Spoiler warning: this article concentrates on an area of the Red Dead Redemption 2 game map that is mostly inaccessible to players who have not finished the game. If you want to remain completely unspoiled, close the page now.
It’s been eight years since the first Red Dead Redemption. Set in 1911, Rockstar San Diego boldly set out to show America in a process of rapid change. The wild west is depicted on the decline. The frontier is in its twilight days as the modern revolution sets in, paving the way for railroads, electricity and civil commerce. It’s far from perfect. A friction between the old and new streaks through John Marston’s story. It’s a division that flares up starkly in Armadillo town, between the bandits that ride its high streets, and the shop signs that flank them – the sleaze of the saloon bar, and the order of the station across the road.
Rockstar’s strength is in stitching such small details together, bringing any landscape, any era, to life. The release of Red Dead Redemption 2 – which is set in 1899, 12 years before the first game – offers a fascinating snapshot of America at an even earlier time. It’s a period where outlaw culture – the bandits and highwaymen – is still in full force, and settlements are in a process of growth.
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