As an attempt to get more writing done (I always get bogged down in writing complex analyses), I've decided to write some shorter blogs on concentrated topics. Well, by "short" I mean less than 1000 words or something...
I've been playing a lot of Red Dead Redemption
lately, and one of the aspects I've really liked is the environment that Rockstar created for the game. Most of Rockstar's previous games used an urban setting, where distinctions between regions were created through the architecture and features of the modern city (highrises, apartments, suburbs, parks, etc.). In RDR, however, the landscape is primarily defined by the terrain, plants and animals that are encountered. You begin the game in a verdant parkland, filled with light grass and scattered trees, which soon gives way to the traditional Western environment of craggy hills, dusty soil, and various small shrubs. Even within the Western environment, there are many subtleties, from the dry and catcus-filled expanses of Mexico to the more vibrant brush that skirts the river. There are even more ecosystems to be found: wetland, mountains, snowy forests, etc.
When I say "ecosystem", I really mean it. Each area has its own distinct fauna, ranging from coyotes and wild horses on the plains to grizzlies and cougars in the forests. Other animals, such as deer and rabbits, are widespread, which allows there to be many variations on the types of animals one can encounter at any time. As well, the transitions between the areas are usually gradual and seamless, so you get a better feeling of exploring a real environment. Of course, you're not likely to find an area of land with so many different ecosystems in such as a condensed space, but that's a convention of gaming I'll be willing accept to keep things interesting (versus spending the entire game in just a desert). If anything, I hope that developers will make more elaborate and immersive ecosystems in future games. I want to be able to see coyotes chasing down rabbits, an eagle swooping down to catch a mouse, or a swarm of insects irritating the player's horse. Of course, it's too much to expect seeing anything close to a exact simulation of nature anytime soon, but I think that it's a better area to focus on, with more emotional and artistic return, than simply improving graphics.
Like previous Rockstar games, there's also weather effects, which really changes the scenery depending on the time of day, amount of clouds, if it's raining, etc. I like how the missions are not tied to a fixed type of weather (unless the weather actually is causing the event, like a storm), so a mission can feel quite a bit different, for example, if you're raiding a fort in the blinding sun at noon or a rainstorm at night. I was also awestruck the first time I was traveling late at night without any clouds in the sky; the multitude of stars in the sky (I forget to check if they even included the constellations) is something most of us rarely get to truly experience living in cities.
On a personal note, much of the scenery of RDR really felt nostalgic for me. I spent a great deal of time as a child living on my grandparents' farm on the Saskatchewan prairie, so the starting location of MacFarlane's Ranch felt very familiar. I also remember seeing deer on the road, hearing coyotes yelping, and encountering several of the critters you run into in RDR. Of course, sitting in the backseat of a truck driving on a gravel road doesn't compare to riding down a dusty trail on horseback, but the landscape and feeling of isolation are quite similar. At some point, the nostalgia almost brought me to tears, as I thought back to my childhood.
That's it. To keep things short (even though they turned out not to be), I'm not going to make a grand conclusion. Hopefully my random musings here make some sense on their own.
LOOK WHO CAME: