The first time I headed into Strawberry, early in Red Dead Redemption 2, I encountered a person outdoors city who wanted assist discovering his means in. I believe that almost all gamers encounter this man, but in addition that lots of people received’t assist him – he’s a sluggish walker. The man’s function, it appears, is to set participant’s expectations about Strawberry – he’s been there for a short while now, he tells Arthur, and he hates it there. It’s tiny and unexceptional, and there’s nothing to do.
The stranger additionally drops somewhat trace about one thing being ‘off’ with the mayor of Strawberry. He advises Arthur to keep watch over him when he’s on the town. This line, thrown in in the direction of the top of their dialog, would nearly unravel me throughout my time with Red Dead Redemption 2.
Midway by means of my preliminary playthrough I discovered myself again in Strawberry, making a aware effort to seek out the mayor and work out what his deal is. I stalked round, not sure what I used to be searching for precisely, however sure that I’d comprehend it after I noticed it. Red Dead Redemption 2 is stuffed with bread crumbs and planted seeds – there are literal treasure maps to be discovered, together with all of the hidden shady companies, the Easter eggs, and the rattling vampire I hear haunts St Denis. I change into fixated on the concept that the mayor of Strawberry carries a secret.
After spending an evening within the mixed lodge/customer’s centre and a stable morning strolling by means of the city greeting everybody, I lastly encountered the mayor, standing on the porch of stated customer’s centre and pontificating to an assembled mass about what an exquisite place Strawberry is.
“The items characters are programmed to ‘give up’ and what you can loot from them are separate, which is an interesting new piece of insight into the game’s design”
I parked myself at a close-by stream and solid my fishing rod, hoping to observe the mayor whereas remaining inconspicuous. He ultimately headed into the customer’s centre and I adopted. The clerk at reception advised me that he’s an excellent admirer of the mayor, and that the city is fortunate to have him. Curious.
I headed upstairs, the place the mayor was standing, smoking a cigar. I used to be hit immediately with a second of readability – now was not the time for this. Red Dead was going to grab my life till I end it; I wanted to maintain transferring ahead. Out of curiosity, although, I paused the game, shot the mayor, and looted his physique. He was carrying a letter, however the shot has rung out and I couldn’t learn it with the legislation after me. Escaping and studying the letter appeared moderately outdoors the spirit of correctly investigating this man, I made a decision, so I reloaded my most up-to-date save and left city.
Cut to this week. I’ve completed the game, however the mayor of Strawberry has haunted me. I’ve remained satisfied that there’s one thing up with this man, and that if I get him alone – alive – he’ll give one thing up. It seems like me and him have unfinished enterprise, and I have to know what that letter was about. I load up an outdated save file, sending myself again to partway by means of Chapter 4. This grants me sure freedoms – nothing I do will ‘count’ as a part of Arthur’s story, I determine. This is my obsession, not his. I flip off autosave and board a stagecoach for Strawberry.
It takes me two in-game days to come across the mayor, with two quick sleeps for Arthur in-between, sufficient time to achieve a brand new appreciation of how a lot Strawberry sucks. It seems to be lovely, however that stream operating by means of city simply barely distracts from the truth that there’s no saloon or hairdresser or poker there. I take a shower and I try the final retailer, which is transparently a entrance for some shady goings-on. I hearken to the reverend’s rant for some time, and I hover across the sheriff to see if he does something attention-grabbing. But I totally see the reality in what that stranger advised me on the best way into city earlier within the game, and I deepen my resolve to seek out out if he was proper in regards to the mayor too.
On the second day, I discover the mayor sitting on the porch of the Visitor’s Centre – not standing, as he was final time I noticed him – explaining to a small crowd that Strawberry is a city for truthful and trustworthy folks. For Americans. People who don’t match as much as these values, he says in-between puffs of his cigar, ought to go away. I lock on and uncover that his identify is Nicholas Timmins. I plan to stalk him and see what he will get as much as with the remainder of his day, and what he would possibly reveal.
Timmins leaves and heads down the principle thoroughfare of the city, and I observe. No one stops to speak to him, and he provides no greetings, although the streets are teeming with folks. Eventually he stops outdoors the physician’s workplace (the occupant of which I presume to be the person in a pink shirt who’s all the time making an attempt to fish the stream, for the reason that window carries a everlasting ‘gone fishing’ signal).
He stands in the identical spot for all the morning, then into the afternoon, puffing his cigar, staring blankly into the gap. He does nothing else, he can’t be spoken to, and an odd invisible barrier round his character prevents me from strolling instantly into him. He doesn’t react to Arthur being a weirdo, crouching and staring proper into his eyes.
I start to develop cautious. This NPC appears unspectacular. I do know he’s carrying a word, however the game doesn’t appear notably eager for me to work together with him. Perhaps the builders didn’t account for this bizarre fixation, I believe. Following this man round all day, I realise, isn’t going to yield attention-grabbing outcomes. I have to act.
“I am no longer Arthur Morgan, vigilante with a heart of gold – I am Arthur Morgan, paranoid agent of chaos acting upon this one specific man”
I name my horse. When Arthur whistles, Timmins turns and stares at him for an extended second, earlier than returning his consideration to the empty air in entrance of him. I shortly lasso and hogtie the mayor, and as he cries out and witnesses run to seize the sheriff I shortly load him onto my horse and race out of city, outdoors the ‘wanted’ zone earlier than a bounty is said.
I cease outdoors city and put the mayor on the bottom. He doesn’t appear inclined to say a lot to me past asking to be let go, and why ought to he: he’s not a part of a quest I’m on, and Arthur has no actual cause to be suspicious of him. This is on me, the man enjoying the game. I believe that the letter he’s carrying would possibly set off one thing, so I loot him and fish it out.
It’s a letter from his sister, Belinda. She talks about Nicholas’ estrangement from their mother and father, about how he and one other professor have been compelled to depart Princeton in a rush over some unspecified problem, about how she misses her brother, “that wonderful caring boy who rouged my cheeks and braided my hair”. She mentions her monetary points and says that, maybe like him, she ought to by no means have married.
So Nicholas Timmins, because it seems, might be not a very nefarious man. There’s a couple of methods to learn this letter – potential conclusions that I’ve solely reached, I need to add, since studying it again whereas writing this text. In the second, all I actually registered was that there was nothing of word, no accusations or insinuations of an inherent darkness. Reading it now, I realise that Nicholas Timmins is a person who moved far-off for causes which are totally his personal, and that it is a character that I ought to, maybe, really feel empathy for. But you may solely know this when you’ve looted him, and by the point you’re looting him you’re unlikely to be in the correct mindset for that.
While I used to be studying the letter, Timmins struggled out of his bonds and began to run – one thing I didn’t realise was potential – so I chase him down and hogtied him once more. Unsure of what to do subsequent, I resolve to journey again to Strawberry and let him go. It begins to rain, washing the collected mud from his coat, and as I lower him free on the sting of the city I threaten to return again if he dared squeal to the authorities about me.
But then, another a part of my mind kicks in. It’s the half that may compel me to throw a grenade into gridlocked visitors in Grand Theft Auto. This is the form of intuition that I’d averted for my whole run by means of Red Dead 2, however with an outdated save loaded and a willingness to simply see the place issues went, I resolve to offer chase. Timmins was operating scared proper by means of the city, ultimately exiting and operating by means of the mountains.
I observe. I’m not Arthur Morgan, vigilante with a coronary heart of gold – I’m Arthur Morgan, paranoid agent of chaos appearing upon this one particular man. He runs, clearly scared and more and more drained, for a very long time. Sometimes I’d level my gun at him simply to see how he’d react. Eventually I hogtied him once more, prompting him to spout one of the vital incongruous and amusing strains I’ve heard from an NPC on this game: “just as it was all going so well!”
I realise that nothing extra was going to occur. He wasn’t main me wherever. A brand new cutscene wasn’t going to kick in. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a phenomenally deep game, however I’ve exhausted the bounds of this being a plotline. I threw the hogtied mayor right into a stream, hoping it’ll carry him again to city, however he began to drown within the shallow waters and I lower him free.
He runs and I chase him down, as he’s threatening to get the legislation concerned. But after I deal with him once more, I see one thing that takes all of the combat out of me – I’ve introduced him down subsequent to an animal corpse. At first look it seems to be like a child bear, however it’s truly a rotten sheep that has turned black. Flies are swarming round it. At the identical time, Timmins unexpectedly arms me a bottle of gin and the cash from his pocket as he begs for clemency. This tells me that the objects characters are programmed to ‘give up’ and what you may loot from them are separate, which is an attention-grabbing new piece of perception into the game’s design for me.
As I let him up once more, freaked out by the sheep, he begins sprinting down the highway. At the identical time a horse speeds previous in the wrong way, a girl screaming for assist hogtied on the again. My outdated instincts chill in and I instantly activate Dead Eye, sending 4 revolver photographs into the rider’s head. I chase down the horse and rescue the (very indignant) lady on the again of it, leaving Timmins to flee.
“The way I treat NPCs says a lot about what Red Dead Redemption 2 does so right, both that this weird obsession formed in my brain, and that I had to very actively disassociate what I was doing from the headcanon narrative I’d established for Arthur”
My deep dive into Nicholas Timmins, the mysterious mayor of Strawberry, in the end didn’t yield something too thrilling past the truth that his sister misses him, and that he misses her sufficient, a minimum of, to hold the letter round. I didn’t save after I closed the game; it is a ‘what if?’ situation by which Arthur chased and terrorised a person for a day primarily based on flimsy proof and rumour.
I believe this says quite a bit about what Red Dead Redemption 2 does so proper, each that this bizarre obsession fashioned in my mind, and that I needed to very actively disassociate what I used to be doing from the headcanon narrative I’d established for Arthur. One of the principle criticisms thrown at Rockstar is the potential for ‘ludonarrative dissonance’, the place your actions don’t match the characters or plot, however the best way my sense of honour and obligation warped and shifted as my understanding of Arthur modified seems like considered one of this game’s biggest strengths.
In any case, there’s not quite a bit occurring with Nicholas Timmins, the mayor of Strawberry. Leave him be. Having stated that, and there’s nonetheless part of me that wonders if it’s potential to seek out his sister and reunite the 2…