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Not a Single One of You Correctly Guessed the Holiday Song I Was Thinking of for the “Murder By Other Means” ARC Contest

None of you! 577 comments, not a single one correctly guessed the song I was thinking about.

Which, incidentally, was this one:

“Santa Claus’ Party” by the Lex Baxter Orchestra

Now, “Santa Claus’ Party” is not a “top tier” holiday song in terms of popularity, but I didn’t think it was so hopelessly obscure that out of a few hundred people not a single one of you would think of it. But, I guess, I have learned something new today. And so have all y’all, namely, this song. I hope you enjoy it!

Since no one correctly guessed the song, I asked Alexa to randomly pick a number between one and 577, that being the total number of comments in the thread. Alexa picked 493, and I counted backward to find “orkydd” in that comment space. So congratulations, Orkydd! I have already sent you a confirmation email.

Everyone else: Thank you so much for playing, and thank you also for a very interesting collection of holiday songs in the comment thread. Some, I dare say, are far more obscure than “Santa Claus’ Party.” I’m going to enjoy seeking them out.

— JS

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Athena Scalzi

My Thoughts On Red Dead Redemption 2

Like pretty much all my other video game posts, I’m severely late to the game (no pun intended). Today I’m here to talk about the wildly popular Rockstar game, Red Dead Redemption 2.

Even though it came out two years ago, I only got around to playing it this year. I started it around April, played like half of it in one week, and then dropped it for a few months. I ended up finally reaching the very last mission back in September, but dropped it again before winning. So, I have never technically beaten Red Dead Redemption 2, however I played a fuck ton of it before reaching the end, so I feel like I’m qualified to give a solid review.

The only Rockstar game I played before Red Dead Redemption 2 was Bully, back when I was in junior high. I have never tried any of the Grand Theft Auto games, but I could see a lot of similarity between Bully and Red Dead Redemption 2. I also have never played the first Red Dead Redemption, but the second one is a prequel, so I didn’t see a need to play the first one beforehand.

In case you don’t know the premise, Red Dead Redemption 2 is about a group of outlaw bandits on the edge of the 19th century, trying to find their way in a quickly progressing and modernizing world that has no place for their kind anymore.

You play as Arthur Morgan, one of the most essential members of the gang, and throughout the game you realize that being a crook ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Things you thought mattered seem to be insignificant now; the heists, the robberies, the money. Arthur realizes all the wrong he’s done was for nothing, and seeks some kind of redemption.

But this is a very slow process, as most character development is, and relies on you as a player choosing to make Arthur good. You have to consciously pick to be a good person, again and again, and your choices affect Arthur’s “honor level.” Depending if you have good or bad honor, you get different game endings. You can gain honor in the smallest ways: by saying hello to strangers, giving money to a nun collecting for orphans, giving someone a cure for poison after being bit by a snake. You can also lose honor just as easily, and more often than not, accidentally. Like when you hit a pedestrian with your horse. Did I mean to? No. Are the cops after me now? Yes.

I love any game where you can choose whether or not to be a good person. It’s one of the things I love most about the Fallout games, too. In a world where everyone is struggling to survive, you can choose to be selfish and evil, or choose to be generous and kind. And I will always choose kind. In Red Dead Redemption 2, I got an achievement for maxing out Arthur’s honor, and I worked to keep it as high as possible. It was important to me. I wanted Arthur to be different, to become better. I knew deep down he was capable of being a good man, all I had to do was make a few good choices for him for it to kick in.

Throughout the game, your gang leader, Dutch, keeps talking about how your posse just has to make one more big score, and then you can all live happily ever after in Tahiti. A lot of the game is going through with all these heists to become rich so you can all finally get away to paradise, and escape this ever-advancing society.

On the surface, it seems like just a normal, bank-robbing, gun-slinging, shoot ’em up kind of game, but it’s actually so much more than that. With over 100 missions, there are so many ways to play this game. If you want to focus on the story of the gang and get through the main quest, you can do that by playing only the main story missions. If you want to develop Arthur’s character more (like me), there are tons of honor-specific missions you can play through. If you’re interested in side characters, there are lots of little quests that pertain to them that you’re free to explore in your own time. You can be collector, a hunter, a fisherman, a bounty hunter, a train robber, a king of poker, a serial killer puzzle solver, and so much more.

