This was a really interesting piece to write. I took part in one of Goombastomp’s group articles, an opinion piece about sequels that have disappointed us. I was about 25 hours into Red Dead 2 at this point and was relatively harsh. However since then I’ve finished the game and it’s epilogue, and well, my opinion has changed somewhat.
(My Initial Thoughts)
Red Dead Redemption II is by no means a bad game. Both visually and mechanically, there is exquisite attention to detail that I have only ever seen once before (in The Witcher 3). The amount of polish placed on simple things — like how the game’s protagonist, Arthur, gets off his horse — led me, as a novice developer, to feel daunted because the entire world is treated with similar attention to detail. The dialogue is well written, and there is an abundance of activities and missions to explore. Why then is this game disappointing?
The original Red Dead Redemption is still, to this day, my favorite game of all time. It’s a complete package, blessed with one of the best stories in gaming, some of the best visuals of the time, and gameplay that I couldn’t force myself to tire of. Every aspect feels perfect and well balanced. In many ways, Red Dead Redemption II is the sequel you would expect.
However, it feels like there’s too much of it.
While the first game took around thirty to forty-five hours to see everything, its sequel can range from seventy to one hundred and fifty hours. Compared to the first game, where there was always enough to discover (but not enough to feel overwhelmed), Red Dead Redemption II feels overfull, and Rockstar’s choice of game design sometimes evidences this fact.
In Red Dead Redemption II, I’ve died in gunfights because when I tried to aim my pistol, I opened the dialogue tree by mistake. Similarly, I’ve spent hours collecting pelts, just to find out they were of poor quality or had them stolen mere meters from the nearest town. I’ve desperately tried to lose myself in the story, only for Rockstar to drag me away from it time and time again with a world so real and beautiful
that it dilutes the quality of the experience.
I’m enjoying my time with Red Dead Redemption II, but the magic of the original has not been replicated. Indeed, it reminds me of many Oscar nominees — a remarkable achievement of detail within the industry, but not that enjoyable to experience as a game.
(My Thoughts Upon Completing the Game)
I waited 8 years for the sequel to what is still my favorite game of all time. Yet playing Red Dead Redemption 2 has felt more like a chore than an experience. I’d been playing for weeks and felt as if the story was going nowhere. The endless drag and feeling of achieving little in the game replicated how I was feeling about my own life. Plus it didn’t help that my little brother was constantly harassing me over finishing the game so we could discuss it.
So one night I decided that I would mainline the story and finish the game. I’d been playing the game every day for weeks and yet it still took 8 – 10 hours of my day to finish. However in 24 hours I grew to love Red Dead Redemption 2 more than I had at any point previously. I truly fell in love with the protagonist Arthur, his family and the self-reflection he undertook in the last days of his tale.
For the most part my time with Red Dead Redemption 2 was lackluster. However cutting away the fat and experiencing the core of what was on offer lead to both the first time a game has made me cry since Telltale’s The Walking Dead, and the most fulfilling conclusion of any game I’ve ever played.
It also helped me clear my head, which was feeling rather cluttered.