Red Dead Redemption 2 – Worth the Wait

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| March 10, 2023

Have you ever had one of those games that sits in your queue and taunts you because you don’t have the time in your hectic schedule to sit down and do a thorough playthrough? Making sure to have the time to give the game your undivided, deserving attention? Red Dead Redemption 2 was that game for me. It sat in my queue for four years. Four years! Hearing that the main story was around 50 hours long, with an expected 178 hours for 100% completion, was daunting. 

Everyone that knows me who played this game on release kept chiding me to make the time for it. They knew I’d love this game. I knew I’d love this game. I played the original Red Dead Redemption on release with the rest of the world and fell in love with the redeemable outlaw, John Marston. However, because RDR1 had such a large world to explore, as thorough as I was, I still missed a lot on my first playthrough. I didn’t want to make that same mistake for RDR2. I wanted that 100% completion on my first playthrough. I know; I was being ambitious. After four years, there was no excuse not to be able to obtain it. 

I was finally ready for this new adventure. I decided I was going to play RDR2 over the winter. I had kept myself in the dark about the story. I did an excellent job because I didn’t know what to expect. It’s exactly what I wanted. 

I was a bit nervous. What if I didn’t like this new main protagonist as much as I liked John Marston? What if this new character tried too hard to be the rugged cowboy outlaw and had little to no personality? I would be stuck with him for at least 50 hours or more. I hoped Rockstar put as much detail into him as they did the scenery. 

Enter Arthur Morgan

The first chapter of the game throws you into the midst of the Van der Linde gang making a harrowing escape from a situation gone wrong. They’re on the run. There are a lot of new characters within the gang to meet within a short period of time. The first chapter functions mainly as a tutorial yet sets up the next portion of the story. You get brief insights into the different members of the gang, but more information is needed to complete the puzzle. I wasn’t sure about our new main character yet. 

Chapter 2 is where the fun begins. The map and story really open up in Chapter 2. I will pass on the main solid advice everyone else passed on to me when I started playing the game: Stay in Chapter 2 as long as possible. Chapter 2 was where I finally fell in love with Arthur Morgan. It wasn’t immediate. It took time. Despite Arthur being a fictional character, Rockstar did a phenomenal job with writing for his character. He’s multifaceted, nuanced, and complex. Roger Clark did a fantastic job of bringing this character to life. 

As I played through the story and my side missions, I realized everyone’s experience in this vast game could be very different. Which story missions did you do first? In what order did you follow through? Are you playing high honor or low honor? Are you working on the side missions and item requests? Did you have a difficult time with the challenges? How long did it take you to upgrade your satchel? How did you handle the random encounters? Did you see this camp conversation? What do you think about this gang member? Who’s your favorite? How was the weather? Did you get all the journal entries? Did you visit all the points of interest? Did you find all the easter eggs? Where are the moose?! 

From train jobs to bank jobs, roaming snowy mountain tops to mucking through swamps, lavish parties, mad scientists, robots, old family feuds, gang rivalries, treasure hunting, solving mysteries, encountering UFOs, a friendly giant, legendary gunslingers, finding dinosaur bones, helping a time traveler, playing poker on a river boat and moseying through small or large bustling towns. There is so much to do and see! 

As I asked my friends about their own experiences, I saw how uniquely different these events shaped ‘their Arthur.’ I don’t think I’ve ever played a major game where people refer to the main character as their own. It’s a unique phenomenon. “My Arthur” is usually how the story starts. We’ve realized that the RDR2 experience is unique for each person who plays. If you’re ambitious enough to do multiple playthroughs, no two playthroughs will ever be the same. I thought this was brilliant. How did a video game this big pull this off? 

Arthur’s AI seemed intuitive to my play style. There were multiple times in my first playthrough where it was eerie how in tune he seemed with what I was thinking or how I wanted him to react in the specific situation. Comparing notes, others noticed this as well, but eerily enough, we each had different reactions to our varying situations. Does each Arthur have his own algorithm that changes depending on our playthrough, playstyle, and honor choice? 

As I played through the main story, I noticed that the game seems to steer you toward high honor. If you pay attention to the subtle details, Arthur’s own preference is toward high honor. If you take a low honor course, he feels remorse for his bad deeds and seems haunted by being “No different than Micah.” Everyone can agree: No one likes Micah. Micah is the worst. 

