We’ve now had trailer after gameplay trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2, and in addition to the last one, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how we’ll be spending our time in the game. But what’s been less clear – aside from having already seen the future in the last game – is the shape the Van der Linde Gang will take. Most notably, who are the members we knew little of, before John Marston started his most famous journey?
There was a period of around a decade when the Van der Linde Gang enjoyed dominance in the region, but there’s another reason its members would remember those days fondly. It was also a period when Dutch had instilled a proud sense of purpose in the gang. They weren’t just bandits — they were protectors and vigilantes.
Red Dead Redemption 2 will be about the Van der Linde Gang’s “glory days.” Robbing banks and trains, living as outlaws, and distributing wealth as they saw fit.
They robbed from the rich. They gave to the poor. They protected the little people. And sure, every now and then someone got murdered. But they believed they were making a difference.
It was only after many years and a slow slide into casual, unchecked violence that it started to become clear that the West was becoming civilised whether they liked it or not.
Dutch wasn’t fond of change:
A Tale of Two Gangs
The Van der Linde Gang is not to be confused with “Dutch’s Gang.” Although both of them were led by Dutch van der Linde, the former came before the latter, with a period of six years in between. Dutch was thought dead or missing during that time. Not much is know of his actual whereabouts, though at one point Javier Escuella told John Marston that Dutch was hiding out in Columbia.
Dutch’s Gang was the second incarnation of Dutch’s will wrought into a fighting force, though this was long after he had given in to raw aggression. No longer bothering to put up a facade of morality, he recruited among Native Americans with scores to settle against the US Government. Their goal was a Wild West not far from anarchy.
Unfortunately for Dutch, both of these gangs had a member tied to the Bureau of Investigation.
Former Dutch’s Gang member Nastas was recruited as an informant, and eventually fought with John Marston. Marston’s motivations were more complex (as a protagonist’s tend to be). Not only did the original gang leave him for dead in 1906, Edgar Ross kidnapped his family to force him into hunting down his old battle brothers.
There are also a few members of the Van der Linde Gang that we don’t know about yet. Cyber sleuths with their magnifying glasses have been trying to decipher who the silhouetted figures in the promo posters are. No luck so far.
It might be kind of a prequel, but it looks like there’s still plenty of mystery around the Van der Linde Gang. This offers intriguing possibilities as we take control of Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2.
The Gang’s Unknown Members
In Red Dead Redemption 2, the Van der Linde Gang will be more fluid and ever-changing. Characters will come and go, according to the decisions you make, things that happen in the world, and firefights. People can die, people can leave, and occasionally you’ll gain a member.
In our demo of the game, we had captured a member of a rival gang who led us to their hideout. In the ensuing firefight, the captive chose to save Arthur Morgan’s life — cementing him a place in the Van der Linde Gang:
These characters are named, and will have backstories. They aren’t forgettable NPCs who purely exist to give you a quest or buy your hunting scraps. But given how dependent they might be on location or actions, there’s a chance you might go through an entire playthrough without seeing some of them.
We had assumed there would be character reveals in the lead up to Red Dead Redemption 2, but in reality there will be many new characters, each with their own stories, and it’s kind of up to you which will be in your gang.
Dutch’s Philosophy – Survival of the Quickest
The Van der Linde Gang acts according to the philosophy of its leader. At times this is altruistic. At other times it’s madness.
Dutch van der Linde is a self-styled Robin Hood character, who uses force to take resources from the rich and powerful actors moving in on the territory, and give them to the poor.
His treatment of rich white people is especially brutal, sometimes leaving them with nothing but battered limbs and horrible memories. While this brutality attracted disenfranchised Native Americans to his cause later on, his earlier gang saw him as more of a charismatic father figure.
Believing that government systems of control should be dismantled so that people can take care of themselves like in the old Wild West days, Dutch has views that would be considered conservative and libertarian today.
He comes from a place of being able to protect himself and his own, but he also sees himself as protecting a way of life. He is willing to help the common citizens — even if at times it means killing them.
‘Our Time Has Passed…’
As time goes on, Dutch can’t win his battle against progress. Technologies like machine guns are used to keep order. Materialism and debt take hold of the townships. The citizens themselves seem to welcome being controlled. Dutch witnesses that his actions over many years haven’t changed the world after all.
His philosophy becomes less coherent and focused as he descends into madness, marking the beginning of the end. Instead of helping people, more and more he partakes in senseless violence. Members of the gang drop out, doing their own thing.
But just because we know the ending doesn’t mean we can’t have fun on the journey. Just ask any Titanic fan. If Red Dead Redemption was set in a time when civilisation was catching up to the old Wild West (whether some people liked it or not), then Red Dead Redemption 2 is about those “real” Wild West days.
That kind of chaotic freedom sounds great to the Van der Linde gang, though the trailer makes it clear that the law is still absolutely on the chase. Perhaps this time around there’ll be less blurring of the thin blue line, as Morgan stands firmly in the outlaw camp.