We’re well into the incredibly, very good game territory now, although I’m sure some will probably disagree with that statement in relation to yesterday’s entry. But hey, I think I can allow myself to be blinded by nostalgia at least once per year. Plus, when I gave Sonic Mania number 2 last year, that was backed by the fact that it was a very good game. This year it just so happened to be a purple dragon with a Sonic-like attitude pulling on my nostalgia boner. I don’t think anyone can argue the quality or the value of the final four games on my 2018 list though. Or maybe you can, I don’t know.
By the time I finally finished this one, I ended up having some mixed feelings on certain aspects of it. But, I feel like a lot of that came from my desire to finish the game before these Game of the Year lists, that, plus I wanted to see the ending while avoiding the rampant spoilers in YouTube thumbnails everywhere. I failed in that endeavour.
Let’s recap before we get too far down a rabbit hole though:
#7: Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
#4: Red Dead Redemption 2
Played on Xbox One X | Released 26th October | Developed by Rockstar Studios
Rockstar leave a large wake when they release a game. The entirety of the of the video game industry seem to plan their year around the release of something like Red Dead Redemption 2. With good reason too, The depth and scale of a Rockstar game is all consuming. They create vast, complex open worlds in which people can spend weeks, months, years… I put 75 hours into this game, and I only saw the final ending by gunning for it with laser for focus for 25% of that time.
Much of my early time with Red Dead Redemption 2 was spent just existing within the world. As much as the game has a story it wants to tell, it feels like much of the intended experience with the game comes from the emergent experiences player encounter as they just play in this “Life as a Cowboy Simulator”. I’d spend hours simply riding around the wilderness, hunting, fishing, camping. Chatting with the odd characters I encounter by chance. There are mechanics and reasons to participate and enjoy even the most mundane things in Red Dead.
It’s a awe inspiring world in which to explore. A technical marvel to be sure. Looking at it from the outside, it would be easy to assume that this game would be an instant number one on nearly everyone’s game of the year list. And it would have been higher on mine, if not for some little niggles.
The game’s story takes far too long. For what is essentially a tale about a family breaking down slowly over time and turning against one another, there are entire chapters that feel like they’re just there to stretch out the game’s length. On top of that, the structure of the story missions hardly deviates from a fixed pattern: You ride somewhere for 10 minutes, see some cut scene and then just enter a gunfight.
After a period of focusing exclusively on finishing the story, I found myself pretty burned out on it. Had I not wanted to see the end of it before writing this article, I probably would have been much better served taking my time with the game. It’s not helped by the slow and lazy pace in which the main character moves. It contributes a hell of a lot towards role play aspects of Red Dead, but ends up hurting it if you wanted to treat it purely as a video game experience.
I think I will go back to this game in the future. Maybe even start again from the beginning and take a much more leisurely approach to it. Because, while I had issues with the game play, the structure and the story, I loved the characters, I loved the world they’ve created and loved just existing within it. It’s going to be really interesting seeing how Red Dead Redemption 2 is viewed in a few years time. I don’t think it’s going to be seen as fondly as the original, despite the staggering leaps in technology between them.
It’s a contentious game to say the least. But the things I like about it far outweigh the problems I have with the game. It’s a staggering accomplishment that struggles to escape the shadow of its predecessor in a few key places for it to be classified as a true masterpiece.