Category Archives: LBoG: Editorials

Xbox One S All-Digital Console: What Are Microsoft Thinking?

Okay so let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. The Xbox One S All-Digital or The Xbox One SAD as people have begun calling it. Right now that niggle is out of the way, I have a perfectly reasonable question regarding this new console – what’s the point?

For those not in the know, allow me to give you a quick catch up.
So Microsoft are set to release a new version of their Xbox One S console on the 7th of May. This new version is exactly the same as the previous console except for one detail, it will not have a disc-drive.  Meaning, the new console will be digital only and it comes with a price tag of £199.99, let’s just call it £200. Or $249.00 for our American cousins.

Xbox One S 2

So back to my question, what’s the point?
First let me address that price. £200 for an Xbox One S? Just off a quick interwebs search and I found a few deals on the “normal” Xbox One S with the same sized 1Tb hard-drive for around the £180-190 mark with a game, either Battlefield V or Forza Horizon 4. For a few extra £s you can buy the same console with three games. The new digital only console comes with copies of Minecraft, Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 3. Three games can’t be bad… or can it? Well yes as the games are pretty old relatively speaking. I mean Forza Horizon 3 when Forza Horizon 4 is the latest in the franchise? Plus both Minecraft and Sea of Thieves are available via Microsoft’s Game Pass program… along with Forza Horizon 4. 

If you’re going digital only, you’re gonna go with Game Pass because it’s a really cost effective idea. So those three bundled games are meaningless.

There are some great deals on Game Pass as well if you look around. Suddenly the three games don’t seem all that impressive. Add on to the age old point that digital games cost more than physical (currently £60 for the digital version of Red Dead Redemption II or £30 for the physical) and that you can’t trade in digital games, that all equals a very expensive past time in the long run with you paying (sometimes) double for games.

Expensive

Then let’s not forget that Microsoft have removed hardware here, the disc-drive. That means more than just losing the ability of physical gaming as there goes the Blu-ray player too. Less hardware for more money? So when you look at it, you’re really paying more for a console that offers less options and more restrictions. Plus with less hardware – wouldn’t that mean lower production cost… so why isn’t the console cheaper?

Then onto my biggest point. A few days ago and Sony officially announced the PlayStation 5 is on the way. No official release date yet but most people seem to think it’ll be 2020. Surely with Sony already giving the word on their new console, Microsoft can’t be far behind. With the new generation of consoles creeping up on us… who the hell would fork out £200 on a restrictive console that limits your options when they could put that money toward a shiny new PlayStation 5 or Xbox Whatever? But if you really, really, really want to by a Xbox One S right about now, just buy the normal model with the disc drive. At least you’ll have the option of both digital, physical games and a Blu-ray player thrown in.

Xbox One S Bundle

I believe there is a rumour going around that the new Xbox will come in two flavours – one with a disc-drive and one without. So the reason for this new digital only Xbox One S could be to test the waters and see how popular a digital only console could be. But are they not leaving it a tad late? If this console had been released 3-4 years ago, yeah I can see how they may get some great numbers to draw some intel from. But this close to the launch of the next gen?

I seriously do not understand Microsoft’s marketing here, it makes no sense to expect people to pay £200 for a console without the disc-drive when they can buy the same console with one for around the same amount of money that is capable of doing the same job and then some… plus play Blu-rays too. It’s like having the option of buying two cars. One for 35k with everything you’d except being included and then the second car, same make and model also coming in at 35k but without a fuel tank.

If you really want a digital only Xbox One S, then just buy the normal console and don’t use the disc-drive for gaming. It works out about the same price and at least you get a Blu-ray player thrown in too.

You know, that SAD moniker actually makes a lot of sense.

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My British Game Developers & Publishers Book Update

So, for those not in the know, I’ve been writing a book covering the British gaming boom of the 80s. How it all began from simple bedroom programmers up to some of the biggest names in the business working today.

The book is split into chapters with each one telling the story of how companies like Imagine Software, Psygnosis, U.S. Gold (who despite the name were British), Rare, Rockstar North and many others – how they started, some of the people behind the companies and even their games all covered from the start to the end. There’s some really interesting stories revealed through the book. From bitter rivalries and back stabbing buy-outs to surprising partnerships and interesting tit-bits on how many of these companies came to be. A tapestry of British gaming is revealed over the years.

