PLEASE BE WARNED – SPOILERS AHEAD FOR BOTH REDEMPTION GAMES.
I REPEAT SPOILERS AHEAD.
First of all this isn’t really a review as such but my thoughts on the latest Rockstar game. I also don’t claim to know a lot about gaming.
For anyone who knows me, knows that I count the first Red Dead Redemption game as one of my favourite games of all time. John Marston was a brilliant, well written and in-depth character that even though he had done terrible things whilst running with the gang, you rooted for him. I felt genuine grief when at the end, John was duped at believing he could retire and shot to death by the people he had been working for, all in the name of redemption. It was always written in the cards for John and I believe that he truly knew he wasn’t meant to grow old. He was one of my favourite protagonists to play.
This was until Arthur Morgan.
Arthur Morgan brings a new depth to this franchise that I can’t praise enough. He is more complex than John and more self aware. Another character that you just can’t help but root for, despite his criminality. Rockstar have truly raised the bar by creating this amazing, brilliant and complicated character.
Now I played Arthur as honourable however, what was interesting to me was that he would still say he was a terrible man despite me doing good deeds. It made me think that deep down he hated what they were doing but didn’t know any different and knew this was the life he had written for himself. He was a good man and cared about certain things, which again was interesting when a horse or housepet would die, you weren’t able to skin said animal. He cared for horses especially, as shown in one of the moments at the end (if you bonded fully), your own horse succumbs to injuries caused in the last battle, he strokes it as it takes it’s last breath and simply says “thank you.” This BROKE me. It also showed Arthur to be absolutely respectful and compassionate towards his only true companion during the whole game.
Before I just use this as an opportunity to just gush about him, I will write about the story. It is split into chapters of where your gang is at the time which I quite enjoyed having the definitive chapter. The main plot, if you like, is that the gang leader, Dutch, wants a big score to enable the gang to retire on a tropical island. Every time you do a job you get a share and so does the gang, this irritated me slightly only because you basically do the work, and you contribute (well I did) and then get Susan coming up to you saying you don’t contribute enough… (Screw you, Susan)
One of the most devastating moments of the game is when Arthur gets diagnosed with tuberculosis or consumption as it was also known. Not only because he realises his own fate but also the irony that he spent years being an outlaw and gunslinging, but it was a disease that he caught beating someone up that would kill him. He writes that in his journal, which I also loved to look at to see the drawings and entries he would do. As his health deteriorated, his entries became more astute to the world around him and the gang he runs with. One of the final entries is simply what he wishes after his demise. It is a sad and brilliant touch in my opinion. As you may or may not know, his ultimate demise is dependant on your actions throughout the game (high or low) and also whether you choose to get Dutch’s money at the last hurdle. I chose not to and whilst he still does die, he just succumbs to his disease as the sun rises. Another poignant moment which brought tears to my eyes.
I won’t delve too much into the main storyline but will say that it’s immersive and at times thrilling to be a part of. I didn’t quite warm to the characters to begin with, having hunted the majority in the first game but seeing the downwards spiral of Dutch’s mental state is intense. In fact, the parallel of Dutch’s mental state and Arthur’s physical state is not necessarily obvious but it feels poignant. Arthur as he becomes more unwell does become more perceptive of what is wrong with the world. It was interesting as it seemed as though as I said before that he became more insightful into the world he lived in when he was diagnosed and you can really tell that when playing through not only the main missions but the optional ones.
One of the things I found monotonous was general fishing and hunting for legendary animals. The fishing more so but then I find real fishing boring so it’s no surprise! I did enjoy the fact the hunting aspect was for survival (aside from legendaries). You needed to do it to provide for the camp and yourself, if you didn’t eat you became underweight, which affected your abilities (another nice touch). I also felt at times like the main provider of camp, come on Charles you taught me to hunt and can’t go kill a deer for everyone. Selfish bastard.
There’s not much I didn’t like. I enjoyed this game far too much to focus on the negative to be honest. So many little details like the random encounters that are just brilliant and inspired. The graphics were stunning and jaw dropping that at times it didn’t feel like a game.
Arthur Morgan was just amazing to play and it broke my heart to see him deteriorate during the game and to also see him almost become a forgotten man in history. I didn’t like him to begin with but he became a redeemable character that I loved to take through his journey. He has since knocked John Marston off my top choice of character to play.
So, in the wise words of Mr Morgan, “it’s Arthur, you dumbass”.