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Some spoilers for sidequests in Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

So I keep liking this game more and more, but I think that might have something to do with the grander picture of games in general, and not necessarily this game.

I’ll explain. In a long winded, roundabout way, as we do.

So yesterday I talked to John, stole a wagon (sorry, wagon driver. If it makes you feel better, the fifteen bucks your murder cost me will be missed), drove it to wherever, explored that house, found a card and fifty bucks, found a phrase that I was convinced was a cheat that wasn’t, went back, talked to John, talked to Abigail, learned to fish, met the Pinkerton.

The worst part of all of it? Stealing the wagon.

The best part? The fishing mission was very, very good. The kid, being all cheery, relaxed, THEN having that guy show up was great. I was tense as hell. Showed a great side of Arthur, turned up the tension, perfectly done.

And those two things got me to thinking.

This game started getting better when I had fewer quest markers on the board. When I was wandering around magpieing, it was less interesting. Now that it’s been more linear, the narrative is picking up, I care about the characters more, it’s much more enjoyable.

But, that said, you CAN magpie. Boy howdy, can you magpie. The most boring, frustrating, pointless session I’ve had in some time was the one where I charged around looking for treasure.

This is about the millionth game in a row that we’ve played that works so hard to tell a good story, then gives the player all the tools they can to try to break that story into little bits, and I think it’s become a problem in the way that developers think about games.

Look, I get that games aren’t movies. I LIKE that games aren’t movies! Games are great because they can be a little different for each player. They’re great because they are an art form that changes when the player touches it. BUT BUT BUT, there’s a big difference between having player choice THAT AFFECTS THE NARRATIVE and having the choice to run off and do whatever and breaks, or even ignores, the entire narrative. Developers seem to think that “player freedom” should be so extreme that it’s difficult to hold the narrative together even when you’re TRYING to hold the narrative together.

I said with Mafia 3, repeatedly, “this game can’t get out of its own way.” We said with Shadow that they couldn’t decide how much magpie to put it, and screwed up how much and when. Now, here we are again, with a game that’s threatening to get in its own way (and has, at times).

I don’t like this pattern. Or this trend.

But I am liking this game.

Feminina:

You monster! Why did you kill the wagon driver? When I did it the wagon was parked with no one on it (the driver was standing off to the side) and I just hopped on and drove it away. He ran after me shouting, but whatever. At least he was alive.

The fishing was nicely done. Kind of relaxing, although I kept half expecting the kid to fall in the river or get attacked by a bear or something so I’d have to save him, so I didn’t entirely relax. And then there WAS trouble, but not exactly what I was half expecting. The Pinkertons were menacing, indeed they were.

As for my adventures, I went to see what Micah wanted (remember after you get him out of Strawberry he tells you to come see him), and spoiler alert, he wants help robbing a bank coach.

So I tried several times to do that, but it was maddeningly ineffective because you’re trying to ride after it and shoot the guards on horseback, and I couldn’t get the hang of maintaining speed while aiming and shooting, and I couldn’t hit anyone, and Micah kept dying (which would have been fine with me, honestly, but no, the game won’t have it), and eventually I said hell with it.

Rob your own damn coach, man. I cancelled that mission and went after the bounty on Ellie Anne Swan instead, since I’d paid off my Valentine bounty on the way to see Micah.

She was an interesting character. She stabbed that guy she was with, and I wondered if maybe I could have saved him by acting faster, but…enh. Then she certainly tries every stereotypical feminine wile in the book on the way back. I wondered what would happen if I fell for one of them and cut her loose, which was an option, but I figured she’d probably just try to stab me again, and anyway I needed some cash since I didn’t manage to rob the bank coach, so I hauled her off to jail.

Hm. I was a bit sympathetic to her argument that there might be something wrong with her head and she needed treatment, but I doubted there was any effective treatment available. And, as we were discussing yesterday, her behavior is irrational (not in her own best interests), but on the other hand she probably had very limited options. Not to excuse murdering her mother and several dudes, but how much different is that, really, from what any of the gang has done, killing people who make us angry or get in our way of doing what we want, which in her case was perhaps simply to NOT end up taking care of a boring house and leading a boring, constrained life? Which is pretty much exactly what Arthur and the gang don’t want to get stuck doing.