Hot Take

Arthur Morgan is a better man than John Marston. There. I said it. Since RDR2 is a prequel to RDR1, we get to see more of John and Abigail’s relationship dynamics before marriage. I knew they didn’t have a great start, but man, it was really rough. John Marston treated Abigail and his son, Jack, horribly. It made me furious. How dare you, John Marston? Some of the camp events that took place between the two made me want a fight club option just to drag John out of camp and punch him in the face. The man needed some sense knocked into him. I was surprised by my rollercoaster change of emotion toward this once beloved character. John was the first character I antagonized in the game. 

Arthur’s story is one of honor. John’s story is true to redemption in all aspects of his life. I liked the stark contrast between these two main characters. I wanted Arthur to be very different from John in every way. I got my wish. I forgave John like Abigail did, but it was begrudgingly. It was great to see Rob Wiethoff return as John. He did a great job shedding more light on John’s transformation as a man for the better. 

Breathtaking Scenery & Changing Weather

This game is beautiful! The different regions of the map have their own unique features and ambiance. Every detail feels spectacularly real, from the mountains to the valleys to the plains, desert, forest, swamps and shorelines. 

Too many times, I have just stopped to appreciate the scenery, take a few pictures and watch the sunrise or sunset from an elevated vantage point. Watching a storm roll in from the top of a mountain puts me in awe of the engine driving the game mechanic. 

I spent many enjoyable hours wandering through the terrain, hunting specific animals for camp or satchel upgrades, and looking for specific three-star pelts for unique outfits from the Trapper. I have some favorite hunting spots I find myself returning to if the camp runs low on meat. Fishing is a great way to pass the time, and going after the Legendary Fish can be frustratingly fun. 

The changing weather patterns set the tone for various areas of the map, and the deeper you get into the story, it starts to feel like the whole world is against you as the frequency of storms increases. I was impressed by how the settings changed the tone of the story’s progression. Elemental storytelling at its finest: Life can change as quickly as the weather.

Horses, Guns, and Clothes

This game has so many options! You can either purchase a horse from the stables with hard-earned stolen money or go out to the wilderness and tame some rare, wild horses. It all depends on your playstyle. I prefer to seek out some of the faster horses in the wild to call my own. 

If you can purchase a gun from the catalog, you can customize it. I always recommend upgrading the stats for peak performance. You can change the metal, inlay carvings, and wood of the stock. Depending on your honor level, special items for customization unlock as well. “I can’t wait to try this out!” 

What kind of notorious outlaw would you be if you couldn’t customize your wardrobe? I love the options for different outfits you can create. There are rare hats you can find throughout the map to add to whatever theme you may be going for. Every Arthur is different unless you play the entire game in his default clothes. I admit I was going to try, but when I got that first letter from Mary Linton, I had to take that man shopping for some new duds. No, sir, I wasn’t about to let that man show up in a dirty shirt to face his long-lost, beautiful ex, who he still had feelings for. 

A rare item request given by Mr. Pearson rewards you with the elusive scout jacket. A fancy man named Algernon Wasp will create a unique hat if you bring him a plethora of sparse exotic materials. 

100% Completed

I did it. My first playthrough was 100% completed, and then some. I was methodical in my approach to the story. I didn’t want to miss anything. I wanted to experience the game as it was intended to be experienced. I refused to rush. I am glad I waited to play RDR2 when I had the time and mental energy to devote to this beautifully told tragedy. The writing, the scenery, and the characters were unforgettable. It’s one of the best games I have ever played, and it will remain one of my ultimate favorites for years to come. 

Will there be a RDR3? According to the quarterly financial results report at the end of 2022 by Rockstar’s mother company Take-Two Interactive, RDR2 sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It was the number one selling game on Steam during the last quarter of 2022, as well as the number three game for the whole year of 2022. According to Take-Two’s CEO, RDR2’s sales performance “outpaced expectations.” 

If a game that is four years old keeps gaining momentum and retains profitability, I don’t see why Rockstar would hesitate to green-light the next installment of the series. Maybe this time around, they will give the online free roam and DLC more attention to eke out further profits rolling into the future. They better have a grand plan. As Dutch Van der Linde always says, “We need more money!” The fans are ready to fork it over, Rockstar, in exchange for a detailed, lovingly told story that endears us to our beloved outlaws for life. 

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