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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some spoilers for the main storyline (rescuing Micah) in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

How are your saves?

I have two weeks worth backed up. Backs up each slot three times. Check. You should be fine.

This is why you have me.

Feminina:

I didn’t see anything in the online saves after January 21, for some reason.

Maybe we did have to set it up. And it expired near the beginning of the year.

I don’t know, man, weird. But the last thing there is from January.

Butch:

Seriously?

It renews automatically. Check again. I didn’t set up shit. I was surprised at how many I had.

Well, despite the fact that I know for a fact that Mr. O’s missing save is in there in the cloud (if you have saves from Jan. 21st you have saves from this week….did you go to “saved data management” or just the PLUS sign?) (Plus doesn’t expire on Jan. 21st unless you got it on Jan. 21st. It lasts a year from purchase.) (I’m this close to just going to your house and finding it), we have to talk about something and luckily I have something to say about something you did.

Here goes.

So we were doing ok with themes. We were. We had the death of Americana, we had anti-semitism, we had the shift to banking economies in the 20th century, we had all sorts of shit.

But then I did Micah’s mission and shot up Strawberry last night.

I thought hard about whether there was some sort of themeage there. I said “Well, maybe Micah is showing that there’s good and bad in Americana,” but I realized Arthur kinda sucks, too. So really, I got nothing.

Which got me to thinking, and this is our jumping off point today: I can’t think of a single level IN ANY GAME that is primarily combat that has themeage. Any game! It’s like games, all games, kinda say “Yup, we got this narrative going, but we’re going to stop for a while so you can kill Kevin.” That is, games with combat. We’ll except the Gone Homes of the world.

And, well, that’s kinda lame.

Now, I get the idea of combat being a thing in a game like TR or UC. Those games need combat because they are, at their core, exciting. But a game like this, or Mafia, or ME, those games are about story, and bigassed combat set pieces like last night interrupt everything in the story.

So two questions:

1) Do you think combat and theme really are mutually exclusive? and
2) if they are, does that mean that bigassed combat set pieces are simply remnants of what we think games “should be?” Like, “Well, games have big fight scenes, so we’re gonna put them in even if they don’t fit?” and
3) If THAT’S so, should they go away? Should a game like this only have little bits, small shootouts, quick things to set the realism, and be done with it?

Ok, three questions.

Feminina:

You’d better come to my house and find it, then. I went to “application saved data management” > “saved data in online storage” which both seemed obvious AND is what the internet said when I checked in case I was missing something. When I selected RDR2 from the list of games, I saw saves dated from Jan. something (I forget) to Jan. 21, and nothing after that. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, but I don’t know what else to tell you–that’s what I saw. I looked very carefully. I was really hoping it would be there!

I mean, I’ll check again. Maybe it…hadn’t synced up yet…with the saves it hasn’t been doing…or something….

COME TO MY HOUSE AND FIX IT. I’ll get booze.

And yeah. Micah and Strawberry. That was…not fun. Remember way back in Dragon Age 2, when Anders was plotting behind our backs to blow up the Chantry? And we were just SO ANGRY with him? I really, really wanted to punch that character. And you couldn’t, because attacking him wasn’t an option!

I felt about the same regarding Micah. Micah is a jerk. If it had been an option in the game to just abandon him, I think I would have, but when I tried hanging back he’d get killed and it would reload. So you HAD to stick with him and help him in his stupid attempt to murder everyone in town.

And, I mean, whatever, the lawmen are our natural enemies in this game because we’re outlaws, so I don’t PREFER having to fight 15 of them and wind up with a $145 bounty on my head, but OK.

But when he went to that house, and killed the dude on the porch, and, I assume, the woman inside? You don’t murder civilians, dude! That’s basically the only moral principle I try to stick to. (I mean, I don’t always succeed. I ran over a few people in Mafia 3. But not on purpose, damn it.)

I already knew Micah was a jerk from, I don’t know, every time he’s ever said anything, but I was genuinely kind of shocked at that bit. (Forgot for a moment that this is a Rockstar game, I guess.) And even though Arthur apparently wasn’t that shocked (more annoyed and inconvenienced), and doesn’t find this to be beyond the pale, I personally rather resented having to help Micah after that, instead of just shooting him myself and running off. “Sorry Dutch! He died in the gunfight. Nothing I could do.”