I have a very big vision for the book with a specific design in mind. A glorious, hardback, glossy paged tome. But getting the whole thing together as one package is proving more difficult than I originally thought. So, for the moment, the hardback, glossy paged tome is on hold. In the meantime I’m aiming to self-publish a text only paperback version of my book. This is to hopefully get some interest in the project and even more importantly, raise some funds that I can invest into making the hardback, glossy paged tome I envision.

The paperback version is bring worked on feverishly. The first draft is already completed and I’m currently working on adding more info and general tidying up to get it in a publishable state soon.

cluck-trent

I’m aiming for a summer-ish time release, I’m thinking July/August. So anyone who’s interested can buy a copy. Price will depend on how big the book ends up being, it’s currently at over 75, 000 words already. More info to come closer to release date….

 

Metro: Exodus – Movement Of Jah People Oh Oh Oh, Yeah!

So I have a confession to make – I was never a big fan of the Metro games. It’s not that I thought they were crap but more a case of they just didn’t grab me as they did with others. The previous games, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light released in 2010 and 2013 respectively were both critically and commercially successful with favourable reviews across the board as well as strong enough sales warrant sequels all from the same developer, 4A Games.

4A Games

Well 4A Games are back with the third game in the series, Metro Exodus and after being given a review code (thanks to publisher Deep Silver) I thought I’d go back and experience the first two games once more before I tackled the latest entry… and I really enjoyed myself too. I found the games much more entertaining than I originally remembered and seeing as the first game is coming up to 9 years old this year – it holds up surprisingly well. Anyway, the point is that I was initially wrong.

I guess a quick bit of coverage of what the Metro games actually are would be good. Well, the best way to describe them is that they are first person, survival horror shooters – with a blending of resource management, stealth and action. The first game is based on the novel of the same name from writer Dmitry Glukhovsky. And you play as a guy called Artyom who has to fight and defend his home and people from the horrors lurking in the metro tunnels after a nuclear war in Russia. Artyom and others struggle to survive in the harshness of nuclear fallout as they fight the mutants created as well as have to scavenge what they can endure and withstand the horrors of nuclear fallout.

Metro Exodus Gasmask

Look, just go play the games as they’re really enjoyable but make sure you play them on the hardest difficulty to get the most of of the survival horror elements. I need to crack on with looking at the newest game Metro Exodus.

Well Artyom is back doing pretty much what he was doing in the previous games, killing mutants and scavenging whatever he can to help him and his fellow survivors stay alive. I suppose the first thing to cover is the new gameplay style. See, the first two games were pretty linear with you being stuck underground for the most part. Occasionally you would pop up the the surface but the majority of the previous games took place in the underground metro, it’s stations and tunnels. Then when you would go above ground now and then, it was still a linear experience as you had to follow a pre-set path to get to your objective. Now things have changed as while there still is some of that underground metro action (the game starts out like that), most of the game actually takes place in the open. The linearity of the previous games has all but gone, save a few sections, in favour of open world hubs. Now you have the freedom to explore and interact with these open world hubs however you wish.

Metro Exodus Openworld

While you will always have a main/story objective to complete, there are plenty of side quests you can discover and complete too. And you can do these at your own leisure as long as you are on the hub in question. You’ll find yourself going off the beaten track and seeing what else the map has to offer, not only to find more and more side missions, but also to scavenge for ammo, weapon upgrades and the like. Then each of the open world hubs are graphically very different from each other and offer their own unique characteristics. From snowy areas to deserts (watch out for sandstorms) and cities. One of the things that bored me in the first two games was the lack of variety in the graphics, I just got tired of seeing the same brown tunnels over and over. Metro Exodus addresses this by adding a lot more deviation and this made me want to see what the maps had to offer.

The upgrading of weapons is back from the previous games, only now with a lot more to play round with. These upgrades no only change how the gun looks but also how it feels and works. Add a scope and longer barrel to an assault rifle, an increased magazine size to a sub-machine gun, pimp out a sniper rifle to make it even more deadly – you can take a simple revolver and turn it into a hand-cannon. There is so much to the upgrading and customisation of the guns that I could play around and experiment with it for hours and create new and different guns each time. Speaking of the guns and coming off replaying the previous games recently, I found the gun-play here to be much more snappy and responsive too. Guns will also get dirty with excessive use making them less effective and prone to jamming, so you’ll have to find a workbench to clean it up and repair.

