By Wes Annac, The Annac Blog
Welcome back to the Van der Linde Family Mountain Vacation!
This vacation town has it all – snow, decrepit structures, more snow, an overwhelming feeling of despair and dread… and our outlaw friends are making sure they get their money’s worth.
In our last episode, we got to read Arthur’s journal and learn what led up to the Blackwater robbery and the gang’s desperate escape into the mountains. I also stumbled on a significant amount of dialogue I hadn’t heard before.
We then went hunting with Charles Smith and learned his backstory: his mother was taken by soldiers when he was young, and he ran away from his alcoholic father at thirteen, living alone in the wilderness. Needless to say, his skills as a survivalist will prove useful.
The first few missions revolve around the gang getting back on their feet after a disastrous robbery that nearly got them all arrested and/or killed. Now that we’ve found shelter and everyone has had their share of hearty venison; we have another problem.
Our rivals are in the mountains with us, and the only logical solution is to hit them before they hit us. This means that today, we’ll get our first taste of real combat.
There’s not a lot to say about the shooting in RDR2. I described it before, and as I wrote then, it is not a central focus of the game. It’s fun and satisfying enough, and there are a few different ways you can approach it if you want to liven things up. But there is so much happening in this game that to focus only on the combat is to limit the experience.
Still, it is a video game and we might as well have some fun. So, let’s jump in!
Teasing the Wolf-Man
After we talk with Molly, we walk outside and into the house with the rest of the gang to find Abigail chastising John for always getting into trouble and worrying her to death.
If you linger around John as he’s lying on the cot, Arthur might tease him about his scar. If Mary-Beth is at John’s side instead of Abigail, she’ll stick up for John, saying that no matter what problems the two of them have, it’s not the right time to hash them out.
That was another interesting bit of dialogue I hadn’t experienced until this playthrough. It’s the third surprise and we’re still in the first chapter!
After Mary-Beth tells us off, we walk over to another house and say hello to Javier, who is standing guard next to a small campfire. After we talk with him, we walk inside to begin our next mission.
Arthur walks into a small house containing Bill, Lenny and unfortunately, Micah. Unsurprisingly, Micah teases Lenny.
As Javier comes in from the cold, Bill expresses sadness over the people they lost. Lenny jokes that people will celebrate when Micah dies, to which everyone laughs. This prompts Micah to attack Bill, for some reason.
Dutch comes in at just the right moment to break up the fight, telling them that instead of fighting each other, they should be looking for their enemies. Arthur is not so sure they should go after the O’Driscolls given their current predicament. Dutch thinks they have no choice but to attack their rivals – strike before the O’Driscolls realize they are here.
The plan is to steal some dynamite their rivals have stashed and figure out what train they intend to rob. With any luck, we’ll take their score right out from under them.
With a new lasso in hand and a little arguing out of the way, the gang sets out on their mission to infiltrate the O’Driscoll camp.
“Okay. Let’s go find these bastards before they find us, and rob this score they’re planning.”
Present in the raid:
On the way to the camp, the game puts us in cinematic mode as it delights us with some more incredible mountain views. We’re crossing creeks and passing through snow-covered trees as we set out to make more chaos on this sunny, wintery May day.
O’Driscoll vs. Van der Linde: A Long-Running Blood Feud
During the ride, Arthur tells Dutch he needs to lay to rest his feud with Colm O’Driscoll. We learn here that the term “blood feud” very much applies; Dutch un-alived Colm’s brother and Colm returned the favor with Dutch’s lover, a woman named Annabelle.
This eye-for-an-eye style of revenge solidified what would become an intensely hateful rivalry. There is real history between Dutch and Colm, and it is nasty. It clarifies why they hate each other and why Dutch is so keen on stealing from this guy.
When we arrive at Ewing Basin, aka the Abandoned Mining Town, O’Driscoll Edition, Arthur and Dutch walk up the mountain a little to scope out the camp. In our first time looking through the binoculars, we see Colm chastise and smack around one of his crew before they get ready to ride off.
Dutch lets Colm and some of his crew leave so they can rob the camp and steal the train robbery plans. As he says:
“Much less fun to rob him and his score if he never finds out about it.”
It’s All Downhill From Here
After we scope out our enemies and let their leader leave, Dutch tells us the plan and we begin our long, slow walk down the mountain. On our stroll, Dutch reaffirms to Arthur that their priority is not to enact revenge, but to get food, supplies and money for their little community.
