Why You Should Play Red Dead Redemption 2

Sirianna Blanck, Editor-in-chief

“Read Dead Redemption 2” is an open world RPG (role-playing Game) action-adventure released in 2018 that follows Arthur Morgan through his adventures as a cowboy/bounty hunter/criminal/mercenary in a “Wild West”-like world. The game is a masterpiece.

It takes place in an America-like landscape post-Civil War, perhaps during what U.S. History class would dub the “Progressive Era,” with regions of the map mimicking the American South, Appalachian Mountains, New Orleans, Rocky Mountains, Heartlands, and the Western desert. Each area has its own part of the story, as well as terrain, hunting, fishing, side quests, etc. It can be played on the Xbox, PC, and PS4.

There is an online multiplayer mode of the game. However I have never played it, opting for the wonderful story mode that is played individually.

Also, as a disclaimer, everything I’m about to say has surely been said about this game before. Typing “Read Dead Redemption 2” into YouTube gives you hundreds if not thousands of videos of gameplay, scene dissections, reviews, video essays, soundtracks, and more. I found the game from watching streamers like 39Daph, so this is no indie game and it’s certainly beloved by many others.

It has also won many awards, including many “Game of the Year”s. It was made to be the best, plain and simple. The game likely cost around 540 million dollars to create and market, although there is little official information put out by Rockstar. The work put into this video game is almost immeasurable. Of course I love how detailed every second of gameplay is, but there are widespread beliefs on the internet that Rockstar employees were overworked during the game’s development. I remember watching a video essay on “Red Dead” and hearing the YouTuber say something like “how many people missed getting to tuck their kids into bed just so I could explore this part of the map?” It’s not hard to imagine that a game with 2,800 contributors across five countries and almost a decade of work has some controversy behind its creation.

So with that odd disclaimer and introduction to the game, why should you play “Red Dead Redemption 2,” AKA my second favorite video game of all time? (You can check out my favorite video game of all time here)

First, it has an amazing ending. Truly, the greatest. I sobbed. I won’t spoil it but I truly think you should just play it for the ending.

Now, reason number two is that it’s gorgeous.

Arthur poses calmly by the ocean (Photo courtesy of Rockstar Games)

A key part of the game is the open world, this endless land of fields and rocks that often make you feel so small. Standing on top of mountains and looking down at the valley covered in snow might not be the same in a video game, but in “Red Dead 2” it can feel just as evocative. The endless landscapes are a key part of the way the game makes you feel – like you’re all alone. Now, this is an odd theme for a video game, after all, we usually play video games to feel less alone. However, a big part of “Red Dead” is this feeling that you only have yourself to rely on. You are the lone cowboy. Sure, you’re part of the Van der Linde gang, but outside of main story missions, you’ll find yourself on your own while exploring the world.

A large part of the theme of this game is the dying Wild West. The age of the cowboy is over. Civilization is coming. Your gang seems to be forever in conflict with the changing times, and so feeling this isolation from other characters during an average hunting mission or commuting between cities can have a much greater effect on the tone and feeling of the game than any line of dialogue.

I also love how the game uses time itself to enhance the beauty. A key part of the visuals are where the shadows sit, where the sun is in the sky, and more. Some of the greatest shots I’ve seen will be caught during a sunset, a particularly shadowy day, or when you catch the milky way shining above you at night.

The actual gameplay is smooth and easy, making it a wonderful game for the less experienced or intense gamers. I myself am not into button mashing or retrying levels a hundred times, but I respect the hustle. In this game, sure, things can be hard to do, but it all feels achievable in shorter amounts of time, which is vital since the entire story and most side quests will equate to at least 60 hours inside the game. I’d reccomend spending the more time you can, though, to truly experience every element it has to offer. The controls are quick to learn and the game does a wonderful job including an intro story area used to flesh out exposition while you get used to which buttons let you mount your horse, fire your gun, and so on.

Riding through the heartlands with Dutch, leader of the Van der Linde gang (Photo courtesy of Rockstar Games)

Speaking of horses, you will never be so attached to a character as your horse. The game lets you keep many horses in different stables and at camp, but I rarely had more than one. You can buy “horse reviver” at general stores, and soon, protecting my horse became a bigger priority than protecting myself.

While they may just be NPC’s (Non-Playable Character) after all, the NPC’s in “Red Dead” are extremely loveable. Sure, many of them are trying to kill you, but the side plot characters like cute photographer guy I swear Arthur is in love with, Romeo & Juliet trying to escape their racist families, and the widow trying to make it on her own who’ll makes you soup when you need it, are all angels I loved getting to interact with. It’s no secret the game is amazingly written but the place this is clearest is inside the “meaningless” side quests that have some of the strongest characters and motivations in the game. These NPCs make you wish they were on every mission, although you thankfully will usually see them more than once.

Another part of the game I love is that the side quests are often reoccurring. These NPCs don’t need your help a single time, but up to five or six times. This lets you interact with them at different points of the game. In such a long game, Arthur is often a different person throughout its runtime, so getting to meet people many times and see how you want to treat them can add a layer of deeper connection to the characters.

There are lots of different random encounters in “Red Dead,” after all it’s an open world. I love these encounters, as they can be a fun break from the main quest and give you ways to lower or raise your honor level, which can be important in determining Arthur’s actions. However, be careful to not just talk to anyone, as it’s quite easy to get robbed or killed during these “little” interactions.

Speaking of honor level, this is a feature of “Red Dead” I really like. You are not Arthur Morgan; he is his own character you happen to be controlling. I really like this separation, personally. The honor level bar allows you to choose the type of Arthur you’ll be. I love that while this is a RPG, you don’t just play as yourself. Many RPGs that I do really enjoy do just end up boiling down to how you would act in this new setting. I see the appeal of this type of game, but I really like getting to fall in love with a character.

The story is broken up into long chapters, highlighting different areas of the maps and groups of people, which stops characters or plots from getting repetitive. Each chapter left me with a favorite map location, quest, decision, and hint to what’s coming. Overall, each chapter of its evocative story is drastically different and allows character development for every member of the gang, eventually culminating into a masterful final act that’ll leave you wanting to click new game the second it’s over.