Metro Exodus Gun Upgrades

The open world hubs also give way to open styled missions. Do you go into the enemy camp all guns blazing, killing anyone you see… or maybe you go in sneaky, stealthy quiet as a mouse and just knock the bad guys out. How you play will affect the ending too. If you go around doing as many side missions as possible and knock people out instead of killing them, then you get the good ending. But running around like a loon and putting bullets into any and everyone you see while ignoring the side missions and you’ll see the bad ending… as I did.

Metro Exodus Enemy

Resources are scarce. Ammo, scrap and ingredients to make equipment and upgrade guns are around… but you’ll really need scour every nook and cranny to find them. Search dead bodies, find and open lockers and lock-boxes to gather much needed ammo and resources. Resources you’ll need to make more ammo, medi-kits, throwables and so on. You’ll even have to look after your gas-mask which will become damaged especially after a particularly brutal fight, as a gas-mask with a gaping hole in it is no good against nuclear fallout. Survival is key and while Metro Exodus isn’t a hardcore survival game, it’s a FPS first and foremost, the survival elements are still important and work very well especially on the hardest setting, which is how a Metro game should be played.

The graphics are stunning too making the world you are in believable. The burnt out husks of what used to be buildings, the desolate wastelands left after the nuclear war, the grotesque and unrelenting mutant animals you’ll come across all look beautiful in a macabre way.

Metro Exodus Flying Enemy.jpeg

Metro Exodus is a wonderful game and a thrilling title. For me, the best of the three as developer 4A Games have taken what made the previous games enjoyable and tinkered with the formula just enough to keep the game as it should be but also bring forth a slew of great features to keep the concept fresh.

Now full disclosure here. I played through the game on easy just to finish it so I could do this review. The Metro games (as I previously said) should be played on the hardest possible setting. This is when the survival elements really come to life as you desperately need to conserve ammo and resources, scavenging is harder as there is less loot around and enemies are harder to kill while you are easier to end. I have started a play through on the hardest setting and it’s amazing, the fear is amped as I run out of ammo for my weapons and filters for my gas-mask. On easy, Metro Exodus was thoroughly enjoyable but on Ranger (hardest) difficulty its a whole new game and one I’m loving every second of it’s brutality.

 

The Grand Tour Game

Okay so a few weeks ago I announced how I’m cutting back on this blog to concentrate on writing my books and I have been doing just that too (honest). But I have a little spare time and the kind folk over at Amazon Game Studios sent me a review code for The Grand Tour Game (thanks Will), so I thought I’d have a short sabbatical from my books and take a look at the game.

the grand tour game logo

The Grand Tour is an Amazon Video show fronted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May that is basically Top Gear after the BBC fucked up Top Gear. The game is a melding of the T.V. show and gaming to create an interactive T.V. show I guess where you get to “play” episodes from the show itself –  you can even watch episodes of the show from within the game too if you like, via Amazon Prime Video.

So I think the best way to explain this is to just go back to the very start. So the very first episode of the show has a very, very, very long intro that (comically) shows Clarkson leave his old job and teaming up with Hammond and May to begin their new jobs hosting The Grand Tour. That’s exactly how the game starts too, with the exact same video intro. The video then blends seamlessly into the first race of the game with you playing as Clarkson racing against both Hammond and May on their way to The Grand Tour stage to host the first show. That’s how the game works, you watch the episode and then when the car action kicks in, you take control.

The Grand Tour Game Duo.png

It’s all done very well indeed and the blending of the show itself with the game is wonderful. You do feel as if you are playing the T.V. show. The racing itself is very arcade-like. This isn’t trying to be a Forza or Gran Turismo style hyper realistic racing sim, this is stupid, silly, over the top arcade racing… and it’s great fun. The races are varied from simple one on ones, drifting challenges, time trials, drag races and there are even races with power-ups you can use to trip up your opponents. There are a good mix of races, challenges and cars to play around with and each piece of action always feels very different from the last. You’ll be tearing around The Grand Tour race track going for a fast time in a supercar and later find yourself doing donuts in an abandoned theatre in Detroit using muscle cars in an attempt to create as much noise as possible.

