I am occasionally coaxed back into Azeroth, or into its battle-scarred adjunct The Outland, and each time I return to a bank full of mysterious garbage and elixir-maddened shrews. I don’t know what half of that stuff is anymore, some of it is related to quests I’ve also forgotten, and some were almost certainly kept because they had “a cool icon.” My bags are no better. They seem like someone else’s bags, bulging with trinkets of questionable utility, baubles which steep in a puddle of alchemical reagents and alien produce.
Open World games tend not to be terribly good investments for me, though I enjoy the time I do spend with them. I like to crack open a cool bottled universe as much as the next man, to savor the hiss of the broken seal, but I keep finding new bits of crinkling, gleamy foil around some corner that demands to be investigated. Ultimately I start to feel guilty that I have not applied myself properly to the impetus of the narrative, and this during what is ostensibly my own leisure time, that guilt ultimately curdling into resentment which finds the disc removed or given to a friend.
The most notable exception to this is Crackdown, for two reasons: one, being able to play with another person polished those side-trips up into something that feels a little more main stage. And two, Crackdown’s gameplay (to the surprise of almost everyone, many of whom had purchased it for the Halo beta) was sublime. Crackdown is fun to play inherently, much like a real videogame. It isn’t just the lure of a broad, algorithmic universe. Amusing traversal, a true sense of power progression, and a big box of toys had as their inevitable quotient a state of perpetual funmax.
Red Dead Redemption wasn’t even on my radar before this video, for the reasons stated above. I super like the theme, which is rare as hen’s teeth, but I never feel like I’m getting my money’s worth out of these games. I feel like I’m at the buffet, heaping my plate trip after trip with condiments - ketchup and mustard ladled over firm spheres of butter. It seems like Red Dead has found a way to split the difference.
I’m desperately worried that I’ve invented some game in my mind that Red Dead Redemption may or may not be - I don’t know how moment-to-moment rich their free roam is, or if it was ever meant to contain such fond wishes.