Warning: the following article features mild Red Dead Redemption 2 spoilers with story revelations about Dutch and his nemesis.
There are many antagonists in Red Dead Redemption 2, but we’re convinced we have the main villain pegged. There are a few other options, and hey — it’s a wide, wide country. There’s room for more than one baddie.
As the game goes on, you’ll find out more and more about the events that led the Van der Linde Gang to go on the run. But what’s clear very early is there are some rival gangs out there that don’t play nice.
That much is in their nature. But with one particular gang, and one particular gang leader, it’s highly personal…
As one of the main rival gangs across multiple areas, you’ll frequently encounter The O’Driscoll Boys. Your gangs will go tit-for-tat in edging each other out for lucrative heists.
But Dutch doesn’t speak about Colm O’Driscoll as if he were a peer, or a respected rival. This isn’t just competition, and the two aren’t on speaking terms. This is a blood feud, and when the location of an O’Driscoll hideout is learned (by Williamson threatening to castrate a prisoner), the gang wastes no time in grabbing guns and moving out.
This may be Dutch’s battle but as his Number 2 it’ll be up to you, Arthur Morgan, to muscle these O’Driscolls out of your territory. We encountered random O’Driscoll Boys in the world as well as during story missions.
These gang minions weren’t actually members of the O’Driscoll family, of course — no more than anyone in your camp has adopted the Van der Linde name. These are hired guns. But the O’Driscoll gang does seem to be much larger than the Van der Linde gang, spreading out across different hideouts and muscling people at different chokepoints to exert taxation without representation.
Part of that is just videogame convention — the Wild West power fantasy demands there be a lot more people for you to shoot. But part of it is because the O’Driscolls will recruit “anyone who can fire a gun and ride a horse.”
The lack of O’Driscoll loyalty is what leads Kieran, in our preview, to point us to the location of their hideout. It’s clear that not even those in their gang have any love for the drunk, abusive Colm O’Driscoll.
What we’re most interested in here though, is the history. At some point, Dutch killed Colm O’Driscoll’s brother, and Colm retaliated by killing Annabelle, a woman Dutch dearly loved. The feud has been bloody ever since, and many lives have been lost.
You’ll come across The O’Driscoll Boys early on in the game, but that doesn’t mean the score will be settled quickly. Far from it.
The trouble with owning just about all the major corporate assets in the region means when something major is robbed, it’s usually yours. Cornwall’s name adorns all kinds of industry on the frontier, from trains, to factories, to tar & kerosene plants. All of it just waiting to be robbed.
Those who work for Leviticus Cornwall warn the Van der Linde Gang that this isn’t the type of man to take a robbery lying down. They speak of him in fearful tones. It’s believable when they look you in the eye and say, “You don’t want to do this.”
You have a few choices to make in missions like those. For example, the previews contained a train robbery in which you had the choice to kill witnesses, or let them go. We’re fairly sure those decisions have a big effect on what happens next.
Eventually Leviticus Cornwall has the wealth and means to show up in town with his own private army and call you out. He’ll chase you all the way to the edges of the frontier, but your travels will also take you closer to civilisation. Places such as Red Dead Redemption 2‘s biggest city, Saint Denis — where Cornwall’s influence is greatest.
While his grievances against the Van der Linde Gang are mostly business related, he becomes even more of a nuisance when it’s revealed he’s financially backing the Pinkertons to eradicate the West of gang activity.
Ross and Milton, the Pinkertons
You’re still not entirely sure what happened back in Blackwater that forced the gang to flee, but you know it was bad. The Pinkerton Detective Agency is on the case, chasing down angles to get to their main target: Dutch van der Linde.
Of course we know Edgar Ross goes on to cause all sorts of trouble for the Van der Linde Gang in the future events of Red Dead Redemption. Ross is at that point a member of the Bureau of Investigation. But in Red Dead Redemption 2, he seems more like Milton’s lackey.
Milton has it out for Dutch in a big way, and believes if he cuts off the head of the snake, the rest of the problem will dissolve. Maybe he’s right. But no one in the gang is willing to take up his offers to work with the law and bring in Dutch — which means it has to be all out war.
Caught Between Law and Outlaw
The Pinkertons represent one of the wider themes of Red Dead Redemption 2: the taming of the West. Their goal, being additionally supported by moguls like Cornwall, is to create a land where stagecoaches and trains can deliver payroll without worry of a surprise revolver in their face.
You’ll come across more enemies than these, many of whom will be region-specific. But the above thorns in your side will be with you the entire game. And while the others are intent on pushing all outlaws aside so civilisation can flourish, Colm O’Driscoll has nary a redeeming feature, making him the villain among villains.