I mean, OK, we’re all outlaws, we beat up people to collect debts, we’re not good guys, but there are LEVELS of bad guy. Micah is just a flat awful, bad person, AND he inconvenienced me with a large bounty I’ll have to pay off. I hate him, and I’m annoyed that I have to tolerate him because Arthur tolerates him (to be fair, Arthur clearly doesn’t LIKE him, and is only putting up with him because Dutch for some reason likes him).

Oh, and that ominous “I’ve been a bad boy” before he rides off…we’ll probably find out he’s been burning schoolhouses full of children to the ground, or something, and we’ll STILL have to forgive him.

I know the game is intentionally setting all this up so we can appreciate how frustrating this is for Arthur when Dutch keeps going along with it, or whatever, and OK, I guess I respect how effectively it’s managing my feelings. I suspect Micah is going to come up with another big plan that will be clearly a bad idea, but Dutch will think it’s great, and everything will go to hell again just like in Blackwater, and we’re supposed to be concerned and angry about this and about why Micah has this influence over Dutch, and how we used to be close with Dutch but now we’re drifting apart and so forth. And they probably want to make Micah as unsympathetic as possible to make sure we get all these implications.

Still. I’m extremely annoyed that I couldn’t at least punch him in his stupid face before he left. WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN SO HARD, GAME?

As to your questions…uh…hm.

1) I guess I don’t think combat and theme are mutually exclusive since I just spent 8 million words complaining about how a combat scene affects my feelings toward a character and how that fits into a larger narrative of character relationships, get-rich-quick schemes and looming disaster.

2) Big-assed combat set pieces in some games may indeed be remnants of things we expect all games to have, like “you gotta have some big fights in a game!” Certainly in some games, some combats do feel tacked on just because it seems like there should be a fight about now. I don’t know if I think this one was, exactly…I think it was there specifically to show us that Micah is a huge jerk, and is also reckless and doesn’t care how much trouble he stirs up, so he’s bad at planning for the future, we have a good reason to distrust his schemes, etc. I think we did actually learn something from this big fight, so I didn’t feel that it was just tacked on so there could be a big fight. Now, if they KEEP doing this, if every few missions results in a big-assed combat set piece, then yeah. That would start to feel out of place. And, in a game striving so hard to be realistic (in some ways at least) it would quickly strain belief. I don’t care how wild the west was, you didn’t have one guy or a couple of guys wiping out half a town in the same general area every week or so, and everyone else going about their business as if things were fine. (Did you take a bath at the hotel in Strawberry before all that went down? I took a bath. You can pay extra for a woman to come in and scrub your arms and legs for you. I assume that’s sort of a euphemism, like, heh heh, “scrub your legs,” heh–but in fact all that it showed was her washing you. I suppose I’ll take what non-violent human contact I can get.)

3) Should they go away? Well…sure, in some games it would totally make sense for giant fights to go away. No argument here.

Discuss! Or something, I’ve kind of lost track of where we are on this.

Butch:

You had me at booze.

Easy way to check. Go to “notifications.” Hit “options.” Select “Uploads.” That’ll call up a list of everything it’s ever uploaded ever ever. You might have to scroll some. If you see something more recent, then there ya go.

So what is your plan if it’s gone? Let Mr. O play for a while to get to where he was? Does he even want to do that?

If he does, he’ll get there by the end of the weekend anyway, cuz this is Mr. O. And I’m STILL behind you. Even with Micah and the weird guy taking pictures of wildlife and me finding his bag (I have a feeling I missed something there, as that was rather pat. “Hi! My bag! Hey thanks.” Seems like I missed something…..) and the New York guy giving me all that exposition about the mayor, I’m STILL at 17.6. How the fuck are you more than 20?

We’ll still have bloggage.

Micah…I wonder, though, what if we had just walked? At the point there where it told us to hook that thing up to free him, could we have just said “fuck this” and got on ol’ Roach? We’ll never know.

I only would up with $85 for bounty, but still. That cleaned me out.

I’ll never fast travel. Ever ever. So very broke.

LOVELY chicken coop, though.

Fuck.

YEAH! Civilians! I wasn’t cool with that, either.

But…well….wait. Arthur’s not even really putting up with him. He’s ONLY doing this because he likes Dutch and…..wait for it…..he does what Dutch tells him.

