Tragedy in Two Acts - Red Dead Redemption 1 & 2

Tragedy in Two Acts - Red Dead Redemption 1 & 2

In our last review of the Rockstar western series, we mostly touched on gameplay and the technical differences between the two games, leaving the narrative and characterization mostly aside. But in these words, we will finally take a closer look at this aspect of the two games.

Talking about the story and characters of Red Dead Redemption 1 and 2 is almost impossible without mentioning the scene of the action - the world and the individual sites that Rockstar created behind the scenes of its revolver tragedy in two acts. As western games, RDR 1 and 2 are set in the American West, but not quite the real one. Instead, Sam and Dan Houser, writers, producers, and creative initiators of the franchise, decided to place the story in a fictionalized corner of the United States, inspired by real localities rather than modeled on them. With the creative guidance of the Houser brothers, the designers on the Rockstar team have created an amalgam of classic landscapes that we would expect in a western from the golden era of this genre on the big screen.

From the great plains of central America to the great mountain range of the Rockies, to the deserts of Texas and Arizona, and a little further to the great forests along the Pacific coast - Rockstar merged these landscapes and their biomes into one rounded geographical area, which even internally demarcated by creating fictional federal states and territories. New Austin, West Elizabeth, and Nuevo Paraiso were the first three territories that Rockstar presented to players with RDR1, while they will add New Hanover, Lemoyne, and Ambarino, as well as a wider, or better said - complete version of West Elizabeth. Each of these territories has its appearance, evoking those real territories of the Old West that served as a design in creating the landscape through which the player and the main character travel on a long and winding road to redemption.

Red Dead Redemption pic1

Different ambiances in the geographical sense are accompanied by appropriate musical motifs so that almost every region in the RDR world has its background. Admittedly, these are far more pronounced in the first than in the second, so the Mexican province of Nuevo Paraiso was marked by Spanish guitars and typical Mexican trumpet arrangements, while New Austin was accompanied by a lonely and sad, cowboy tune in a whistle. On the other hand, in the first game, the West Elizabeth area is accompanied by a spooky, almost ominous ambient melody, almost similar to something from a survival horror game.

The ultimate proof of the quality of world design can be found in the fact that players of both games can very well navigate the conversation by listing locations and specific points in the world - so two players in a multiplayer match can easily be found on the old battlefield of Lemoyne. RDR2, or on the ill-fated and abandoned Silent Stead estate in RDR1 and RDR2.

Of course, RDR2 has a great technical advantage over the original game, as Rockstar had expanded the graphics capabilities of the then-new generation of game consoles, which, among other things, allowed the team to create a site in RDR2 that simply could not be created in the first game. - a metropolis on the southeast of the Red Dead map, Saint-Denis.

Red Dead Redemption pic2

An extremely urban area with rows of houses, residential and commercial buildings, as well as factories, and the accompanying dozens and hundreds of characters were too much of a challenge for XBOX 360 and PS3, native hardware of the original game, but far more potent successors to these consoles Orleans, once the largest metropolis in the American South. Apart from the technical aspect and visual impressiveness, Saint-Denis also serves as a sign of the times, ie it's passing. Riding east through a mostly rural or truly wild landscape, you will suddenly see high pillars of smoke, and then chimneys from which they rise. Soon, under the hooves of your horse, you will hear the cobblestones of the metropolis preparing for a step into the twentieth century, in the age of industry and cars, which makes Saint-Denis a thematically important locality.

One of the themes of the Red Dead series is the death of the Wild West, followed by the willingness of some characters and the unwillingness of others to accept that change. In reality, as in the game, it was a change of landscape in a very real, mechanical sense, but also in a philosophical one. The Hauser brothers presented this change to the players through the prism of archetypal characters who crystallized in the western genre and experienced a retrospective in the successor of this genre - post-western.

Red Dead Redemption 1 and 2 are undoubtedly post-western, which means that they look at this period without the glorification and romantic connotations that accompanied western on the big screen and small screens at the zenith of the genre. The protagonists are not virtuous sheriffs who enforce the law in a land of lawlessness, but outlaws, cheaters, and grave robbers - those people on the margins of society, real outsiders who move through a hazy belt of gray around the black and white values ​​of the rest of society.

