what fitted my style better and got rewarded for it.
  • ND: This cannot be said about the upgrade stuff!
  • ROW: Unfortunately not; especially for the Arthur upgrades, because those require you to interact with hunting and fishing in a very particular way.
  • ND: Right, because you NEED perfect pelts from animals and those need methodical and precise interactions with the hunting systems. As far as we know, there isn’t another way to get these upgrades, which means I’m halfway through the game with my starting gear, because I don’t really enjoy hunting.
  • ROW: Yeah, but there could be other ways to access those upgrades; last night, I discovered a major aspect of the game that eluded me thus far, so crafting maybe entirely optional if you do certain stuff we have not done yet.
  • ND: But, hiding important elements in a game where a lot of these elements are given to you feels like pandering or cheating a few hours extra, for no good reason. Especially since the camp upgrades are a great, tried-and-tested idea.

  • ROW: Agreed; camp upgrades are monetary requirements, which allows the player to focus on what they want to do and search for everything in order to get as much money as they can in order to pay for their upgrades. At one point in the game, I wanted a specific upgrade so badly I started interacting robbing people and getting used to it, so I can attempt bigger and more profitable robberies and get more money. Never did that with hunting…
  • ND: But, we certainly interacted and engaged with the story and characters of RDR2!
  • ROW: I don’t like hyperbolizing something I love, but this has to be one of the best stories in video games in the past decade I’ve played; the world is so well-realized and the story keeps going without dragging on, adding more elements to the plot and deepening our desire to know the whole story.
  • ND: But, the characters deserve a heap of praise of their own; even in a bad story, these characters would make that story worthwhile. Arthur Morgan is such a compelling mix of cynicism, likeability, and a heart of gold—certainly one of the better protagonists Rockstar has ever put in their games. Dutch Van der Linde is one of the best characters in a game for the past 10 years, and his gang of misfits, outlaws, and passengers are all so well written, performed, and showcased.
  • ROW: That’s the biggest positive in the narrative for me; how well they showcase what they worked on and their ideas behind the characters, story, and world. Without locking me in to a cutscene, or needing to find and read some obscure log, RDR2 just manages to have characters that I deeply like and dislike—without leaning towards “saints” or “pure evil” stereotypes—just by existing around them and being a part of their weird family.
  • ND: It’s the moments where Micah’s intolerable shitiness gets a reason in a subtle way, Dutch’s façade of being in control and living by a code slowly being destroyed and him trying to regain control even though he knows that he can’t, Arthur’s clear bitterness towards John’s previous betrayal being clear just by his voice and not his words; if I had to give a single reason to play RDR2 it is these characters and these interactions.

  • ROW: We shouldn’t say too much more about the story because it is clearly a big part of the game; however, we should discuss the story missions themselves, because we have two very different opinions on them!
  • ND: Yeah, because you are again wrong and a lunatic! The missions are not good! They don’t incorporate the world and systems around them; they feel like their own instance of the world, but without what makes the world fun or interesting. You simply go somewhere, do something with a character or more, and then you shoot people who engage you in the most “brain-dead” way possible that makes you feel invincible!
  • ROW: And that’s why I like them! They act as a release from the frustrating parts of RDR2, a chance to use your arsenal and dead eye ability in an overpowering and “gamey” way; I would have loved for that to be possible while existing in the world without some restrictions, but I really enjoy doing these missions as they are.
  • ND: I get that and I think there could be some side stuff alongside some goofy main missions to feel that void, but every mission so far has been that and I guess the disjointed nature of going from this intricate and interconnected world to a mission area where none of that matters is too much for me, and I simply think that it feels old and bad compared to the rest of the game; also, this is a good spot to mention the amazing music—everything from the “exploring” and “travelling” tracks to “shooting” and “action” tracks are really good and dynamic—which certainly helps the entire game, but really saves the story missions for me because you get to experience a lot of the dynamism and how well each track works with each other in a short span of time.
  • ROW: Well, I guess that brings us to the emerging storytelling aspects of the game and how we look at them; for me, they’re fine. There are several moments where I made a decision according to my mind-cannon and have them revert back or not matter at all (like discovering a shopkeeper’s “side business” and being so angry at him that I shot him, only to visit his shop next day and find him alive and angry that I “caused trouble”), but a lot of the systems and details still allow me to create great narratives in my head and role-play in an engaging and satisfying way.
  • ND: For me, it’s one of the most engaging experiences I’ve had in a longtime; I didn’t run in to similar ‘problems’ like yours, because I didn’t explore locations as thoroughly as you have, but the fact that people remember who you are and what you did, witnesses ratting you to the law, all of these details that are represented in the world and by characters make this one of the most immersive role-play experiences in recent memory.
  • ROW: I don’t disagree with you, but to steal your own words, every aspect of this game has a unique, engaging, entertaining, and outstanding side to it, as well as one that feels old and underwhelming; each element has varying volumes of praiseworthy and middling qualities, and it will only matter to some people, but it’s there and some of that stuff matters to us!
  • ND: So, is that it for RDR2?
  • ROW: Like with Assassin’s Creed, we’ll keep playing it and we’ll eventually roll credits; if we have something new to say, maybe we’ll do a third part, but for now I’m just gonna spend some more time in the Wild West!

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