See, for all this “We live FREE!” stuff, they don’t. Dutch pretty much rules with an iron fist. Sure, he does it with a smile and says “But look what I give you!” But:

1) he doesn’t give them all that much,
2) he expects “tithing” in return (fuck you even have to upgrade HIS tent before yours)
3) he ALWAYS insists on his way.

Look at all the times people have said “Dutch….no…..” and he just says “YES!” and that’s it.

And why? Because he has them all convinced that a) they owe him and b) there isn’t anyone BUT him who can give them anything worth a shit. He also fills their heads with false hope based on “facts” that he knows. That speech about how “It was worse in Europe, it’s better here, and soon it’s going to be” (I’mm’a go there) “great again.”

Yup. I’mm’a gonna go there.

Cuz it seems that I can think of a situation, a real life situation, where a bunch of folks, good, solid, traditional Americans, seem to follow a leader who doesn’t give them all that much, expects a ton in return, won’t listen to anyone who tells him he shouldn’t do what he wants to do, convinces them that he’s the only one who can give them anything worth a shit….

I can also think of a real world situation where some of these traditional Americans might be a bit disquieted by the other traditional Americans in their coalition, like, say, Christian Evangelicals who might not, say, like, oh, I don’t know, someone who’s been married three times and messes around with, dunno, grasping here, porn stars.

But hey. Children of Dutch stick together. And Dutch gets his way.

Indeed, Micah even calls them CHILDREN of Dutch. That’s a loaded term, right?

And Children of Dutch do what they’re told. Even if they don’t like each other at all.

Cuz they’re living free. Like good, traditional Americans.

You think we’ll have to forgive Micah? I think we’re NOT going to forgive him. That this is a fault line between Dutch and Arthur.

And wait….you think Micah’s calling the shots? I don’t. He wound up in jail cuz he got drunk and picked a fight. I don’t think Dutch goes along with anything. People go along with Dutch.

Still….the combat seemed a bit much. There was wave after wave after wave, and the thing that REALLY made him seem like a jerk was killing that guy, and that wasn’t part of the fight itself. Felt a whole lot like they were adding fighty bits to the fighty bits just because they wanted fighty bits.

Giant fights should go away. Just like boss fights. And swimming.

And look, we’re doing well! See, this week was a blessing in disguise. Mr. O will catch up to himself over the weekend, I’ll catch up to you while he does that, we’ll get back in sync, won’t have to worry about you forgetting stuff, it’ll be all good!

Well done, Femmy!

Feminina:

Notifications and Uploads…OK, I’ll look.

I said “if you tell me what you’ve done, I’ll go do the same things to get the game back to where you were so you don’t have to do it all over,” and he said that was OK, that he’d get back into it eventually, when he could face the thought of it. So we’ll see.

I still feel bad.

And I didn’t mean Micah has influence over Dutch in the sense that Micah directly tells Dutch what to do and Dutch does it, or anything. Micah is definitely not in charge. As you said, Dutch is the boss and he does what he wants, and tells everyone else what to do and they like it or lump it.

I just meant influence in the sense that he can say “hey, Dutch, here’s an idea!” and Dutch for some reason likes it, more than he likes other (more sensible) ideas. Sort of the way bloviating propaganda TV station figures might have ‘influence’ over a megalomaniacal wannabe-tyrant leader who does whatever he wants, but also whatever sounds like a good idea at the moment. To take a random example.

Micah’s not calling the shots, but he’s suggesting things to shoot at, and Dutch is going for it. I mean, we’ve been told that the Blackwater thing that went to hell was his idea, right? And Dutch was strangely into it, even though it wasn’t the kind of thing they normally did? And it turned out badly, but nevermind, onward and upward, things will be great again soon!

Also, yeah, that “we are children of Dutch, and so we are brothers” thing was dense with meaning. And how they’re on horseback, facing in opposite directions…the scene just screams “inter-family conflict ahead! moral rifts that will tear the gang apart!”

So good point, maybe we won’t forgive him when we find out about the burning schoolhouses or whatever other bad things he’s been doing. Maybe that will be the breaking point.

I hope we get to punch him in his stupid face.

Also a fair point I forgot to address–what if we’d refused to bust Micah out of jail? I think we couldn’t have done that forever. It was a yellow quest mission, and I think at some point we had to do that to move on with the story.

