Way of the Hunter - River Knox

Way of the Hunter is a massive open-world hunting game from Nine Rocks Games. As such, it features a gruff-but-affable protagonist, and it leans really hard into its outdoorsy, woodsy aesthetic. However, it makes one really odd choice for its lore: The main character of the game, River Knox, is a Hollywood stuntman.

I suppose there’s nothing definitively wrong with that choice; it just feels like an unusual one. The general formula of these games tends to be that some office-bound yes-man breaks free from the chains of the corporate world to pursue a simpler, freer life (see Stardew Valley or Open Country as just two examples off the top of my head). But stuntman? I suppose it does allow the game to justify its super-fit protagonist, which will allow him to do all the hiking and climbing and whatnot that’s required of him.

The game begins with River driving out to his grandfather’s hunting lodge. The basic setup is that the elderly man has fallen ill, and River has agreed to run the family business while Gramps recovers. But in order to do so, he must leave his stuntman life behind (at least temporarily — it’s not really clear whether he’s on some sort of sabbatical or if he’s decided to leave and call it quits).

Now, Grandpa is a big fan of his movie-star grandson to the point where he collects posters of the films River stars in and pencils in his name on the credits. So when you enter the lodge, you can find these posters on the wall in Grandpa’s office.

Way of the Hunter - Movie Posters

Two of the movies are incredibly on the nose: Way of the Hunter (wink wink) and The Elite Hunter. But then the third comes completely from left field. It’s called Sand, and it’s very clearly a reference to the recent Dune movie.

If you look closely at the poster, you’ll see that this is a Damid Vincher film, which I take as a reference to director Denis Villeneuve (who directed the 2021 Dune movie). You’ll also see Tomas Lynch listed as an actor. I imagine Tomas Lynch is this universe’s Timothée Chalamet, and it’s also a reference to David Lynch, who directed the 1984 version of Dune.

So that means that in this universe, there’s a version of Dune called Sand, directed by Damid Vincher and starring Tomas Lynch. And in Way of the Hunter, you’re playing as a guy who was a stuntman in that movie.

I don’t know why, but that one detail changes so much of the way I see River. I want to know more about his career — did he stand in for the main man Tomas Lynch himself, or was he more of a background stuntman, perhaps Desert Soldier #3 or Man-Who-Gets-Devoured-by-Sandworm? Did he get to know any of the actors at all? Does he frequently bump elbows with the Hollywood elite?

Honestly, these questions are more interesting to me than any of the game’s actual questions (like what happened to River’s mother and why does his father hate hunting so much?) In fact, it’s kind of distracting. It makes me want to play a stuntman simulator, in which I play as River Knox in his Hollywood career, smashing cars and jumping off buildings.

Way of the Hunter

Compared to that, the pacing of life in the wild just seems — I don’t know — kind of dull. The open country doesn’t seem like much of an escape in comparison, and I just keep imagining that River Knox is getting antsy to go back to the excitement of his day-to-day life. He’s certainly not your average office shlub, and he seems to have a lot going for him back in Cali.

Or maybe, as someone who seems to specialize in hunting movies, he’s just taking this as an opportunity to prepare himself for his next role. Maybe he has ambitions of transitioning from stuntman to leading man, and he feels he needs to brush up on his hunting skills to make that transition work.

Either way, River is going to be River, I guess, and if he wants to hang out with dead animals instead of living Hollywood legends, then so be it.

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Julian Watkins
Editor
1 month ago

Damid Vincher also brings to mind David Fincher, which would’ve been a wild choice to direct Dune.

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