The Grand Tour Game  Smoke.png

There’s a lot of content here even though it’s not complete. See, as the game is very closely based on the T.V. show that means you get entire episodes the play round in. However, its not complete because there is only one episode in season one, one episode in season two and one episode in season three. So only three episodes in total to play with right now. But don’t let that deter you as each episode has loads and loads of racing in them with multiple scenes to enjoy in each episode. And the game is continually being updated with more and more episodes. Seeing as season three has just launched, Amazon Game Studios will be concentrating on that season for now and with each newly aired episode of the show, you’ll get a new episode to play in the game. There will be updates for the first two seasons too at a later date to eventually include each and every episode from every season in the show. But right now, season three is the main focus for the production team so that’s where the priority lies with the game. Honestly, that’s a lot of game right there as is even though it’s not finished yet.

Then outside of the singleplayer mode where you play the episodes from the show, there is also a local multiplayer mode… and it’s four player too. So you and three friends can get the beers in and throw insults at each other sitting on the couch while racing. I love it when games do this as split-screen multiplayer is dying out fast and I miss those days. But there is no online multiplayer which I thought was a bit odd. Yeah I love the old split-screen action, but sometimes you and your friends can’t all be together at the same time and online is the only option.

The Grand Tour Game Splitscreen.png

So it’s all good right? Well not exactly. The game is fun, it’s great fun but there are niggles. The cars feel a bit to heavy for me – especially from an arcade racer like this, maybe I just need to get used to the handling a bit. I’ve not played a racing game for a while (with the exception of Horizon Chase Turbo) so my racing game skills are a little stale to be honest – but the handling just felt sluggish. I think it would benefit from some control options, sensitivity and the like so you can tailor the controls to your needs. You can’t change camera and are stuck in 3rd person view. I hope they add different camera views in a future update as for this type of game, I personally prefer a in car view. Plus you’re also stuck with automatic gears, which I think will deter some racing fans. These are niggles that can be fixed and tweaked and I hope that @AMZNGameStudios will add new features, options and updates to improve the gameplay outside of just adding new episodes.

Overall, The Grand Tour Game is good, could be better – but what is there right now is good. It’s full of varied content – with more coming soon with each new episode of the show. It really does feel like you are playing the show and the seamless transitions are beautiful. Plus the game comes loaded with all that irreverent banter between Clarkson, Hammond and May as the trio needle each other though each episode. I can’t wait to see what stupidly ridiculous challenges lie in wait for future episodes.

The Grand Tour Game Road.png

It’s currently for sale at just £12 (or your county’s equivalent) on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and I say go for it. If your a fan of the show then you can’t go wrong and you’ll have a lot of fun. Go out and buy @PlayTGTGame right now. Well I’ve got to get back to playing The Grand Tour Game… I mean writing my books.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

So I fucking love the T.V. show Black Mirror, I even did a write up of every episode from the first four seasons. A quick synopsis for those who do not know what Black Mirror is.

The show is an anthology T.V. series that uses technology as it’s backbone. Each episode is self contained and yet they all take place in one unique shared universe. These are dark and depressing tales often with a sting in the tail. Black Mirror is the brainchild of acerbic and satirical writer, Charlie Brooker. If you like miserable and dreary stories – then Black Mirror is perfect for you.

Season five is set to be released late this year and it had already begun filming last year. But it was pushed back from an earlier release due to something else. That something was Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. This is a special one-off episode.

This particular tale is one set in 1984 and tells of a young gaming programmer, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) who comes up with and sells the idea of a video game that gives the player freedom of choice. The game is based on one of those amazing choose your own adventure books called Bandersnatch by writer Jerome F. Davies (Jeff Minter – legendary game designer). While writing the book, Jerome went mad and killed his wife.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Stefan

Stefan sells the idea to game publisher, Tuckersoft. But as Stefan delves deeper into the book and his game, things begin to unravel and history tends to repeat itself…

So this special episode is different to any other Black Mirror episode that has gone before it. You see, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is interactive. You get to make decisions for Stefan at certain points in the story and those decisions will shape the way the episode plays out. Some choices are very mundane from choosing which breakfast cereal to eat or what music to play (mundane, but still have an effect) to much bigger and important choices that will lead to one of numerous endings the episode has.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Music Choice.png

It has been said that there are five “proper” endings to the episode, but then there are so many branches you can take that lead to other parts that could be considered endings that even creator Charlie Brooker himself has said he’s not sure just how many there really are and everyone involved in the episode can’t agree on what constitutes as an ending, it has even been said that there are so many possible outcomes that some scenes may never be seen.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch aired on Netflix only a few days back on the 28th December last year. Yet fans have already been scouring the episode and creating flowcharts and maps to find each and every possible outcome. The view time can vary from 40 odd minutes to a couple of hours depending on your choices and around six hours of footage was filmed to be included for each path. I’ve been (I guess) “playing” this episode for a couple of days and seen a fair bit of it and various endings… but not all of them. But is it any good?