I mean, I really only did it because I was kind of out of other stuff to do already (except go after that bounty that filled me with seething white-hot rage before, and screw bounties).

I think we had to do it if we wanted to keep playing the game.

Butch:

Hmm. That likely means that this WAS setting up a plot point later. We are still in chapter 2, after all. Can’t go letting major characters die. But you can start creating rifts between major characters.

But that’s a very noble compromise you offered! Makes perfect sense, really. And this time, SAVE A LOT OF PLACES! SLOTS! USE THEM!

And check notifications/uploads.

“When he can face the thought of it.” Mr. O, thy name is melodrama.

We must put this behind us. Live and learn.

Whoa, really? Blackwater was Micah’s idea? I missed that. That changes how I look at stuff, then. I didn’t catch that.

We’ll likely shoot him at some point.

Did you find his “camp behind sweetwater?” I didn’t look. Paid my bounty and turned it off.

What have you done that I haven’t? I’m running out of icons in general. I have the Mary thing where I have to get her brother back (might do that next, as I have some ideas on theme), getting dude back from Blackwater and the gunslinger stuff that vortexed you away. And a couple of bounties. Ha.

I’ll try to stay on your track until you get back on track and tell me you’re playing again.

Feminina:

Ha–“face the thought of it” was me, not him. He didn’t actually say that. He said he would get back to it “at some point.” I read into it.

And yeah, I swear Arthur says something–maybe it was in his journal–about how the boat thing in Blackwater was a scheme Dutch and Micah were working on while Arthur and Hosea had something else in the works. So, OK, maybe he didn’t specifically say it was all Micah’s idea, but certainly Micah was involved while he, Arthur, was not. And that boat thing was the thing that went all to hell and they had to leave Blackwater and all their stuff, etc. etc.

I’m pretty sure the implication was that Dutch does stuff when he’s around Micah that a) he wouldn’t have done otherwise or in ‘the old days,’ and b) turn out badly. Because we also have to remember that Micah is comparatively new in the gang (again, from what’s been said). So he’s a brother, but also an interloper…a NEW brother who’s taking up all daddy’s attention.

Or, alternatively, he’s a bad, outside influence on a once-close and loving family, a PRETENDER to brotherhood, and represents…I don’t know, the ugly brutal future of heartless banking and sociopathic murder, juxtaposed against the wholesome good old days when all we did was…hold up stagecoaches or whatever. It’s an imperfect analogy, since the old days likely weren’t actually that good, but I think we can read some of it into the story.

Butch:

Melodrama your name is Femmy.

(Nicely done on getting the console to yourself again. I kid, I kid. Sorta.)

On Micah: Huh. I believe you, just missed it. That does make me ponder. I was reading it as Micah being the village idiot, in a way, and Dutch having a soft spot for him, not someone that anyone takes any kind of seriously. But, if that’s true and I missed it, which is fairly likely, then…hmm.

Well, I can see him presented like that, as an outsider who ruins everything (and that’s consistent with the metaphor: there’s lots of people who are into American traditions who are all “Well, wait….we are rather conservative but these white nationalists and whatnot do not speak for us….they’re newcomers to our party (ha) as it were and waaaah they’re getting daddy’s attention), but it’s interesting that my reaction to this quest was “Maybe this is juxtaposing the bad of the gang against the good….oh….wait…..” You’ve said many a time: Arthur is NOT good. Which, if you keep up with the metaphor, also makes some sense. Certain elements of Americana talk on the good ol’ days, and decry white nationalists and all that, but they also harken back to days of segregation, and women in the home, and “before all this PC nonsense.” So, are they really all that different?

I feel bad I started today thinking there were no themes.

This game’s got themes.

Feminina:

True, true. You have to be instantly suspicious of any nostalgic look back to any good old days. Good for whom, and in what specific ways, and in comparison to what specific feature of today?

I mean, no doubt, there are ways in which I might feel that previous times were better than current times. But there are also ways in which I might feel that they were worse, and if you’re basing any kind of policy decisions on nostalgia, you have to consider the whole package or you’re just being stupid. That, or trying to slide something by other people you think are stupid enough to fall for it. (Maybe they are! People ARE stupid. It’s a known fact. I mean, look at me, I can’t even save a game properly.)