Then, at the worst possible time to be having this argument, Dutch again complains that Arthur has lost faith in him. This theme will pick up throughout the game – Dutch will assume his allies have lost trust in him and hold it over their heads as if it is a betrayal. Rockstar did a good job introducing this theme early and staying consistent with it. They let it rest at certain points in the story but bring it back as a central focus toward the end.
As we walk down into the camp and hide with the rest of the gang, preparing to attack; you feel the tension gradually build to a pew-heavy conclusion.
Once we get to the bottom of the hill, we sneak into some old rickety structure where we hide, crouching, before we go on the offensive. Again, this is our first real experience with combat and it’s where we get a feel for the auto-aim style of shooting we’ll be using a lot. This mission also exemplifies the violent extents to which our anti-heroes will go to hurt their enemies.
It’s a hell of a fight, especially since we are limited on weapons and health. You can take the lead in the assault or let someone else start the fun. We’re going to take the lead with our bow.
*Intense rival gang fight ensues*
*Lots of pew-pew*
*We win the fight – victory smoke*
While we loot our enemies, Dutch explains that Colm takes in all kinds of strangers into his gang, which is why there are so many and none of them know each other very well.
Colm’s gang is nothing like Dutch’s; the outlaws who make up Van der Linde gang are all tight-knit, united by the ideals of their leader who took them in and taught them to read (among other things). Colm’s gang is an assembly of random people who can “shoot a gun, and ride a horse, and kill without thought”. They are united by nothing other than the fact that they work for this crazy man who doesn’t care about them.
As we search the camp and talk about how Colm sucks, we’re ambushed by more O’Driscolls who start pouring out of the woods. We can advance and fight them head-on or stay back and defend ourselves.
We will advance.
*More violent fighting ensues as we run into the woods and blast our foes*
Their ambush of our ambush gives us our first experience with dead-eye. This combat advantage lets you slow down time as the game auto-paints small x symbols on your enemy. When you hit the button to shoot, Arthur hits every x. Later in the game, you can manually tag enemies while in dead-eye.
*We dead-eye these fools until we win again*
After the second fight, we search the compound for anything that will help with the score we plan to steal from the O’Driscolls. Arthur finds their dynamite, which will of course come in handy for the train robbery. Micah finds a paper with details about said robbery: our rivals were planning to hit a train owned by a Mr. Leviticus Cornwall.
With our enemies taken care of and our robbery plans in hand, we leave the camp victorious and head back to Colter.
“We will always get back up and fight. That’s who we are. Outlaws for life, fellas!”
On the ride back, Dutch tells the gang he’s confident they won’t fall behind again like in Blackwater, which is totally believable. To be fair; they are doing pretty well at the moment. They found shelter and the camp is fed, with plans for the next big job already underway.
We then happen upon another O’Driscoll – not just any O’Driscoll, but the one who was with Colm before our assault. The player character chases after him, giving us our first chance to use the lasso as we chase down and hogtie our enemy. We throw him on the back of our horse and head for camp.
We find out the O’Driscoll’s name is Kieran Duffy. The dialogue between him and Arthur is hilarious; Arthur is annoyed and Kieran is a mess.
“This is a real bad day for you, Kieran Duffy.”
We bring Kieran back to camp and dump him on the ground as Dutch and a few others stand over him. Dutch has Uncle and Bill tie him up; the plan is to starve him out until he tells us what his gang is doing in the mountains. Kieran insists he’s not really an O’Driscoll and he hates Colm, but of course, nobody believes him.
Then, Dutch says something pretty cool.
“I got a saying, my friend… We shoot fellers as need shooting, save fellers as need saving, and feed ‘em as need feeding. We are gonna find out what you need.”
Dutch makes it clear the train robbery is next on the gang’s agenda. This means we’ll be getting into even more trouble in the next episode.
We’re checking so many outlaw boxes at the start of this game: fleeing the law; raiding rival gang hideouts; kinapping rival gang members; and now, we’ll be robbing a train. Not just any train, but one owned by the game’s equivalent of David Rockefeller.
The brutality of the Blackwater Massacre has not slowed Dutch even a little. He is intent on ramping up the chaos. I’m sure that will pass, though, and the gang will ultimately find the peace and safety they are searching for. They may be acting a little crazy right now, but in the end, cooler heads will prevail.
Stay tuned for episode 5, when we’ll set off a chain of events that will put a lot of unwanted attention on the future mango farmers we know as the Van der Linde gang. Not only will this be the first train robbery in the game; it will be the mission that takes us out of the mountains and into Chapter 2.
We’ll soon be free from the winter wonderland we’re stranded in.
See you soon!