Some spoilers for Red Dead Redemption 2, end of Chapter 3 and Chez Porter
Ok! Chapter 4! St. Denis! (I just got there. Gotta take a look around.)
Before we begin here, a question: So Dutch keeps saying “We’ll stay here a few days.” That’s not that long. Is this timed or some shit? Can I take my time? There seems to be things to see.
We could talk about the line, as they are riding to kill Braithewaites, “We underestimated them.” “No, they underestimated us,” but I feel we did that yesterday.
We could talk about how they didn’t kill Mrs. Braithewaite cuz woman and of course but that, too, has been discussed (and will be again, but I got something else to say).
What stood out last night was something I mentioned in passing a while ago: Visual imagery. And then, when I thought about what stood out a while ago, visual imagery, I thought again: open world games kinda piss me off.
So last night, here’s the progression I got: First, I had an image at the end of the chapter about the past, notably a plantation house in flames, as Braithewaite wailed. It was a hellish image, the burning of a past way of life. Then, at the start of the next chapter, the first image of St. Denis was a wide shot of smokestacks making the sky grey, a disgusting image of the future. Now, both of those images were striking. The glorious southern past turning into a hell, the future representing a grotesque, polluted dirty nightmare. Cool stuff. After Dutch talking about the eight wonder of the world, I expected a cheery, Mardi Gras New Orleans. Seeing it right away for what it really was was very well done. Great stuff.
But here’s why this leads to me being pissed about open world games: Had this game been the linear game it really, REALLY wanted to be, that is, the way I played it, then the images would have been the burning of the past followed closely by the smoke rising from the smokestacks of the future. MAN that was cool. It was a perfect visual transition. You could almost imagine that these smokestacks were pumping up the very smoke from the burnt out remains of the past. There’s no doubt that that’s what they were going for, that transition.
But you know who didn’t get that transition? You. Why? Cuz you’ve been to St. Denis.
And even if you did get that particular cutscene of the smokestacks, it didn’t hit you like it hit me, because you could say “Oh, yeah, St. Denis. Shit hole. Seen it.” It was my first view of the place, so it was really, really striking. You? Not so much.
You missed out on that because the stupid game is open world. The game let you beat the story there. Shit, the game plopped you on a train and chugged you right into the place, ahead of the story. The game could have said, SHOULD have said, “DAMN we have this great transition from Chapter 3 to Chapter 4, we can’t let people get to St. Denis before that, or, at least, we should make it very hard to get there.” Nope. That just sucks.
This game is SO DAMN GOOD when you play it straight up linear, when you put your head down and go from yellow to yellow. It KNOWS it’s good. But still, like so many games these days, it gives the player every single chance to undermine the story, or, in this case, undermines itself by putting a player who doesn’t even WANT to undermine the story on a train to undermine land.
This seems to be a trend in video games. It is not a trend I like. And it seems to be getting worse in every game we play.
I don’t think there’s a time limit. Having already been there several times I didn’t need to take as much time looking around as you probably will, but as far as I could tell, the time limit was “eventually you finish looking around and do the next yellow story mission.” Until then, putter as you will. Lots of strangers to meet. Bounties to collect. Vaudeville shows to take in.
Saint Denis, man! A marvel of civilization!
And here’s an interesting thing about having been here already…as you say, I already knew it was a seething cesspit, but I ALSO already knew it has some nice areas, and lively markets, and people going about their business. Vaudeville shows! Barber shops! Public executions! Well, maybe that last is not really a counterpoint to the seething cesspit image.
Anyway, while the visual juxtaposition of the smoke from the mansion and the smoke from the factories was indeed striking (because even though I’d been there before, I got the same ‘intro to Saint Denis’ that you mention), for me it was as much “wow, THIS is a grim view of a place that I already know is not completely grim” as it was “wow, this place is clearly an earthly hell.”
Because if you get to Saint Denis on the train, as I did, the first things you encounter are streetlights and a trolley car and carriages on tree-lined boulevards. Progress!–but in a more positive way. The smoke and the factories are still there, and as you wander around you get into the less-picturesque parts of town, but it obviously makes an entirely different first impression.
I’m curious what kind of difference it makes, to have the first impression be more or less positive, and that be tempered with the later introduction of ugly smokestacks and dirty poverty, compared to having the first impression be of an earthly hell, later tempered with…well, now I’ve probably spoiled it by even talking about the other stuff there.
But I’ve certainly gone on about the vaudeville shows often enough before. You know there’s vaudeville. And [scandalized whisper]…ladies showing their knickers. So you already know it’s not ALL bad.
Or, from a moral standpoint, you already know it’s far worse than you even imagined. KNICKERS! I don’t know what this world is coming to.
And on another note, have you been to ‘Chez Porter’? Up in the mountains? Because that’s what I did last night. It’s a random side thing, not even a mission just something I wandered into.
Then putter I shall! Place looks interesting. I hear there are enticing kneecaps.
Oh that is interesting! Ok….maybe I forgive the game, some, in that case. To have two people playing the same game pretty much the same way and to get different impressions…good thing we blog together!
Because the first impression I got was unbashedly “earthly hell.” Smokestacks, grime, etc. I turned it off right after that cutscene, and there I am, on Roach, on a street so muddy it makes Valentine look nice, with a cannery on one side and a warehouse on the other the same color as the mud. Indeed, if we’re talking on visual imagery, it is without question the most monochrome image so far in the whole game. Even the snowy bits in the beginning have torchlight. Here, the whole damn screen is brown, from the street to the buildings to the sky. It’s striking. And totally negative.
Luckily, we blog together and we’ll find out what difference first impressions make!
Because right now my impression is “This. Place. Totally. Sucks.” I imagine you did not have that impression.
DUDE! YES! Chez Porter! Remember WAAAAAAAY back when when I was all “Hey, did you do that robbery with Charles? I wanna blog on it?” Chez Porter! Did you get the pump action shotgun? DID YOU? Cuz it’s there.
This should be interesting. I did that as a “robbery,” a “talk to dude in camp, do it together” thing. Here’s another “Wonder how it was different.”
How’d it go down for you?
Pump action shotgun? No! I must have missed it. Dude. Now I’m sad.
I was just riding along and saw that reddish tinge on the edge of the mini-map that means some hostile person is somewhere nearby. Checked the main map and saw red dots at this random location at the end of a path. Obviously that could not stand, so I rode on up to take a look.
It was…interesting. Like, they were a sort of murderous religious sect? Based on a single family? I didn’t get much conversation out of anyone, but the shouts of “get off our land!” and “we’ll send you back to hell sinner!” and “Pappy! No!” gave that impression.
And they all had that odd way of speaking, sort of old-fashioned and/or a family code, with all those weird semi-nonsense words. And there was some sinister conversation I overheard as I was approaching, something about keeping a girl in the woods…? They started shooting as soon as I sauntered up, so of course I murdered the lot of them.
Which is an interesting note to go with your observation that of course we didn’t kill Mrs. Braithwaite because woman…at the very end, there was one more person still shooting at me from up in the barn loft, and I went over and it was this woman (Mommy, presumably?), and she kept shooting at me so I shot her several times. Then looted her corpse for a gold ring and some salted venison. So occasionally, if she’s a member of a freaky family religious cult, you can kill a woman.
But she’s actually kind of an interesting counterpoint to Mrs. Braithwaite: the matriarch of a large possibly inbred family, right? United by their fundamental belief in their own superiority? Hm. And we killed one of them and left the other to kill herself by running into a burning mansion.
Although…they both ended up dead, and one could argue it was actually their own choice in both cases. Mrs. Braithwaite ran back into the burning mansion, and Mrs. Porter (I presume) kept shooting at me when she could have just run off. If Mrs. Braithwaite had climbed to the top of the burning mansion and started sniping at us with a rifle, we probably would have shot back at her, too.
Of course, from Mrs. Porter’s point of view I could have been planning to rape and torture her to death (I am after all a vile sinning outsider who DID just kill her entire family), so continuing to shoot at me isn’t an irrational choice, but it was still a choice she made to stay when she could have been escaping.
Anyway, I was totally using my own shotgun in that fight, and at one point I saw it offer me a shotgun but I thought “I already HAVE a shotgun, whatever.” I think it always throws me off a bit because it says “drop [weapon you have] for [new weapon],” and reading fast I always kind of think that the first line is the thing you’re being offered and tend to miss the second line.
In this case I saw “double-barreled shotgun” on the first line and subconsciously thought that was what it was saying I could pick up, and I knew I already had a double-barreled shotgun so I figured it was just an even switch. But probably it was actually saying “drop double-barreled shotgun for pump action shotgun.” Sigh. Speed reading failure. Maybe I’ll go back. I’m not too far away. Also, I meant to look around and see if I could find any girls tied up in the woods or anything (that half-overheard conversation haunts me), but I was really, really close to death, and had to get somewhere peaceful to camp and rest. I thought about just sleeping in the cabins there (even though, ew), but it wouldn’t let me.
I will also be interested to see how Saint Denis strikes you once you get around it a bit more. There are a few different story bits that take place there, so you’ll see different aspects of the city.
No, one of the side buildings, upstairs. In a loft with a ladder. And you got the stash, right? WHOLE lotta money.
You missed the ladder. You’re losing your touch.
Whoa, WHAT? Girl in the woods??? I did not hear about a girl in the woods.