But what happens once that gray belt starts to narrow? Well, that’s exactly the theme of Red Dead Redemption 2, which is the first act of Rockstar’s revolver tragedy, though chronologically more recent than the two games. The heroes of both games are members of a renegade group known in the game world as the "Van Der Linde gang". The gang represents the last elements of the culture of lawlessness, "society outside society", while the main opponents are representatives of law, industry, and the spread of civilization from the direction of the metropolis on the east coast of the United States.

Red Dead Redemption pic3

With that, we logically come to the main protagonists of the two games, and here we will also follow the internal chronological sequence of the games for easier analysis, rather than the real one. Our first encounter with the Van Der Linde gang is set at the time of the escape of this group of robbers and outlaws over the snowy slopes of the Grizzly Mountains, the central mountainous area of the RDR2. The gang has suffered losses in a recent clash with law enforcement officials, and on the shoulders of Arthur Morgan, a character we will control as players for most of the game, has the difficult task of finding a solution to the hopeless situation the gang finds itself in.

As one might assume in a play in whose title the word “redemption” holds a prominent place, redemption holds the central thought of the protagonist’s activities and actions. By the time he took control of the character, Arthur Morgan was already a hardened outlaw, with a series of dashes on his belt, so to speak, for all his deeds. The turn, however, comes after Morgan learns that he is seriously ill - sentenced to death, which slowly approaches him as the chapters into which the game is broken down are arranged. Rockstar left the player the opportunity to act honorably or dishonorably during his playthrough, which will eventually be reflected at the very end of the game, but in the canonical sequence of the story, after the diagnosis Arthur Morgan goes in search of redemption, leading to a clash with his former brothers from the gang.

Although we control two characters throughout the game, Red Dead Redemption 2 has three central characters - Arthur Morgan, who figures through the main part of the game, John Marston, to whom the epilogue is dedicated, and of course, Dutch Van Der Linde, whose shadow extends through the action of the whole game and interferes with the action of RDR1. A charismatic leader or cult leader, Dutch is hard to categorize without touching another. In the first game, we learn about his character mainly through dialogic exchanges between John Marston and other people, when Marston touches on his own and more than complex past, in RDR2 we have the opportunity to see Dutch as a person of flesh and blood. But the Houser brothers have made sure that the harmony of two versions of the same character through two games has harmony with each other - a compliment that can be applied to the better part of the action in the transition from one game to another. 

Red Dead Redemption pic4

The main protagonist of the first game, John Marston, we meet shortly after the beginning of RDR2 (again, following the internal chronological sequence of games), and then follow him as a secondary character until the epilogue of RDR2, when he becomes a character we manage as players. This section of the game serves as a link to RDR1, filling in the gaps between the main section of RDR2 and the beginning of RDR1. Although not without its flaws, the RDR2 epilogue is one of the key narrative sections in the series, although it represents only one-fifth or even one-sixth of this game.

Once you complete RDR2 and run RDR1, which is an internal sequel, you'll be amazed at how narratively harmonious the games are, even though the games themselves were separated for almost a decade during the development period. As for the story, the transition is natural and smooth, following the logical check-out of RDR2 and the cliffhanger presented in the final scene. The highlight of RDR1 is a reunion with Dutch and his monologue on the cliffs of Mount Nekoti Rock, followed by another epilogue-like section in which John Marston himself gets his check-out.

In the end, John Marston’s character got the most room for growth and development in the two games, making the RDR1 team’s check-out all the more tragic. Following the theme of the series, in which there is no escape from the past and in which mistakes must be paid, the last outlaws must lay down their arms and ride off at dusk, to the lands behind the last rays of the sun, leaving behind a unique western story impossible to tell in any other medium.

With that in mind, the only way to experience this two-act revolver tragedy is to take your time and play both games. Red Dead Redemption 2 is available on PC as well as consoles, while currently, RDR1 is available on XBOX One of the recent systems. However, rumors in the gaming industry state that Rockstar is preparing a remake of RDR1 in an engine that runs RDR2, which would bring the two games together in a real practical kit.

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