Aside from the mother, though…killing one’s own family IS more horrific and unforgivable than killing random dudes, and speaking as a mother myself, I can’t endorse it. I mean, unless maybe she impaled her mother on a spike following a zombie attack…in which case how can any among us criticize her in any way? There’s so much we don’t know about this. Perhaps I should have let her go after all, just in case.

Butch:

See, I didn’t want a bounty on me in Valentine, and figured if I did that in Valentine all hell would break loose. So I noticed they moved the wagons each day! So I staked out a part of the road where no one would see anything, figured I’d stick ’em up. This was a good plan. Except as soon as the wagon came, so did another guy. The other guy was on horseback. I was not, as my plan was to stick ’em up, get on the wagon, ride away.

And it probably didn’t help that I hit R2 and shot him instead of L2 to talk. And then the witness bolted and so much for the plan.

Oh, well.

Yeah! I wasn’t expecting to just fish, but that was totally not the thing I expected. And, in some ways, it was worse than a bear! Having to have Jack see all that was upsetting.

Ok, two things. First, I cannot stress this enough: Go into settings, find the bit on combat, and turn on auto aiming or lock on aiming or whatever for when you’re on horseback. You can do it for when you’re on foot, too, if you like, but dude. I couldn’t hit the damn ground with my gun pointing down on horseback, turned that on, makes life SOOOO much easier.

And it’s not a cheat. It’s in the settings menu.

I also find that, when on horseback, it’s the carbine repeater or GTFO.

Second thing (or third? I’ve lost count): That’s the only yellow mission I have right now. I talked to John all “Got yer wagon” and he was all “Ok, I’ll take Charles. Meet me somewhere” and now he’s gone. Where the hell is he? I see no marker. All I have for markers is Micah and the gunslingers. What the hell am I supposed to be doing?

I wondered that about the woman, too. I, too, didn’t go for it, but I was pissed cuz I really suck with the lasso, and the first several times I tried to catch her I didn’t and she killed me. She was, like, a one hit kill. So she deserved jail.

It was a nice parallel. She wanted freedom. But two things I thought:

1) She’s the only “bad guy” we’ve met, on our side or not, that seems to have any inkling that what she’s doing is wrong, and maybe she should find a way to not do it. She, at some level, knows there’s something wrong with what she’s doing and wants to break the cycle. No one else really does, much. Maybe, MAYBE Arthur, but not really. Hell, Arthur tells Dutch that the Pinkertons “offered me my freedom,” and Dutch asks “Why didn’t you take it?” (a fair question) and Arthur just snorts as if it wasn’t really an option.

2) Here we go again with women. Remember in Mafia 3 when I said “No way do they let the gruff protagonist kill Olivia cuz she’s a woman?” Well, for this bounty, they drove home the “She must be taken alive” bit more than once. This is one of the very few people in the game we haven’t been able to kill. The woman. Again. What’s with that?

Feminina:

Oh, dude, I didn’t even try to lasso her (because I too am bad with the lasso), I just walked up and punched her and knocked her down and tied her up. You were trying to be a gentleman! The Wild West is no place for that!

Or, I suppose, you were trying to avoid her knife, which is a legitimate concern since she totally murdered that other dude with it seconds earlier, but I just went in flailing and she didn’t manage to stick me.

Speaking of women, do some more gunslingers. Specifically, do the one woman gunslinger. It’s not a counter to what you’re saying (it’s…pretty much exactly what you’re saying), but it can provide us a little additional material for this discussion. Again.

As for John, I think there’s a timing issue, like you have to wait a day or something. Then you should get another marker and you can go meet him. In the meantime, why not go talk to a woman gunslinger?