No, the way it went down for me was that Javier or Charles, I forget, was all “Hey, I heard about this place to rob.” He explains that it was, as you say, this weird family that doesn’t like outsiders and has their own way of speaking, and no one will care if he and Arthur go kill ’em all, take their stuff, etc. Which is, of course, just what we did.
But there was a lot of banter mocking them. Lots of “HA! What a bunch of weirdo losers. All alone in the woods, talking all funny….wackos.”
Of course, the parallels were intentional. Here’s a couple of dudes who live in the woods, alone, loyal only to each other, rolling their eyes and chuckling at people doing pretty much the same thing. It wasn’t a “rival gang” thing, either, it was “HA! Freaks.”
Which is an interesting take. And it was either Charles or Javier, one of the minority members of the gang.
Mrs. Braitwaite ran into the mansion? Missed that.
Ooo! Nice parallel! Yes, that was a woman up there in the loft, and yes, I did kill her. Come to think of it, that’s the only time I have killed a woman, and she was like Braithewaite!
We would have shot back at her, indeed. You’re sure she ran back into the mansion?
And yeah, the shotgun was in a chest. Kinda like the Lancaster repeater which was in that chest in that place you didn’t rob so you never saw that, either.
Maybe the next time you go back there….hey…..
What WERE you doing up there? Was that the magpie of all magpies? Cuz that’s the other side of the damn map from St. Denis. Does the game take you back up there? Does it finally involve the Indian reservation which is also up there?
Figured I might see things in the city. This game has not been superficial in its treatment of issues.
Oh, it was in a CHEST. Well, I missed that. Losing my touch, all right. It’s because I was freezing to death! I kept getting that snowflake on my health icon, and it kept dropping and dropping…I was thinking, hey, I’m running around here, shooting, engaged in mortal combat, I think that’s probably keeping me warm!–but apparently not. And of course I didn’t have a “winter gunslinger” outfit on my horse. It wasn’t the weird family that almost did me in, it was the weather!
And yeah, I’m kind of magpieing right now. Saw a random white question mark way up on the map there and figured I’d go check it out, then decided what the heck, on the way back towards Saint Denis I’ll take the scenic route through the mountains where I haven’t been yet. So the game brought me up here, but not the main story of the game.
That is interesting, that if you did it with company the banter was all “here’s a bunch of freaks, haha, what losers.” Because as you say…pot, kettle, etc.
I honestly could have felt somewhat sympathetic towards the freaks, if not for that conversation that I swear SEEMED like it was about keeping a girl in the woods that Pappy didn’t know about (though I could have misheard it, and I suppose even if I did hear correctly it’s POSSIBLE the girl in the woods was there out of her own free will). I mean, they’re just trying to live their lives the way they want to, not the way civilized society thinks they should–exactly the way the gang is.
No doubt a very intentional point there about how easy it is to fail to recognize when someone wants basically the same thing you want, if the fine details don’t match up exactly. Those were more or less kindred spirits!
And, I mean, even though that family seemed deeply weird and creepy to me, it’s possible that they weren’t actually doing anything wrong (other than opening fire on passing strangers without warning, I mean). We didn’t find a stack of corpses in their cellar or anything. (Unless I missed that too.) As far as we know for sure, they were just living in the woods being weird, minding their own business.
Which makes another point about how easy it is to judge based on the knee jerk reaction of “this is deeply weird,” without taking the time to think about whether or not weird necessarily means bad. Even when the person making the judgement is also widely considered to be deeply weird and wrong and bad! There’s no solidarity among these minorities who are equally scorned by polite society–there’s only similar scorn from the “right kind” of impolite society (i.e., the kind that’s MY group).
Everyone kind of wants the same thing, but there are huge disagreements about the best way to get it.
Oh, and the Red Dead Fandom Wiki says “Catherine Braithwaite is a major character and supporting antagonist … As the gang starts to leave, she runs back into the burning mansion where she dies.” So yeah, she’s gone. Clinging to past glory, even as it kills her.
Dude, you almost froze even inside? Brutal.
Never leave home without the winter gunslinger ensemble. And pomade.
A question mark? Like a stranger quest? What was the question mark?
The legendary wolf is up there! And a treasure! Ahem.
Man, I didn’t hear that about a girl at all, and I did kinda feel for the weirdos. They weren’t sympathetic exactly, but robbing dudes who are just hanging out being different wasn’t very nice. I feel better about it if they really were evil.
Of course, the gang is evil…..
I found no corpses. It was established that the reason they had a stash of money that got Javier’s or Charles’ or whoever’s attention was that they were coach robbers and all that shit, so they weren’t just chilling making money growing ginseng, but still. Pot, kettle, right?
And even when there aren’t disagreements there’s conflict! Or enough to go around!
