I’ve been trying to post here all week, and I just haven’t been able to get more than a few thoughts together before everything falls apart. (Probably a good sign that I should stay away from NaNoWriMo this year.)
I’d wanted to write about my anticipation for Red Dead Redemption 2, and how it very well may be the last big AAA game that I get that excited for. The original RDR is one of my favorite games of all time, and I’m almost always inclined to give Rockstar the benefit of the doubt. And then, of course, the story came out that the making of RDR2 involved several weeks of 100-hour/week crunches, and my heart broke a little bit, and it became very difficult to approach the game with a clean slate.
There is crunch in every industry and discipline – the lawyers I work for routinely work 60-70 hour weeks; when I was in bands, we’d work for 20 hours straight in order to finish a 5 song EP. When I was in high school, working on a play, our dress/tech rehearsals would routinely go until the wee hours, and that meant I had little time for homework, or sleep, or anything. The point being – crunch happens. But when it’s exploited, and pressured, and there’s no compensation, then we enter a grey area of outright cruelty, and that’s a difficult thing to reconcile when it comes to enjoying a leisure activity.
Still, I never got around to writing that thing, and then the game came out, and… well, if I were to present my first impressions, I’m not really sure what I’d say.
Because the thing is, I’d already sunk at least 35 hours into Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which I also haven’t written much about, and the change of pace between ACO and RDR2 couldn’t be more different. Even though they’re both gigantic and utterly gorgeous open-world games about exploration, they are so diametrically opposed in just about every other respect that it gives me whiplash just thinking about them.
Side note: within the last 2 months, I’ve played Spider-Man, Tomb Raider, ACO and now RDR2. These are all third-person action adventure games, but the control schemes for each of them are just different enough that it usually takes me a good 20 minutes to remember what the hell I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t know if this means I’m getting too old, or if I should just stick with one game at a time, or what, but it’s awfully confusing.
In any event! Here’s the thing. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m saying it: I think I’m going to put RDR2 to the side while I finish ACO. They are equally deserving of my full attention, and it’s just too confusing to switch between them, and as it happens I’m probably past the halfway mark in ACO anyway, so I might as well keep going.
It also doesn’t hurt that ACO is remarkably friendly and approachable in all the ways that RDR2 is not. RDR2 is almost antagonistic in terms of how it requires you to approach it compared to ACO; it’s much slower, and there’s a great deal of minutiae you have to deal with (i.e., feeding and grooming your horse, doing chores for your camp) – and while I respect that, and while I appreciate that what Rockstar seems to be saying is that if you’re going to get the most out of your RDR2 experience you need to play it “in character”, so to speak, it can also be a huge pain in the ass.
In ACO, it doesn’t matter where I am – I whistle and my indestructible horse shows up. Combat is fluid and intuitive. I can climb over anything without worrying about stamina; I can jump from the highest peak without taking fall damage. If I’m in a dust-up with some bad guys I can set my fucking swords on fire and crowd control becomes a minor inconvenience. Meanwhile, I’ve only played maybe 6-8 hours of RDR2 and quite a lot of that time has been me slowly ambling over to where I think I left my horse. Or (slowly) running away from the law because I meant to greet someone and instead I shot them in the face. Or just pressing A for minutes at a time because there’s no auto-horse function.
I am willing to meet RDR2 on its own terms, but right now there’s just something about how instantly gratifying ACO is and given how crazy the world is right now I kinda just want to lean into that feeling. I see a question mark on the map and I head towards it without a care in the world.