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Spoilers for the epilogue of Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

I played, so what can I say? Let’s see…..

Quite a fence. Yup.

Quite a ride with Jack. Yup.

That was some murderin’. That it was.

Yup.

Yessiree.

Boy Howdy. Great fence.

Why am I doing all this?

Should I order AC:O?

Feminina:

Yup. That was some fine fence-buildin’ and horse-ridin’ and bandit-murderin.’ Yessiree.

Have you had any emotional conversations with Abigail? Those are also very meaningful.

This is John Marston. Tryin’ to do right by his family. For approximately 700 hours of game time.

Butch:

Yes. Very emotional.

Sigh.

Game ran fresh out of themes.

Started Edith Finch yet?

Feminina:

Yeah. You can see why I repeatedly wondered to myself “BUT WHY AM I DOING THIS” as I proceeded.

I mean…I guess one could argue that Arthur’s dying wish was to save this family, and so we’re getting to see how that worked out. See whether/how John is able to uphold Arthur’s hopes for him. Whether he’s able to be the husband and father he wants to be.

BUT WHY DO WE HAVE TO PLAY IT RIGHT NOW THOUGH?

And, you know, it’s nice to see how things turn out, and that they all lived, and minor spoiler, you’ll get to meet some other people from John’s past, and it’s nice to see how they’re doing. And maybe you tie off a loose end.

BUT WHY IS IT A WHOLE EXTRA GAME THOUGH?

I do not know. I sincerely do not.

Also, I have not started anything, but I probably will soon. It’s right there, after all. And yes, you should order AC!

I’m going to Chicago this weekend, so I don’t know if I’ll get around to doing it first or if I’ll be too busy thinking about Chicago and packing and so forth this week.

Butch:

Think about Chicago. Pack. Enjoy the sunshine. I’ll finish this this week (I hope…I have to…) and we’ll start AC:O next week, be on the same page for a day or two before you blow right by me.

I’ll order it directly.

Man…this could have been done in an epilogue. Like, a real one. Not a huge assed DLC one.

And what really sucks is the more I think on the “ending” the more I like it.

I think on it a lot, as it is all I have to think about re games lately cuz there isn’t much to think about regarding fence building.

One little nod I’ll give it: During the Jack ride, I was kind of expecting to get jumped. It was very reminiscent of the outing Arthur took with Jack to fish, even to the point of ending up by the stream. That, of course, is where we met Milton. I had my hands ready to go fight wise the whole time. Maybe that was supposed to make me feel a little bit like John, still skittish after all this time. Nicely done.

Totally unnecessary and a waste of my time, but nicely done.

Feminina:

I know. It could so easily have been an actual epilogue! Perhaps complemented by some actual DLC for those who wanted more. Plenty of people probably would have bought that! And they probably would have liked it!

And those of us who wouldn’t bother to buy it would not be in the position now of sitting here making baffled, unhappy noises and having the last few weeks of our bloggage about this game be confusion instead of themes.

I truly don’t understand why they took all the air out of that very nice, tense, emotionally satisfying ending by immediately following it up with 10 hours of ranch chores (and occasional murder! can’t forget the murdering). It just seems like a weird choice.

I mean, stuff happens. Eventually. You get some story about some people. It’s not bad story. And as you say, it’s not badly done: you keep expecting to get jumped even when nothing is going on, which works well with the character’s state of mind. The scenery is pretty. The chores aren’t even especially terrible, I didn’t HATE building fences and it doesn’t really take that long. It could have been fine, in some other context.

It’s just…WHY IS IT HERE AT THE END OF THIS GAME.

Butch:

Preach, sister. Preach.

And, to keep with this “Why isn’t this DLC theme,” didn’t Strawberry itself feel like DLCville? A full city, seen way back at the beginning of the game for a very short period of time, one real set piece, a loose end (Why did Micah kill those two people in their home?) and BOOM, done for the game? Usually, when something is that fleshed out but just seen briefly, that’s the setting for DLC, right? “Oh THAT’S why they had this whole town way over there in the part of the map you wouldn’t ever go back to! They were setting up the DLC!”

I do not get it. They cost themselves money, though. That I get.

Feminina:

And you almost want to give them credit for costing themselves money. Like–they gave up money for this! They must have felt strongly about it! It must be there for some important reason, it must really add something to this game that they felt was critical to the experience!

There was clearly a lot of thought that went into the structure and the narrative and the characters all through the Arthur part of the game, so you have to assume they also thought about the John part and knew it was going to be odd and jarring coming right after Arthur’s death, and they did it anyway on purpose. For some reason.

But…what on earth IS that reason? I just can’t figure it.

OK, because I was genuinely curious, and for discussion, I found someone who reads it completely differently from how we both did.

Red Dead Redemption 2’s epilogue works where the main story struggles – Polygon

There are some (very minor) spoilers for the epilogue itself, so I’ll just quote some key bits:

The game’s final 20 hours took on emotional toll on me; everything feels hopeless, and everyone seems doomed.

But the epilogue introduces a major tonal shift after all that gloom. It breathes life back into the soul of the game, replacing the sense of dread and clearing up the phlegmy cough of despair. It also fixes the major pacing and tonal issues that plague the final acts of the main story.

The epilogue is an idyllic respite from the horrors of the doomed Arthur Morgan…

I finish John’s quest just five hours later. … It’s a truly moving story arc that didn’t need 60 hours of development. But I feel more satisfied by those brief hours than everything that came before it. All I need, it turns out, is a sense of purpose.

Huh.

That is pretty much exactly how I did not feel about the epilogue.

I mean, he’s right about the final hours of the main game becoming more and more hopeless and despairing. That is definitely true. And I would argue that is why I was ready for the game to actually be over once it finally ended.