Or, if you feel like robbing a bank coach, talk to Micah. I will check out the aiming thing you mention. Because yeah, I was hitting nothing. But also, it’s hard for me to hold X to keep UP with everyone while also aiming, so I was constantly falling behind and having to catch up again, which didn’t help since I’d only get about three chances to hit people before they were around the bend or whatever. I mean, I guess I should be able to keep my thumb on X while moving the sticks to aim, but…it’s awkward, man. Do you have a trick for that too? Tell me your tricks.

I was a little afraid of getting a reputation in Valentine, but I just put my bandanna over my face, and no one had any idea it was me. “Who was that masked man, anyway?” they were all probably saying to themselves as I rode off.

“And doesn’t that horse following along behind the stolen wagon look a LOT like that rough gunslinger’s horse? You know, Arthur Morgan, the one who comes down here sometimes to drink and spend money and punch people? Yo, Bob the stablemaster, didn’t you board that horse for Mr. Morgan for a while? Oh well, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.”

Butch:

Dude, how’d you do that? As soon as she got within, like, ten feet of me I was dead!

You’re just bad ass.

I shall go after more gunslingers. That’ll also open up some more map. Bloggage! But Mrs. McP is home, and then it’s the weekend….try not to finish without me.

Ha.

With the auto aim, and the repeater (which will solve the “I’m behind” problem cuz that thing has some range, man), you should be fine. The auto aim, if you’re looking in the general direction of what you want to shoot, you just R2 to aim and it just goes BOOM red dot. It doesn’t necessarily stay aimed if you move around a lot, so, you’ll get the hang of it, just aim BANG aim BANG real quick. Three chances is two more than you’ll need. The other day, I got on my horse just to sit still and aim at dudes. Cuz you don’t have to use the right stick to aim that way. Just ride towards them with L, X with your thumb, R2 with your finger. Boom.

It’s the only way.

As for keeping up, I just click and click and click X. Like, constantly. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re supposed to do, but it sure keeps Roach going fast, that it does.

Shit! The bandanna! I ALWAYS forget the bandanna!

Now I really feel bad about the poor wagon driver.

Kevin (c. 1899): Tarnation! I’m always suckerin’ for those simple disguises! I’m going to write down everything about every disguise that’s ever fooled me, and pass it down too all my ancestors!

Qevin (c 2019): Man, this sure is an interesting book…..
Lara: May I pass?
Q: Hey that sounded like that Lara Croft!
Lara: But I’m wearing this outfit.
Q: Oh. That’s cool then. Where was I…I love westerns….don’t fall for it if the hero covers their face but doesn’t disguise anything else oh shit- ****gunfire****

Feminina:

Poor, poor Qevin.

See, I’ve been clicking and clicking and clicking X too, and I can keep up that way, but then aiming is an issue. But with your helpful tips, perhaps I will go after that bank coach again. I could use the money. What with paying off bounties, I still haven’t been able to afford the map. Probably some good money on a bank coach.

Butch:

Auto aim + Carbine = Only way, man. Only way.

Feminina:

Noted. I’m on it. That bank coach is goin’ down.

Gotta stick it to the Man once in a while, in between sticking it to desperate people like me.

Well, the Man and the Man’s armed guards who are only doing their jobs, risking their lives at the best-paying job they could find to feed their families who probably won’t even receive death benefits and will therefore be left penniless…but hey, we’ve all got problems, right?

Butch:

Why all the sympathy for Kevin of late? Kevin knows what Kevin is doing. Kevin knew when he signed up to guard wagons. Or when he joined Trinity. Or when he joined whoever Drake was fighting. Or when he became a randit. Or a husk.

You reap what you sow.

Feminina:

Hey, you’re the one who said “sticking it to guys like us.” I’m just extending that.

Butch:

We are Kevin. Kevin is us.

Only a T SHIRT cuz it’s almost Friday.

Feminina:

Kevin is the sad cannon fodder that lurks inside each one of us.

Butch:

Now there’s a T SHIRT.

I think.

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