Red Dead Redemption 2 Review: Wild West D&D

Sometimes I find it difficult to just sit down and watch a movie or one of the more well-written shows on Netflix because of the amount of attention it demands. I’ve gotten used the habit of being able to do something else while some youtube video plays or as the news pours out of TV. You can’t do that with more thorough shows because missing out on a certain detail can lead you to feel confused or cheated later on. And while I was enjoying Red Dead Redemption 2, I was having the exact same dilemma every now and then.

Rockstar Games delivers on it’s promised RDR2, being presented to be the prequel to the previous game. You play as Arthur Morgan, an outlaw in the time of the Wild West, which was at the brink of its own new industrial revolution. Meaning the ways of being an outlaw or in a gang are nearing its end. You will play through the stories of how he and the gang he treated like family lay themselves out as their way of living are bound to fade out.

 

Production (5 / 5)

RDR2 on the PlayStation 4 is looks so good you’d think it’s on a high-end PC, really.  Maps are vast, and are mostly places you can actually visit. Everything is detailed, down to the clothes you wear and even the customizations on your guns. Water reacts nicely, the lighting is dynamic for everything. Animations even look convincingly good for each and every human and animal in the entire game.

The sound dimension of the game is pleasant as well, every voice actor sounds like a great fit for the role they have (and that accent eventually rubs off onto you, it’s kinda fun). Conversations dynamically react to how far you are or what you are doing. And my personal MVP of the whole experience, the music. They always seem to get the perfect song playing for every moment and they all blend well with the silences and transitions between events. That’s what completed the immersion for me.

The cherry on top? I didn’t feel like the game ever slowed down due to any graphic issues. Rockstar has really managed to impress me beyond what I was ready for on this end.

 

Mechanics(4.7 / 5)

With all the actions or activities with RDR2 can be so thorough that they can sometimes be annoying. Here are a few examples: First, your horse. You can accidentally leave your weapons on your horse, and that horse will not hear your call if you’re too far away, which you will have to bond with before calling it becomes an option, and by the way, it can permanently die. Next, hunting. You can take a while to track your target, where you have to make sure you’re down wind so it doesn’t smell you, you have to aim well so that you can net a pelt in perfect condition, which you have to bring with you to a craftsman to be made into anything, yes, you can lose it on the way as it can’t be hidden in your inventory. Finally, clothes and hygiene. You have to wear clothing that matches the weather or your health suffers, if you commit a crime in a town and come back to it wearing the same clothes, they’ll remember you, also, you’ll want to take a bath at least once in a while or nobody will come near you out of your smell.

So yeah, RDR2 can sometimes get annoying with the lengths it goes to make your experience as thorough as possible, I certainly wish they did the same for combat. But when you get used to the little rules it has for doing things, it’s only a matter of properly knowing the process. Knowing what to do and how, in my opinion, improves the immersion into the game. Doing all the little activities also helps you grind the various stats there is in the game. Your bond with the horse, your health and endurance, the capability of your dead-eye and even your proficiency with every single weapon are stats you can improve during your playthrough.

You take care of the gang through story missions, but by developing your home, not only improve everyone’s living conditions but improve its capabilities as a base of operations. From getting better supplies to getting access to fast travel, the latter I wish was better, though.

While you are an outlaw you don’t need to be one that everyone dislikes, your actions in the game will tilt you to either an honorable one or a vile kind of outlaw. Which will change how everyone in the game treats you.

 

Content (4.8 / 5)

Red Dead Redemption 2 spans a story over 6 chapters, each one long. Especially as the gang moves to another location at the end of every chapter. Though to be frank some of them are basically around 5 or more missions each. So it may be much faster than my playthrough where I was easily distracted by the numerous side-quests that happen.

The story basically builds up the characters and establishes the relationships before they are thrown into quite a lot of chaos and progress towards the events of the first game. What’s pretty cool is how Arthur Morgan demonstrates a character that can be either a really nice guy or cruel fellow. Though being a more honorable character is far more rewarding.

Should you want to try being more of an outlaw everyone fears, you will quickly build bounty if your modus isn’t perfect. Building such a reputation will lead you to random events where bounty hunters can be after your head or rival gangs are more actively looking for you, while other NPCs tend to just run away. Should you be the opposite, you still get some of those bandits trying to ambush you but there are far more positive encounters of people likely asking for help or even giving you a free gun.

Honestly speaking, this is where RDR2 seems to be able to justify with how thorough it is with it’s mechanics. When these unscripted or unexpected events happening, a rather boring horse ride to the next destination suddenly springs to life and you have to react.

There’s also many side-quests you can go after like hunting for legendary animals, treasure hunting, helping innocent civilians, robbing trains, or like any good RPG, go fishing. Even if you’re not looking for it, you’re bound to bump into a few of them, and maybe an easter egg here and there. This title is a deceptively dense game having so much to do in it’s huge map.

 

Features (4.0 / 5)

I sincerely wish they had a proper fast travel in the game. I didn’t realize (until much later) that going into ‘cinematic camera’ was basically putting your horse on auto-pilot which could have saved me much frustration with the transportation systems of Red Dead Redemption 2. Also seeing the detailed looting or skinning animations gets old after seeing it maybe 20 times or so. It would have been appreciated if there was a way to speed up or skip animations at some point.

One thing I could praise RDR 2 for would be how it doesn’t hold back on the information it’s going to give you. At any time I can just pause the menu and check out whatever I’ve already unlocked, and while written menus can be a pain to go through. It can be handy when trying to understand the more nuanced mechanics of this game.

 

Conclusion

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a very different experience from Grand Theft Auto. GTA had a way of playing out a huge parody of modern society and more or less keep the game experience light, easy and casual. But that’s clearly not their objective with RDR2, they really want you to be sucked in like how Skyrim does, they want you to care about how you prepare and go about the various activities in this world. Everything is slowly building up from encounters here and there instead of one big event changing everything, so if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it.

Unfortunately, the punches this title attempts to deliver as the end approaches gets dulled by the constant gunfights and combat. It’s pretty common for open world type games to not excel in delivering a satisfying combat system, RDR2 is no exception. While Dead Eye makes things simple and fun, pinning most of the finale on all combat didn’t really feel like a good conclusion for a game of this genre. It’s simply not what it excels on.

However, my issues with this game are really small compared to what RDR2 had managed to impressed me with and the experience it had ultimately delivered. Aside from some quality of life improvements, I really wouldn’t know what I would change in the game to make the play experience ‘better.’ As if playing a solo Dungeons & Dragons campaign, every little thing felt like it mattered. That’s exactly how I ended up glued to the screen for hours while reviewing this game. Amazing.

 

Red Dead Redemption 2 made every bullet count, scoring a 4.6 / 5

Available on XBox One and PS4.

 

We’d like to thank Rockstar Games for generously providing us with a review code!

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