Like, remember when we all young and spry and childless and could stay up playing video games literally all night? Weekends of nothing but Dragon Age Origins and maybe a pause to eat something! And the D&D! Think of the epic D&D sessions! Man, those were good times.

But then you also have to remember that we didn’t have nearly as many good games to play, and couldn’t afford nearly the same caliber of booze, and I DO like my kids most days, so I don’t REALLY want to return to that past when they didn’t exist.

We can smile and remember those happy days all we like as fond memories, but the minute we start seriously saying “we need to get back to,” or “things should be more like” those days, the rose-colored glasses have to come off and we have to start thinking hard about the ENTIRETY of those days and exactly what it would actually mean to go back or be more like them.

Like, OK, how do we get rid of the children? Can we just abandon them in the woods and hope they don’t follow a trail of breadcrumbs home, or will we have to actively hire a huntsman to kill them and bring us their hearts? (Like THAT ever works.) And…now I’m evil.

Nostalgia is a poisonous trap, man. I don’t trust anybody talking about the good old days or how wise our ancestors were. If they were so damn wise, why did they produce us?

On the other hand, I obviously don’t think all of modern life is awesome. After all, it was produced by our flawed and stupid ancestors (as well as us) and a lot of it is frankly terrible. I just don’t think that means the past was automatically better. It was terrible in different ways. Like slavery, and polio! To pick merely two of the thousands of things that were bad about the old days!

So I think Arthur’s longing for the old days is suspect, and if he wants to return to them he’s obviously doomed to failure, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong to be leery of the future, either, especially if the future is Micah’s schemes and institutional control of everything (represented by the government and the idea of big banking).

Basically, the moral so far is probably that he’s just screwed, as are we all, because life is terrible.

At least he has booze!

Butch:

And the nostalgia thing, again, I think is why they chose to tell this particular story (and this particular metaphor at this particular time) as a Western, that genre that revels in false, whitewashed nostalgia like no other. Or, at the very least, a nostalgia of a very narrow strip of the grand demographic, that is, the people who think that white dudes in white hats murdering everyone else so white people can live in white houses in the heartland.

Remember, though, there are people who harken back to the time when things were…well…whiter. I won’t go so far as to say there are people who want to bring slavery back, but look at the backlash over the idea that maybe we should take down statues of people who were instrumental at perpetuating slavery because to take down said statues “disrespects our past glories” or some shit. Sure, hippies like us can say “Well, things kinda suck now, but do we really want to go back to the days when there was no gay marriage and abortion was illegal?” And there are, of course, lots of people say “Dudes, that’s WHY it sucks now. It was GREAT before (yup. Went there).”

And I think the game is skewering that. Our nostalgic depiction of the good ol’ days, of “freedom” and “unspoiled lands” and “great” times are being portrayed as pretty awful. There are no heroes. Even when Arthur looks like the good guy, he isn’t.

But then, I should say, he isn’t YET. We’re only in chapter 2.

As for life being terrible, well, I think he feels that way, too. What was the line? I think it was “I think maybe our time is coming to an end…and we’re gonna have to start paying for our sins.” That sounds like a man who thinks he is screwed.

He does have booze! That he does. And assorted biscuits.

Feminina:

Man, I wish I had assorted biscuits. I only have one kind of biscuit, and honestly, it sucks. It barely replenishes my health at all! I think one time it actually made me weaker!

Although that might have been because it wasn’t a biscuit, it was a 2-pound bag of peanut butter m&ms.

Butch:

Close enough.

Hey, my Arthur is “underweight,” and I can’t do anything about it! I even chased my camp stew with a chocolate bar, and still nothing!

How come I can’t eat biscuits, stew, chocolate and bourbon and be underweight? Lord knows I’ve tried.

Feminina:

Maybe you need to ride horses all day. It seems like you’d just be sitting, but according to the internet, riding actually burns a lot of calories. Plus there’s all that brushing and patting the horse, and the occasional gunfight…Arthur leads a very active life.

Or there are Microsoft’s suggested responses:

“What do you want to make?”
“I can’t either.”
“I’m so sorry for you.”

Uh…OK, Hotmail. Thanks for your input there.

Butch:

“I’m so sorry for you” works.

Still. Ever see Arthur on a treadmill? No. Does he own workout gear? No.

And yet HE’S the one who’s underweight.

Now that’s a reason to get mad at a game.