Like I’m sure many of you have been doing, I’ve spent a portion of my weekend playing that new cowboy game everyone has been talking about. Red Dead Redemption 2 has been the game of choice in my off-time these past two days and even though I’m surely not as far into it as some others are, it’s easy to see after any amount of playtime just how gorgeous its open-world is.
While Red Dead Redemption 2 is clearly a game that we think highly of here at DualShockers, it’s not one that is infallible by any means. In fact, since its release this past Friday, the most common complaint that I have heard not only from some of my friends but fellow writers here at DualShockers is that Red Dead Redemption 2 is far too slow and plodding. Even after getting past the game’s initial opening hours and having the world start to open up, traveling from one location to another takes far too long, animations are too slow, and there’s not the typical intuitiveness that streamlines many of the systems and mechanics that you might find in other open-world games.
Honestly, I agree with most of this. I do think that Red Dead Redemption 2 forces you to do far more menial tasks that I feel like most other developers would never think to include. Being forced to pick up your weapons from your horse and equip them to Arthur before heading out in the wild is a far cry compared the hundreds of other games in existence that allow you to carry near-infinite weapons on your person. In addition to having to physically pick up items off of the shelf in a general store, the lack of a fast travel system early on, and the need to do other small chores such eating food in order to keep up your Cores, these tasks do seem almost boring and their inclusion could be questionable.
But unlike many others that I’ve talked to about this, I don’t find myself turned off by any of these aspects of Red Dead Redemption 2. In fact, I think these elements are Red Dead Redemption 2‘s biggest strength from what I’ve played so far. Rather than just feeling like I’m another bland avatar that is filling a void within this larger open-world, Red Dead Redemption 2 is forcing me to live the actual (fictional) life of Arthur Morgan.
Let’s be honest, life can be pretty boring at times. In fact, more often than not, what you do in a given week is lame. Sure, there are highlights and moments in everyone’s life that you think back on frequently but most of the time, what you do in a day isn’t exciting. Think about it: every morning you surely wake up, take a shower, go to work, eat some food, come home and go to bed.
The same can be said for Arthur Morgan. Are there moments of intense excitement in his life such as when he’s robbing a train or watching the sunset over the plains? Absolutely. But even in the life of an outlaw on the run, you still have to make small decisions about whether or not you should take a bath or shave your face.
Now, while I enjoy that Red Dead Redemption 2 has built in so many things that force you to slow down, I think it’s important to note that this probably isn’t something I would want to see from every video game in existence. Trust me, I enjoy how streamlined most other games are now as much as the next guy. But in Red Dead Redemption 2, I think I’ve started to see early on in my playthrough the larger purpose that Rockstar has with all of these added elements to the game.
By forcing you to slow down and complete duties that seem lackluster, you slowly start to feel more present in this world and grow closer to your own version of Arthur. If Red Dead Redemption 2 was just all about riding around the West and shooting up saloons with your revolver, you’d likely feel disconnected from your avatar. The game then just becomes a power trip and the character that you end up playing is just an amplified version of your own wants and desires. Doing simple chores though such as chopping wood, skinning animals and dragging them back to my horse, and donating to the gang’s larger pool of money has made me feel more of a bond with Arthur than any other character I’ve played as in recent memory. My bond with the character thus far has been established in these small moments, not the large ones.
In a time where open-world games are a dime a dozen, my problem with most titles in the genre is that they rarely force you to engage with the world that has been laid out. Instead, developers just use the confines of an open-world to place the structure of their game inside of, because it’s the normal thing to do more often than not nowadays. Simply existing in an open-world though isn’t enough when you don’t feel any sort of connection to the environment that you’re within. Forcing you to explore and take your time in the world allows you to get to know the area which you find yourself in. This is something that I think The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did so perfectly last year, and it’s something that I think finds success here in Red Dead Redemption 2 as well.
What’s worth noting though is that I don’t think what Rockstar has done with these ideas is really all that revolutionary by any means. No: instead, they’ve just leaned into these things that other developers would certainly stray away from for the reasons that I’ve already heard many complain about this weekend — it ends up being too slow and too boring. However, Rockstar knew before release that Red Dead Redemption 2 would sell millions of copies no matter what they did. This notion allowed them far more experimentation and more willingness to take chances compared to what other studios might attempt. For the most part, I think it’s an experiment that has worked to Red Dead Redemption 2‘s benefit so far.
What Rockstar has built with Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t just a vast world of splendor and beauty within which they have place random mission markers and enemy bases to go clear. Instead, this is a place that they’re legitimately wanting you to live in. Can it be tedious at times? Sure. But more often than not, I think it gives me a stronger sense of intimacy with both Arthur and this setting of the Wild West, and that’s something I haven’t felt in an open-world title in quite awhile.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a world that I haven’t lived in for long, but it’s one that I’m excited to take my time and get to know more over the coming weeks and months.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is available now on PS4 and Xbox One. If you have yet to pick up a copy of the game, you can do that right now over on Amazon.
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