I grew up in the late 70s through the early 80s as an avid gamer, I remember and read a load of those chose your own adventure books back then too. And I really do love Black Mirror –  so this episode is seemingly tailor made for me. It’s like an amalgamation of many things I have a strong passion for.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch

The setting is amazing, the nods and references to 80s gaming and the decade in general is stunning and I broke out a nerd smile more than once throughout this episode. So many childhood memories wonderfully recreated through Black Mirror, the attention to detail is exquisite. Even the name Bandersntach is one that is carefully chosen as it references to a major misstep by one of the most influential British gaming publishers of the 80s (one of many subjects covered in my up coming book). There are great Philip K. Dick references, fourth wall breaks, self-referential writing and all sorts going on here. In that regard, I really loved this episode. I got so much enjoyment from just finding little Easter eggs and references, little sparks that kick-started memories from me growing up.

But as an episode of Black Mirror? It’s definitely one of the lesser ones. There’s no such thing as a bad episode of the show – but there are disappointing ones and this is one of them. The story is just a bit too bland for me and the characters not as well written as in previous episodes. The whole choice thing got tedious for me and I quite honestly just got bored of it all. I “played” though the episode four times, each time making different choices and I can’t really say I enjoyed any of them. There’s an element of Groundhog Day with you “resetting” back to a point and trying again, so be prepared to see the same scenes over and over and over again as you can’t skip them even if you’ve already seen it. A lot of the choices are so mundane they may as well not be there and there’s a lot of filler thrown in to pad out this illusion of choice thing.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Netflix Choice

There are some nice moments that made me smile, like Stefan realising someone (you) is controlling him and you can respond by telling him you are watching Netflix… which didn’t exist in 1984 when this episode is set. There are some fantastic gaming related choices that will mirror the game Stefan is creating and there are more than a handful of nods to previous Black Mirror episodes. It all gets very meta at some points (including one of the endings) and I love when writers do stuff like this. Brooker’s talent as a writer really does shine in some elements of this episode. But quite honestly, I’d have much preferred just having a “normal” episode without the choice thing with Brooker still doing all his fourth wall breaking and references.

But the story just doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere as it gets lost in it’s own gimmick. There’s no real hook, no punch as with other episodes. Give me White Bear, The National Anthem, White Christmas, Shut Up And Dance, Metalhead, Hated In The Nation or one of the other fantastic Black Mirror episodes in this format and it could’ve been something truly amazing. What you have here is a rather uninspired story that lacks the depth and whole Black Mirror ethos.

There’s a lot to find in the episode including an actual game you can play on a ZX Spectrum (you can play it another way too if you don’t have a ZX Spectrum handy) hidden away in one of the episodes. The game is Nohzdyve and it appears in the episode itself, the name of the game is also a reference to a previous Black Mirror episode too. It’s like an Easter egg inside and Easter egg. If you want to find it an even attempt to play it click here.

All in all, it’s a gimmick and one I just quickly got bored of to be honest. As I said, I “played” though the episode four times and I don’t see myself revisiting it to see the rest of the footage I missed. I saw one ending twice and the other two were just sight variations of each other. I’m really not all that bothered about seeing the rest, but I think I might enjoy it more if someone did and edit of the episode that just played out like a normal one with a defined start, middle and end.

To be completely fair, you can kind of watch it like that as you don’t have to chose anything and just let the episode pay out as is. It will select a choice for you and you’ll see a lot more scenes. But the episode will keep jumping back in time to a previous choice and select the other one to see the alternate path… it all gets a bit tedious as you watch and re-watch the same scenes over and over. As I said, I’d rather just see an edited version without the choices telling an A to Z story.

Black Mirror Bandersnatch Reference.png

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a great idea, in places it’s brilliantly written too. But my enjoyment came from the 80s setting, the references, the nods to previous episodes, etc and not the whole interactivity thing – which I grew tired of. The story itself is one of the lesser ones in the Black Mirror library of tales. Maybe check it out for curiosity sake if you have a Netflix account, you might get a few hours of enjoyment from it.

It’s a nice little addition to whet the appetite while we wait for season five to come around. But not something I think will be revisiting.