Arthur got a goal for the end of his life (get Abigail, Jack and John out), he succeeded in that goal, he died. Closure. I felt OK about that! And yes, we’ve known for weeks that the game was going to end in tragedy with Arthur dead, and that’s why I was READY TO ACCEPT THAT ENDING when it arrived.

I didn’t need an idyllic respite!

But I must say, at least it’s helpful to have an alternative viewpoint. Perhaps more people in focus testing shared that viewpoint, and they just wanted to not end on the down note of a dead main character.

But guys, come on. If anybody can end on that down note without making fans wail in astonishment, it’s Rockstar. Did you really have to stick a 5-hour happy ending on it? (Also, I feel like it took me more than 5 hours, but whatever, that’s a minor quibble.) You could have stayed with the honest, dark-but-a-hint-of-redemption ending that wrapped up the main story, and people could suck it up dammit, because you’re freaking Rockstar. We EXPECT dark and grim from you!

But whatever. Even Rockstar gotta sell games.

And I guess I don’t begrudge that guy, and other players who share his opinion, their sense of satisfaction and purpose and closure based on the epilogue. I do not share that sense! But perhaps more people do, than do not. And if it makes more people happy, then I guess I can’t argue with their decision to do it that way. Maybe we’re the weird outliers.

Meanwhile, this guy at Forbes is much more in agreement with us.

We Need To Talk About Red Dead Redemption 2’s Enormous Epilogue Ending

More spoilers for the epilogue, but here’s a quote:

While I enjoyed playing as John for this epilogue and seeing how his story feeds into the original game after all these missions, this entire experience did feel…a bit strange to me. My biggest problem was that after spending 50+ hours in Arthur Morgan, he was the character I felt the most invested in, not John, even though I have played RDR1. I understand that Morgan’s story of redemption was all leading to John escaping safely with his family, but adding seven hours of a John story on to the ending of Arthur’s story feels a bit like stealing the limelight.

Yeah. That.

So we’re not COMPLETELY the weird outliers.

Also

RDR2 Epilogue: The Problems with the Game’s Endings | Collider

I don’t have an issue with Red Dead Redemption 2 killing off Arthur Morgan, but if that’s the end of the game, that should be the end of it. When you tack on two chapters worth of epilogue, then Arthur’s story becomes smaller and less important. The protagonist is now just a supporting character in John’s story. That works the other way around because Red Dead Redemption 2 starts with John in a supporting role, but by elevating him to the lead, I’m being told that the story is over and now the work begins of completing the challenges, finding all the collectibles, etc.

Yeah! That!

So I still appreciate the take of that one guy who liked it, but maybe he’s actually the outlier.

And OK, yeah, we’re not the outliers…

Red Dead Redemption 2’s Epilogue Is A Nightmare – hitc.com

While it would be outrageous to condemn Rockstar for wanting to give its loyal audience a ton of fanservice, it’s difficult to deny that the epilogue is a longwinded bore. It spoils the story by ending it on a whimper rather than a bang, and the manner in which it more than overstays its welcome makes newcomers no longer desire to see what happens next.

Burn!

So on that note, have fun with the next 4-7 hours of your game life!

Maybe just keep thinking about the idyllic respite and the sense of purpose.

Butch:

I begrudge that guy! That guy didn’t get the whole fucking metaphor! The whole point is that they are clinging to a DOOMED way of life! If you’re all like “psyche! Not doomed! Very happy!” then what the fuck was the whole game SAYING?

He is stupid. We are smart. And modest. And totally non judgmental.

I believe we hit on fan service, right? We did. We so did.

That and the whole metaphor thing.

Also….on the first guy….

Ok, so the occasional respite from horrors is fine, but not at the end, and not with a different lead. Total, dark, depressing is not always great. But you know? We had that! We had enticing knickers! We had occasional moments of humor! And that’s a) ok and b) the proper place for it in the grand scope of the narrative. If the last thing we did in the story was vaudeville before dropping dead, that would be stupid.

Time and a place, game. Time and a place.

And, you know, the WHOLE METAPHOR thing.

Feminina:

YEAH! Doomed way of life! Enticing knickers in their place! What you said!

We’re brilliant and non-judgmental and totally correct about this.

So…yeah, continue to enjoy this bit that we and many other people agree is barely worth the time it takes to play it.

I mean, I’d even tell you not to bother, except you already suffered the impact of its narrative let-down and you might as well fill in the bit of story it provides, and anyway you’re too much of a completist to just abandon a game 5 hours from the end, even if it is an unsatisfying 5 hours that only detracts from the actual ending.

Butch:

Indeed. I shall press on. After all, disappointment and rage is also blog worthy.

Plus, I’m kind of impressed that this game might manage to have both the best ending I’ve ever seen in a game and the worst. What are the odds?

In other news, the side advertisement on Hotmail for me today is Miller High Life beer.

It looks pretty refreshing. I could use a few.

Feminina:

Miller High Life? The champagne of beers? Classy, man. You better go grab a few of those.

Ha!–that’s a good point. We often talk about endings and what we like and don’t like about how different games handle them. It’s going to be pretty interesting to consider how well this game managed the ending, and then how poorly it managed a second ending.

“Endings: maybe just stick with one” is going to be our takeaway.

Incidentally, were you aware that Miller High Life was introduced in 1903? It’s appropriate to the time period! John Marston could be drinking it!

I mean, if he were living the high life and not slaving away at ranch chores and murder.

Still, way to go with the relevant, timely advertising, Hotmail. Probably by mistake, but who knows…you can’t rule anything out these days.

Butch:

Relevance! Relevant beer!

The champagne of beers. Wonder what I googled to get that ad.

It does look refreshing, though.

Sticking with one ending is pretty good narrative advice. It’s like you were an English major!

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