Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Requiem For A Horse

Dapple, my horse in Red Dead Redemption died the other day.

I was doing the Tumbleweed gang hideout and I don't remember him getting in the line of fire, but when I came out of the main house after killing the bandits in the basement, I started looting some corpses and there he was, lying on the ground. Well, technically he was lying in the ground so it's possible a clipping error killed him but regardless my horse, my best friend in all of New Austin, was dead. It bothered me that my trusty steed was dead however I had been running on the autosave for a couple of hours by then so reloading to bring Dapple back would have meant losing a bunch of work. So while I loved Dapple, I didn't love him enough to reload and he stayed in that stable in the sky.

We had a lot of good times, Dapple and I. There was that time we rode all over hell to find flowers and he got killed by a cougar. Then there was that time we were hunting boar and I got killed by a boar. Then there was that time I got killed by a boar and he got killed by a cougar. There may have been a wolf there too. Seriously, it was like the ending of Reservoir Dogs, only with wildlife. Then there was that time he helped me cheat at cards. Ok, so that didn't happen but in my mind I see him sticking his head through the saloon window and then pawing the ground to tell me what kind of cards the other guy has. That game would be awesome. I would pay big money for that game.

Whenever a game offers an animal companion of great significance I find myself drawn to it over whatever human companions exist in the game. I loved my dog Homer in Fable 2 but never raised a family. When the time came to pick your choice at the end, I chose the option that brought my dog back. In fact, had there been a fourth choice where the world is burned to a cinder and you and your dog fly off into space on a rocket ship I would have taken that one. In Fallout 3, my only companion was Dogmeat and any time he died, I reloaded. Dogmeat dies a lot in that game so I reloaded a lot. During all of Broken Steel I sent him away so often was he dieing. Once I was done with that game for good I made sure to first go get Dogmeat and then save the game in my house in Megaton because I didn't want to think that Dogmeat was eternally waiting at the vault for me to come back. I took the Mabari warhound in Dragon Age in my party from the minute he could join and he never left. I also named him Dogmeat. Dogmeat, son of Dogmeat if you want to be specific.

So yeah, I tend to get a little attached to my animals.

Red Dead Redemption does a lot of things right and it does a lot of things not so right. I think the shopkeeper in Armadillo should work on beefing up security given as many times as he gets robbed. On a side note, I always feel bad buying from him what with him constantly badmouthing Jews. One time I didn't help him when he was robbed and he got killed. I have to admit, I didn't feel all that bad. Herbert Moon is a very unpleasant man. What the game does right, at least for me, is give you a connection to your horse. Granted, not enough of a connection to pass up several hours of work because your horse tried to take out some gang members but enough to where I care about the well being of my horse and actively try to keep it alive.

That is until it's time to kill two cougars with your knife. By the time I was done with that I was knee deep in horse flesh. I chalk it up to still grieving and being afraid of keeping a new horse in fear that they wouldn't compare to Dapple. In reality, getting knocked off of your horse by a cougar is easier to recover from than being knocked down by a cougar. I don't understand it either, but having had both done to me at least half a dozen times by now, I'm somewhat of an expert in cougar attacks. So the new horses became cougar bait, giving me enough time to recover, roll up on the cougar and stab them. The downside of this is that when the cougar then tries to run away you can't chase it very well due to the inherent difficulties found in riding a dead horse. You can however lasso the cougar and then stab it again which, I'm sure, is entirely realistic. If there was a way to break a cougar and then ride it around after lassoing it, Red Dead Redemption would be the greatest media property of all time. That and card cheating horses. Take notes Rockstar. I smell a sequel.

Once I get the achievement for not switching horses at a hitching post, provided I can get it by never having hitched my various new horses, I'll head out to the plains and break a new horse that I will then bond with like I did with Dapple. I'll honor them like I honored Dapple. I'll protect them like I protected Dapple. I'll love them like I loved Dapple.

Right up until the bear hunting starts.