Gaming Writer Mia Lynam reflects on the impact that Red Dead Redemption II has five years on from its release
On the 26th October 2018, the prequel to Rockstar’s famous western Red Dead Redemption (2013) was released, and the lives of many game-enthusiasts have changed. Since then, it has amassed an almost cult-like following, and is no less popular then it was at its release. Looking back, have the past five years been enough to place Red Dead Redemption II (2018) in a place of high honour? Or do Rockstar, like the game’s antagonist, need to revisit the plan?
The prequel is set in 1899, where you play as Arthur Morgan, the prodigal mentee of the de-facto leaders of the ragtag group of criminals, Dutch and Hosea. As you progress through the story, your journey consists of shootouts, rescues and robberies. The game is unparalleled- leagues above any game I have experienced in storytelling, worldbuilding, and overall atmosphere. The attention to detail is something that players have venerated; conversations where NPCs remember you from previous excursions, a hawk swooping down on a rabbit as Arthur rides by in the plains, and an unbelievable amount of collectibles.
Simply being in the world of 1899 America is soothing, gorgeous. The landscape has some of the most stunning graphics I have ever seen in a video game, and still provides variety as you move through the map. Flora and fauna are everywhere, and the game immerses you in the end for cowboys and gunslingers, and the beginning of industrialisation and, as the protagonist Arthur states with disdain many times through the game, civilisation.
There are, however, some points of the game that cause irritation for a large number of players. Without spoilers, Chapter Four is largely regarded as divisive in the RDR2 fanbase, some fans vehemently opposing its existence and functionality towards the plot, and the different atmosphere and engagement it provides the player with. Others, however, praised the somewhat standalone chapter for its uniqueness in setting and missions, stating it provides them with a new type of Red Dead to explore. I am, unfortunately, in the former group. The Chapter is understandable, but substantially weaker than the rest of the game.
Whilst I have praised the amount of collectibles the game has, one feature many players, including myself, have been disappointed with is the games handling of collectibles on the map. Due to the massive expanse of the game, with small shacks, rocks, and broken down trains littering the map, it can be frustratingly difficult to reach 100% of the collectibles. The game provides no assistance with this, simply informing you of how many you have left- not in a specific area or state, just across the whole map. If you do need any assistance and you’re going for 100%, I’d recommend IGN’s interactive map which shows the exact location and instructions of all the collectibles available.
There is something special to be said about the connections that narrative games give to their players. Something deeper when you play so that when you look around the landscape, you know that someone somewhere has painstakingly created every tree, every mountain, and every animal. The songs have been hand-chosen for specific parts of the game to give it emotion, to enhance the scene that plays out before you- because in this cinematic game before you, you are not playing; you are watching everything unfold.
So does the game earn its redemption after five years? No matter the issues that the game (inevitably, as all games do) has, Red Dead Redemption 2, after half a decade, remains one of the most lauded games of this century so far. The storyline and characterisation of side characters who, on a surface level, are hardened criminals, makes for an emotional journey- not to mention the character development of the protagonist over the game. Pair that with a beautiful soundtrack and inspired worldbuilding and you have what might be one of my favourite games of all time.
Watch the trailer for Red Dead Redemption II here:
Read more gaming retrospectives here: