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Red Dead Redemption Day#3: Morals of the Frontier

This day is a bunch of different plots in a variety of places. The game frustrates me in a few ways. Don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot good here, particularly in the characters who are not strikingly original but nicely fleshed out. But the game leaves me completely in the dark about what I’m supposed to do and some of the failure conditions on the quest are ridiculously cheap. But most troubling of all, the game forces me to do something that runs against the kind of main character I’m playing. If you’re going to let me determine my character in the open world, don’t take that away from me in the plot. Spoilers within.

I respawn back in the bar and immediately head back out. I bump into a guy (of course) when I reach the street. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do, so I try riding to a W on my map for some reason. It’s a long ride into the desert until I see a yellow X. This launches a new chapter: Old Swindler Blues. I find a guy in the desert in CS.  He’s on ground and kind of crazy. John picks him up, and he wants John to drive his carriage back to town to get him help. He claims to be dying, and he sells some kind of elixir. I get control and start driving. He knows who I am and connects me to the gang when I say my name. Suddenly guys are chasing us, and I have to shoot them from the carriage as I drive. I do okay, but I lose 1 horse in the beginning. It is hard to shoot people while driving. Boy, this guy is melodramatic about his injuries. I reach the town and CS help the guy off. John takes him to the doctor. I get control back with more honor.

I ride back to Bonnie,  finding a random attack along the way where two guys are being held up by bandits. One guy dies but I save the other one by shooting all of the bandits.  It rains (nice effect) as I loot the space, skinning the horses and searching the bodies.  Not sure yet why I’m skinning these horses. I get back to the ranch. I arrive, but when I get to the B on the map, there’s nothing to do there. WHY IS THERE THE FUCKING B ON THE MAP THEN?!? With nothing else to do, I take the dog quest again. This time I see a criminal. I chase him down after a lot of running and kill him, and I AGAIN GET A NOBODY CAUGHT. FUCK YOU GAME. I then play some poker and end up $13. Not knowing what else to do, I sleep and save.

I go back to the B when I wake up. I arrive at a new chapter at Bonnie: Women and Cattle. Oh, I had to go back during the day to activate the mission; that’s totally clear. She thinks that John was going to stay. He says, in a confusing way, he’s trying to get back to his new life. She wants him to call him Bonnie, but he remains formal. He explains that he used to be in a gang that Bill was in a gang too, and that he’s got to capture Bill before something terrible happens. John’s dad was a Scot. John talks about how people don’t forget things. She talks about her father’s debts; he mentions that his father died at 8, and his mom died at childbirth. Because he was orphaned, he became a gang member. It wasn’t all bad though — the gang leader taught him to read. John points out the hypocracy of his current good deeds — he’s helping a rich leader by enforcing the law.  The scene ends when she asks for John’s help with the cattle.

I get control and get on a horse. I have to get behind herd and steer them to pasture. I move a small herd then a big one. It’s not hard and I quickly succeed. I go right back to Bonnie once my herding quest is done. The next chapter is Wild Horses Tamed Passions. In CS, I meet Bonnie’s father. He knows John is here to remove undesirables. He talks about how he moved from the east and himself fought Indians, crooks, drought, small pox, etc. But he’s never doubted his life here. Bonnie’s dad doesn’t trust the federal government. The actor here is good, but the father’s a kind of stupid model visually. He offers to have John break in some horses, and we go to it.

I get control and follow them on horseback out to the wild horses. To break a horse, I have to lasso a horse (L2 to ready lasso, R2 to throw), rein it (hold L2 until it’s still), and then ride it as it bucks until it calms down (balance with L stick and not fall off). It takes a couple tries but I get it. It’s fun. After I capture my first horse, I get back on my horse and the game immediately tells me I abandoned the herd of wild horses. FUCK YOU GAME. At least I respawn at the same place.  I quickly bust one more horse and we head back. I have to immediately get more wild horses outside of Armadillo. As Bonnie and I ride there, they talk about her education and why she didn’t marry — no men on the ranch. He mentions that she’s like his wife.  She mentions he doesn’t talk about her much. Credit to the game that the banter is pretty interesting and the characters have some nice depth to them.  The task when we arrive is that I have to herd a group of horses into a canyon. I do it cleanly, but then a stallion CS escapes. I get control to chase it, but the first time I fail to catch it. I’m not sure why — I thought I was chasing it. I respawn, and fail twice more.  Oh I guess the horse I’m chasing isn’t the stallion. I go the opposite way and find the stallion. I break it on my second try, and in CS Bonnie arrives and gives me the stallion as a thank-you.

I get control and go back to Armadillo, and to guy I saved earlier.  We start a new chapter about not bearing false witness except for profit.  The guy tries to sell John elixir, and John shuts him up. The guy wants John to help him sell his product.  I don’t really want to help him, but John goes along with it and drive his carriage to a farm.  The guy wants John to be a part of the scam as a shill. John’s suspicious but he’s here. The guy won’t admit to lying about the elixir, but claims that John can help him make a good sale. He drives ahead as I get control and walk up to an assembled crowd. I see his show in CS as he patters about what the elixir can do.  He then calls John out of the crowd. John goes to the stage and drinks the stuff. The guy then pulls John out into the crowd and says his eyesight is improved. He asks John to confirm that and John doesn’t lie, but he dodges the question. West (the elixir guy) wants me to shoot a far-away skull, and I hit it. A guy in the crowd wants me to shoot his hat from the sky to prove the elixir’s power. I have to do it.

To pull off this shot, I need to use dead-eye (R3) to slow the world down. I guess I accidentally hit R3 in previous fight to cause that slowdown thing.  I hit the button too late once, then I do it early and I somehow shoot the guy. WTF? The third time, I hit it. After that, the guy threatens me to a fist fight. Dear god, fist fighting in this game is TERRIBLE. You look like you don’t connect at all when you hit, there are no tactics to the moves, and there is this stupid ground tackle that appears at random and has no connection to the rest of the melee. I do beat the guy though. He then pulls a gun, and I use dead-eye to shoot the gun out of his hand.  People buy the elixir, and in CS John says goodbye. As he leaves, West offers John the help of his church friend Seth to get me into the fort where Bill is.

Given what I got at the end, I guess I had to do that scene. Sigh.  I don’t like that in an open world game I’m forced to do things I don’t want to. This is not Vice City. There are actually moral, sympathetic characters in this world, and I actually have the opportunity to be one of them. It’s very disappointing that the plot doesn’t give me a chance to exhibit that freedom. It makes me worry that I’m going to do something else later on that totally violates my sense of the character I’m playing. I know this is nitpicking; after all, the choice has to be pretty good to make me feel that I have any control over who my character is. But that doesn’t forgive problems with the plot.

Getting control back, I ride to Armadillo. Along the way, I see another stranger marker, and when I approach it, I find a woman off the trail. She’s the woman from the train who was talking to the priest, and she seems very weak. She talks about faith, and how she’s out here for clarity. The quest is give her some medicine and since I have some, I do. She thanks the Lord for sending me to her, and that completes the quest. I make it back to armadillo. I play a bit more poker and win big on a decent hand. I sleep and save and that’s the end of the night.

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2 Responses

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  1. Douglas Yee says

    Nick, are you getting tutorial popups on the upper right corner of your screen? From the way you describe certain things, like going to the Bonnie quest marker at night and not getting feedback, it leads me to suspect you have some option turned off or your screen size is messed up, or something. When you go to a quest marker that you can’t activate, it should pop up a message like “Come back between the hours of 9am and 5pm.”

    Also, highly recommend you switch the aiming mode in the game to “Casual.” I hate aiming with a gamepad. Casual style aiming ups the degree of auto-aim you get, and makes shooting much easier (especially from horseback or while driving wagons).

  2. admin says

    I do have the tutorials turned on, but they are so subtle in that upper-left corner and, as you mentioned, so briefly on screen that I often don’t even notice them. I mean, it’s a lot that they have to teach the player, and I’m not sure there’s an easy way to do it, but there’s lots of stuff I feel I only half know how to do.

    I should check my difficulty. I don’t mind it being a bit hard though.

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