This game is truly what you make of it, and I love it for that. Other things I loved include the outfit choices, the ability to cook and craft, the voice acting, and of course, the beautiful graphics. And the ability to pet dogs. Thank goodness for that.

Alternatively, here are some things I did not like that really bug me about this game:

There is so much horseback riding. I mean, just a ridiculous amount of the game takes place on horseback. For starters, the map is huge. Secondly, the game uses horseback riding alongside your companions as a way to cram dialogue into a scene, so you have all the info you need for the mission you’re embarking on. However, when they do this, you can’t ride past a certain speed, because they’ve allotted the dialogue to take up a set amount of time. You can’t skip it.

While the game does have a “cinematic view” option, where it basically autopilots horse riding for you, it still takes a decent amount of time to get from point A to point B. Bandits can interfere with you and attack while you’re in this autopilot mode, which is a huge inconvenience. Basically, there’s no fast travel, unless you count taking the trains, but even then that involves going to a station and purchasing a ticket.

I have never pressed “A” so many times in my life. Even the fastest horse in the game, the Elite White Arabian (which I acquired right from the beginning), seems slow when you’re going from one side of the map to the other. It just makes for boring gameplay, and I despise how much time riding around takes. I suppose it’s realistic to the time period, but still.

Red Dead Redemption 2 was a pretty difficult game for me. For instance, I found the aiming mechanism hard to work with; the way guns work in this game are very different than what I’m used to. You have to be way more precise than I ever have in a game before, which was a pain. I had to get good real quick.

The way health works is odd to me, too. Of course, you can eat food and that replenishes some health, or take medicine to heal, that’s pretty standard. But the health and stamina had cores that could be depleted, and that affected your overall health and stamina levels. I don’t know, it was just kind of odd to me, but maybe that’s more common than I think it is.

My biggest problem with this game was the epilogue. FUCKING BORING AS SHIT. I have never wanted a game to end so badly in my life. The epilogue just kept going and going and going, and it wasn’t any fun whatsoever. It mainly consisted of doing chores around the farm, all of which you could not run during, so basically you just slowly walked everywhere and did dumb chores for days on end. It was infuriating, and I spent hours doing almost nothing. It felt like such a waste.

And there’s two separate parts to the epilogue, both equal in levels of boringness. Plus, you lose everything in the epilogue, so any money you had saved throughout the game is gone, which is a huge pain in the ass. Other than the epilogue, I don’t have many problems with this game.

THE NEXT PARAGRAPH HAS SPOILERS. 

That being said, there is a big chunk of the game that I don’t necessarily hate or anything, but just feels odd to me. I’m referring to Chapter 5: Guarma. I didn’t really enjoy playing this chapter, because you are obviously lacking in the weapons and resources department, which I just didn’t find to be very fun. However, I can see how someone who likes a challenge would enjoy it. The plot of this chapter was very out-of-nowhere in my opinion, and the whole island adventure seemed like it didn’t really serve a purpose. Or, if it did serve a purpose, I feel like it could’ve happened sans the boat ride south. So, yeah, weird and not very fun, but I didn’t hate it or anything. Just not the best part of the game.

OKAY WE’RE DONE WITH SPOILERS NOW.

Overall, I really liked Red Dead Redemption 2. I can see why it’s so popular and beloved by many. My favorite Rockstar game is still Bully, but that’s probably only because it was a childhood favorite and not because it’s actually a better game or anything. I would highly recommend Red Dead Redemption 2 if you like games that let you choose your own destiny, have a lot of shoot-outs, and where every character has a Southern accent.

I’ve never been one for Westerns, but this game single-handedly made me enjoy the whole “wild west” scene. Especially because they really nailed the whole “turn of the century” vibe. The characters are bewildered by new, bustling cities, far from their usual territory of podunk towns with dirt roads and one sheriff per 50 mile radius. The game addresses issues regarding Native Americans and women’s suffrage, and you can be an ally in different groups’ fights against the American government, which I really appreciate.

So, yeah, I liked this game a lot, and would definitely recommend it. It’s pretty, it’s fun, there’s lots to do, and you can wear tons of spiffy outfits.

Have you played this game? What’d you think? Who was your favorite character? Were you an honorable person or a crooked bandit, through and through? Let me know in the comments, and as always, have a great day!

-AMS

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