The End Of Little Bits?

So I’m starting New Year with a possible goodbye, or at least an au revoir.

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now and enjoyed it immensely. I’m eternally grateful to anyone who has been following/reading and surprised I still get new folk following on a weekly basis.

But things are changing here at WordPress who host this platform… money things. See, I pay a subscription every year to keep this blog going and WordPress are changing what you get for your money. Basically they want me to pay the same amount but are removing features I currently get with the package I pay for – to then charge extra for those features. And after some thinking, I don’t believe what they now want me to pay to keep this site with the same features is ultimately worth it.

Money.jpg

It’s not just the WordPress greed that is forcing my hand though. Maybe the planets have just aligned at the right time? See, this blog has always been just a fun hobby for me – I didn’t expect one follower, never mind the amount I do have. 2018 saw more people reading my inane rants and views than ever before. But as I say, this was always just a hobby. My real passion lies with writing books.

Last year I shared my idea to write a book covering the best of British game developers & publishers. And by November, I’d finished the first draft of that book. I’m currently trying to sell the idea to get it published while I work on the second draft. Plus I’m two thirds the way through writing my first novel. A vigilante thriller that’s not as straight forward as it first seems. Then I’m currently writing my second short story collection as well as outlining future book ideas. Basically, I have a hell of a lot of writing ahead of me.

Old vintage typewriter

This is what I want to do – write. Last year I wrote more in those 12 months than I have the previous two years combined. So with WordPress wanting more money and my interests lying in my books – I’ve decided not to renew my current premium account when it expires on the 17th of April, 2019.

I do work full-time, have a 14 month old daughter, write books and with this blog too – I’m just spreading myself way too thin right now and something needs to be dropped.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Little Bits of Gaming & Movies for good. I’m not going to delete the site and all my articles will still be available, plus I can still write on this blog as and when I want – I still have 20 draft articles I’ve not published. But the domain name will change as I’ll no longer be paying for it as well as some other behind the scenes stuff too that will limit my options when I drop the premium package and go the free route instead. I’ll be concentrating on my books through 2019 and this blog will just be a background thing I can dip into now and then. They’ll be fewer articles overall as I turn my attention to bigger things. But who knows what the future holds?

If my writing career kicks off, I’ll quit the day job and be a full-time writer. If that happens then I’ll have more money and more importantly, time to invest into my hobby of writing this blog. Maybe, just maybe if things work out, Little Bits of Gaming and Movies will be back bigger than ever with me able to really create something better. Maybe a whole new blog that binds my love for games, movies and my writing?

I definitely don’t want to completely close the door on this. I really do enjoy writing this blog but needs must and my dreams and aspirations lie elsewhere right now.

Thank you

But I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s followed me and to anyone who sits there reading my views and opinions from you folk who’ve been around for years to the ones who have only just begun following in the last few weeks or so.

Little Bits of Gaming and Movies will be hibernating for a while. Occasionally waking up with the odd article through the year, but mostly sleeping through 2019.

I Need To Talk About The Red Dead Redemption II Ending

Oh this article has been bubbling away inside me for weeks now. See, I bulldozed my way through RDR II‘s story just so I could get to the ending ASAFP as I wanted to do a write-up for this ere’ blog. Since finishing the game, I’ve been mulling the ending over in my head and comparing it to the ending of the previous game. See, I really didn’t much enjoy the ending of RDR when I first experienced it. It’s a cruel and unforgiving ending that torments the player. However, after a while and finishing the game again – the finale to the previous game quickly became my favourite game ending ever.

John Marston Death

So obviously massive SPOILERS ahead and throughout this whole article. If you’ve not finished RDR II yet, stop reading now and go play the damn game. This is the only SPOILER warning I’m giving and directly after this paragraph is done, I’m going straight into huge SPOILER territory… you have been warned.

The Ending

So Arthur dies in RDR II. When I first started playing the game, I had already convinced myself that Arthur would die in the game. I mean, this is a prequel and seeing as the plot of the last game was John Marston hunting down his old gang members and given the fact that Arthur was not part of the last game… you could pretty much work it out yourself. However, through the course of the story, some gang members do just leave the gang. So a ray of hope was given that maybe, just maybe Arthur leaves the gang at the end and is still alive during the events of RDR. But that wasn’t to be the case. Arthur dies in this game and depending on your moral-meter (being good or bad), the ending slightly changes too. But before I get to the last moments of Arthur Morgan, I need to cover just what it is that kills him…

Arthur Morgan Dies

Arthur is diagnosed with Tuberculosis at around 50% of the story. It wasn’t until my second play-through when I noticed during the mission Money Lending And Other Sins III where you have to collect a debt from a farmer called Thomas Downes that he spits in Arthur’s face. Later his wife reveals that Thomas is ill and even later still during another part of said mission, Thomas dies. It’s that previously mentioned spitting when Arthur contracts Tuberculosis from Thomas. As the game continues, Arthur slowly dies in front of your eyes and even before he is diagnosed. It begins with some subtle coughing that you don’t really notice, the coughing gets slowly worse as the game progresses. Arthur’s skin becomes pale and his eyes bloodshot. Other characters will comment on how ill he looks, etc, and it goes on until the very end. It’s a marvellous piece of storytelling from Rockstar where Arthur’s fate sealed very early in the game, but you the player (and Arthur) are not made aware of it until much later. Playing a second time really brings the clever writing to the forefront.

This is what kills Arthur, not a hail of bullets as with John Marston in the previous game but a disease. It’s a slow death and one that unfolds as you play. Rockstar can be pretty damn cruel sometimes, they make you enjoy and even love a character… then they kill them off. They even kill off your horse in this too and it’s got some emotional gravitas to it. I mean, you spend a lot of time with your horse, you brush it, feed it and bond with it through the game. The horse becomes more than just a means for transportation and as he/she dies, Arthur comforts it and its pretty damn touching too.

Arthur and Horse

There was one thing I was doing whole playing my way through RDR II, I was keeping an eye on the story completed %. As the game slowly built to it’s finale, as Arthur’s time was coming to an end, as I completed the “final” mission… I noticed something. The story was only 70% complete. Arthur was dead but there was still 30% of the story left? That’s when the epilogue began, a fucking huge more than a quarter of the entire story epilogue. John Marston returns and you get to play as him for this final 30%. I was kind of expecting something like this. I thought they would do something similar given the ending of the previous game as after John dies, you control his now grown up son Jack. In RDR, you only play as Jack Marston for a single mission as he tracks down Edgar Ross and kills him for betraying John. In RDR II, you play as John for a huge chunk of the game. It’s got to be around 5-7 hours of the game.

John Marston Callback.png

John’s section of the game is very slow and plodding in an already slow game. Most of John’s story is about him going straight by turning his back on his outlaw days, getting a job on a ranch, making a bad decision and Abigail leaving him. It then continues with John trying to make amends as he buys some land and builds his own ranch, the ranch in RDR. You have to physically go out an buy goods and building materials too then actually build the ranch to entice Abigail back. The whole thing is very slow and very, very reminiscent of the ending to the last game where John works on his ranch, tries to build a relationship with his son Jack and so on. It all leads up to where RDR (almost) begins as Edgar Ross searches for John to get him to work for the government to hunt down his ex-gang members.

Everything ties up nicely indeed… but is it a good ending?

Honestly, I’m still not sure. Yeah I didn’t much like the ending to the last game at first but it grew on me and became my favourite game ending so far. But that’s because it was a shock, a ballsy move by Rockstar to kill off the main character. With RDR II, it just feels like a repeat. Arthur’s death is very, very different – but the point is, it’s still pretty much the same ending. A lot of the same beats are repeated, not necessarily in the same order but they are there. The slow working on the ranch, the death of the main character, the “surprise” epilogue, etc.

I enjoyed playing as John at the end, of course I did as he’s one of my favourite game characters, but I also think it dragged out a bit too long. Did the epilogue really need to be 30% of the game? It’s not just the ranch building and all that, its the fact you have to take Abigail out on a date, get a photograph taken. Before all of that when working on the first ranch you have to teach the rancher’s kid how to ride a horse, milk a cow. etc. It just began to feel like unnecessary fluff to drag out an already very long game. Maybe if the John Marston epilogue had been released as DLC later and not part of the main game. Maybe if the credits rolled when Arthur died and with John escaping with his family leaving me to fill in the blanks, leaving me with a sense of loss as with the previous game, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more?

John Marston Ranch Building

I don’t know but after spending 50+ ours playing as Arthur Morgan and watching him die… that was enough for me. His demise was brilliantly written and realised. Yes I love John Marston and yes, of course they had to tie everything into RDR. I just think the epilogue as too much and superfluous.