Because here, we have the family and the gang trying to get the same thing (a life of being left alone and free) the same way (robbing shit). Nor are they competing over territory or whatever. There seem to be plenty of coaches to rob. There was no insinuation that the Porters were taking all the good scores or anything. That said, it’s, again, people who are doing the same thing, the same way, for the same reasons, who are getting screwed by the same Man, killing each other.
Dude I totally missed that at the burning mansion.
Interesting they ended this chapter with so much suicide. One other powerful image was that guy in the mansion who talks about surviving the war and the Yankees and everything, who then shoots himself. When Arthur has to throw the body into the swamp, having the last thing we see regarding this chapter and Lemoyne be his body just slowly drifting away, put into the swamp by Arthur himself, was well done.
It’s unclear, though, if the game is saying “clinging to the past kills you” or “the future’s gonna kill you no matter what you’ve survived” or both.
I wasn’t actually still freezing inside the house, but my health core was basically entirely gone and I couldn’t ‘rest’ in there and food wasn’t cutting it so I was getting all paranoid and figured I just had to get the hell out of there to somewhere lower in elevation where I wasn’t freezing and could set up camp.
Then two minutes after I woke up fully rested and healed, some bounty hunters came after me and knocked me halfway back down, OF COURSE, but hey. Them’s the breaks. At least when I’m not freezing the tasty game I prepared will fill me up.
It’s an interesting point…if the past doesn’t kill you, the future will? I mean, it’s not wrong. Sooner or later, we’re all going to end up dead. Do you want to go out clinging the (largely mythical) glories of the past, or embracing the (largely imaginary) glories of the future?
Maybe the game is saying that’s your call, and maybe, too, that’s really your ONLY call that matters. Here’s your life, leading inevitably toward your death: how are you going to approach it?
And speaking of the family being evil, here’s a bit someone else reported about that conversation I heard (possible minor spoilers for another location nearby that I didn’t find). So it sounds like they were pretty evil?
Let’s not feel bad about killing them all.
Them’s the breaks. At least you didn’t get killed by a falling horse.
Except, the game, rather pessimistically, might be saying it’s not even a call. Remember the slave catcher? Here was a guy who really did try to adapt. He got other jobs, tried to move forward in his way. He only sent us to get reminders of the past. He wasn’t trying to preserve the past, or pretend the past wasn’t, well, past. He knew things were over and different and he STILL wound up broken and forgotten. The future came and eradicated all these people from the past whether they fought it, denied it or tried to adapt.
I didn’t feel bad anyway. They had a cool shotgun.
Man, you’d LOVE this shotgun.
I’m so going back for the shotgun. I’m sure there’s something else I can wander into up there anyway.
I found legendary moose and fish territory, but couldn’t be bothered to go after them. My Arthur is just not about the hunting. He has other things to do. Like fail to loot properly because he’s freezing half to death.
I was not killed by a falling horse, but I WAS ambling peaceably through the wilderness, admiring the scenery and what-not, when out of nowhere there was a sudden WHUMP and I fell over. Then a deer jumped up and ran off. I don’t know if it actually fell from the sky on top of me, or if it was just running along and collided with me, but it was definitely startling.
At least it didn’t kill me. I had a can of beans and was OK. It’s been an odd few days for animal behavior, though.
I got nothing against moose. I shall let the moose be.
I think there’s some nasty animals out there. In largas once, I saw this goat, and for no real reason it charged me and knocked me on my ass. I thought the hell… went shopping, was heading back to roach and it did it again. Evil bad ass bull goat. I didn’t want to shoot it cuz I was in the middle of town, but it was killing me so I got on roach and ran. It chased me! Luckily Roach can outrun evil goats.
Evil goat?! Damn.
I accidentally rode over a dog, and a whole town became cold towards me. Not, like, shooting at me, but all the stores closed and no one would talk to me. It was an accident! I would have given the dog a healing tonic if I could have! Sigh. I felt bad.
But dude, seriously. This goat wanted me DEAD. And I didn’t do shit to it! Hell, I killed a couple of gators outside of town! I made things safer for this ungrateful goat! It took out, like, half my health per butt!
It was right outside the bait store there. All the more reason not to fish.
Javier: Wanna come fishing?
Javier: Why? Cuz it’s a minigame?
Arthur: Naw, I ain’t got no problem with minigames in moderation.
Javier: Then what?
Arthur: Ain’t goin’ back to Largas. Can’t buy bait.
Javier: Bounty too big on you there?
Arthur: Naw. There’s a goat, see?
Javier: Is that some new slang for Pinkertons?
Arthur: Naw, Javier, an actual goat. Wants me dead.
Javier: *****long pause*****
Arthur: I ain’t lyin’, Javier!
Javier: Mrs. Grimshaw? Keep Arthur out of the whiskey wagon.