Red Dead Redemption II

By now I’m sure many of my readers know how much I love the Red Dead Redemption games, so it seems only fitting that I write a dedicated post for two of my favorite games of all time.  This post will contain spoilers for both games, so I would suggest not reading it if you play the games and have not yet completed the stories.

When Red Dead Redemption came out, I was interested, but wasn’t in the financial position to spend money on a game I wasn’t sure I would like.  Fortunately, one of my brothers had borrowed a copy from a friend, and he then let me borrow it for a couple weeks.  I was hooked from the very beginning.  The story, the characters, the game play mechanics—everything about the game was perfect.  I snatched up my own copy on sale and played it many times over the years.  I probably finished the main story at least 10 times, each time just as upsetting as my first play through, if not more so the longer I spent with John Marston.

When Red Dead Redemption II was announced, I was super excited.  I counted the days until release and had scheduled vacation in preparation for returning to the old west.  I was a retail store manager at the time and warned my employees that I was not to be contacted at all during that vacation unless a dragon attacked the store.  I wanted to forget about the stress from my job and enjoy my time with Dutch’s gang.  And that was exactly what I did.

We all knew that RDR2 was likely to come to a sad ending and that friends would become enemies.  John Marston has been one of my favorite game characters for so many years that I doubted this Arthur Morgan guy could ever live up.  Rockstar did a great job in Arthur’s character.  You can’t help but like him and feel for him during his struggles.  From his lost love Mary to his decline in health and the betrayal of his former mentor.  If there is a single person who was able to play through the game to the end without shedding a single tear, I don’t want to meet that person.  We lived as Arthur, and we felt the pain as he saw the gang—his family—torn apart.  That final scene with him on the mountain was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever experienced, and part of me hates Rockstar for giving me yet another character I loved only to take him away.  Thankfully, the epilogue is cheerful and full of hope, even though we know how that story ends.

After completing the story, I spent many hours playing Red Dead Online…before Rockstar made changes to discourage us long-time fans from playing.  I can spend hours just hunting in the game and be content.  Sometimes it is just the escape one needs from everyday life.  I’m sure someday I will return to it, but it has not been my focus lately, and Rockstar’s update seems to have broken several gameplay mechanics, so I will at least wait until after they have fixed it.  I don’t often like to play online because I am not a huge fan of PVP anymore—not since my days of Halo 2.  However, it seems that most of the RDO community are friendly folks just wanting to enjoy the game.  My friends and I have hunted down many griefers over time for disrupting our gameplay.  I even once hunted my husband relentlessly for killing my horse.

Griefers aside, the online community of fellow Red Dead players is mostly enjoyable.  I remember one time I was chasing down a bounty in Rhoads.  A low-level player was in the area and hid when the shooting started.  As I hogtied my bounty target, I could see this player patting my horse, a brindle Thoroughbred named Zeus.  I put the bounty on my horse, climbed into the saddle, nodded to the player, and took off.  Another encounter included what I think was an actual female player.  She was hanging out on top of the train and I climbed on south of Annesburg.  One of the daily challenges that day was to ride the train for some distance, and another was to kill five flying birds from the train.  We rode the train together, me shooting birds from a flat car as we went, her just standing on top of a box car, watching me.  I was sad when I had both of my challenges in and left my new friend at Wallace Station to continue on my way.  If only all online players were so courteous and polite.

Going back to the main story of RDR2, I was quite surprised by another character in the game: Dutch van der Linde.  I told myself when I started playing that I was not going to fall for Rockstar’s tricks.  Dutch was an arrogant ass, and I would never like him as a person.  I was wrong.  His charm and intelligence made me see him differently, until he decided to change and turn on those who he should have protected.  The events of RDR2 did let us see that Dutch wasn’t always a horrible person—he once cared about his gang like a family and did what he thought was best to protect them.  It was only after things started to go bad that he lost his way and fell apart.  He put his faith in the wrong people and those who cared the most about him suffered.  I have no doubt this is what made Dutch the crazy person we see in RDR, a man with no reason to live after turning on his own family.  It makes sense why John was so hesitant to kill him as Dutch was his only real surviving parental figure, even after the horrendous crimes Dutch committed following the events of RDR2.  He became a shadow of what he wanted to be—he became a man hiding in the mountains without a plan.

There was another reason I was so drawn to Dutch.  One I didn’t realize until one of my employees pointed it out to me: I am Dutch.  Not the crazy, trigger happy Dutch, but the leader people look up to for guidance.  I would say so many times at work “I have a plan” without even realizing I said it.  Unlike Dutch, my plans actually had a purpose and a goal, not just “we need more money,” and they usually worked out.  As I started to see the similarities between myself and Dutch, I began to like the character even more.  My one employee would sometimes call me Dutch, and I began to call him Arthur since he has several of the same characteristics: caring (though sometimes it is hidden, just like Arthur), loyalty, and not afraid to question the rules or the leadership of good old Dutch.  We both left that job, but remained friends, and now find ourselves working again for the same company, just not together.  Addicted Geeks has sort of become our own van der Linde gang, only without illegal activities like robbing trains or banks.

We have a plan.  We just have to have some faith.

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