The Poignant Vignettes Of New Hanover

In the sodden, vibrant foothills of New Hanover, in the north-eastern corner of Red Dead Redemption 2’s map, lie possibly the two most poignant narrative episodes the game offers.

Arthur can happen upon two particular characters among others in the area – one a veteran with a crotchety horse and the other a newly-bereaved and desperate widow. Hamish, the former, and Charlotte, the latter, are totally distinct from the game’s main narratives and bring (even) slower pacing to the action of Arthur’s adventuring.

Players happen upon Hamish on the roadside, the old man having been bucked by his horse Buell. After he retrieves the grumpy steed and helps Hamish to reattach his prosthetic leg, the veteran invites Arthur to join him if he ever fancies fishing or hunting together. Similarly, after happening upon Charlotte grieving at the grave of her husband, Arthur can help her learn to hunt and earn a standing invitation to return when he likes.

Both quests then offer a few more interactions at intervals – helping Charlotte learn to shoot, tracking down a troublesome wolf with Hamish and more. Both end, one in dispiriting circumstances, and the other with confirmation that Arthur’s clumsy help is no longer needed. More critically, though, both make telling contributions to players’ understanding of Arthur’s headspace in the main storyline.

With the Van Der Linde gang’s campsite now likely to be an ugly cave, and the group dynamic coming apart at the seams, big choices loom for Arthur and the player. Connecting with Hamish, chatting at length about his life in the wild, is a nicely timed and suitably subtle reminder for Arthur of the camaraderie he now misses. That Hamish has lived a law-abiding life and has found contentment on his own is another eye-opener for our wantaway desperado.

Charlotte, meanwhile, offers another seemingly simple saviour quest for Arthur. That she quickly learns his lessons and then saves him from a coughing and fainting fit, is a straightforward but effective narrative turn. Arthur’s comprehension of his place in the world is shifting, and his capacity to help people is changing with it. His preoccupation with the gang’s welfare has changed to a desire to help those within it who could still have futures, namely the Marston family.

The formidable Sadie Adler’s formative trauma happened in the narrative’s early moments. Her crushing bloodlust and need for revenge are established that early; Arthur’s acceptance of his own mortality and failures comes far later in the narrative. In my playthrough, these two side quests came to feel hugely significant. For all its deliberately lengthy runtime and slow playing pace, Red Dead Redemption 2 is never stronger than during these carefully-orchestrated, entirely optional vignettes.

By Max-Freeman Mills

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