We are living in strange times: Diablo is making an awkward transition to mobile, Fallout is now an online-only MMO-lite, and, perhaps most interestingly, Rockstar has released a sequel to Red Dead Redemption, and it’s an RPG… well, sort of. Surely these things can only indicate that the end times are upon us. What crazy circumstances could possibly be next? Will Nintendo finally put together a competent online service? Stranger things have already happened, after all. Of course, Red Dead Redemption 2 is perhaps one of the best games Rockstar has ever released, and, considering their stellar body of work, that’s really saying something. The original Red Dead felt more or less like a slightly toned-down version of Grand Theft Auto IV with a dusty wild west setting. However, its sequel—which is actually a prequel—is very much its own thing. In typical Rockstar fashion, there’s a lot more to do in Red Dead Redemption 2 than simply complete story missions. Much like Grand Theft Auto V, there’s so much side content that it’s easy to cast Arthur Morgan’s responsibilities aside entirely and go fishing for four hours.
This game is also dripping with the kind of insane detail which could only be pulled off by Rockstar: Arthur will be behave differently if he’s hungry or sleep deprived, townsfolk will insult him if he rides around town in mud-soaked clothes, and his fallen enemies will actually decay in real time. With that in mind, here are 20 Things Players Wish They Knew Before Starting Red Dead Redemption 2.
20 Red Dead Roleplay
Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t exactly a full-fledged RPG, but it definitely incorporates tons of new gameplay elements which weren’t present in the original title. Rockstar has hardly ever offered more than the barest of barebones RPG mechanics in their previous games, and this was perhaps best exemplified by Grand Theft Auto V’s downright anemic stat-leveling system. In RDR2, the system by which players can develop their character is a bit more transparent, and performing certain actions or carrying out certain challenges will increase related stats. This is most prevalent when it comes to the overhauled Deadeye mechanic, which is now vastly more useful than it was in the first Red Dead game.
19 Running Wild
2010’s Red Dead Redemption didn’t exactly boast an overwhelmingly large map, though it was more-or-less standard fair for the time. Its sequel, however, dials things up to eleven and presents one of the most varied and ambitious maps Rockstar has ever endeavored to create. RDR2’s gameworld truly is impressive in both scope and scale, yet new players will have a rough time getting a sense of that during the game’s slightly beguiling introductory hour. Opening on a band of outlaws hiding out in a snowy mountain pass, the first few missions feel rather claustrophobic and series newcomers need to keep in mind that, once they push through the tutorial, the game will be anything but.
18 Take It Easy
Red Dead Redemption 2 was almost instantly recognized as a Game of the Year contender for 2018, as it should have been. Yet, there are more than likely a few new Rockstar Games fans unfamiliar with Red Dead Redemption’s slower take on the open world genre. Some players have lamented that they’ve already grown bored of this sequel and have returned to Grand Theft Auto V, but those headed into RDR2 thinking that it will provide the same fast-paced thrills of the GTA series will be setting themselves up for disappointment. While Grand Theft Auto V encourages players to ramp flaming sports cars off of mountain tops, Red Dead asks players to take it a little slower and breathe in the atmosphere a bit more.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s wanted system should feel like a new take on a familiar mechanic to those more familiar with Blaine County than New Austin. In Grand Theft Auto V, criminal activity of any sort would almost always result in the player earning wanted stars, and the more of these Michael, Franklin, or Trevor would rack up, the more intense the LSPD’s response would become. In RDR2, players accrue a bounty with each crime which will remain on their heads until paid off. Unlike in GTA, crafty criminals who don’t leave witnesses won’t attract police attention, which lends credence to Arthur Morgan’s outlaw lifestyle.
Though games in the Grand Theft Auto series are often held in high regard by just about everyone capable of holding a controller, they aren’t typically remembered for their narrative elements. Few games allow players to unleash an unmitigated barrage of chaos on an urban area in the way these titles do and most gamers play through the story just long enough to unlock some of the more devastating weaponry, and then shove it off entirely in favor of literal grand theft auto. This isn’t the case in Red Dead Redemption 2 and, in many ways, the narrative is at the forefront of the experience. Everything the player does is in service of the Van der Linde gang, and most players will want to see the story through to the end.
15 Outlaws ‘till the End
If there’s one valid gripe to be had about Rockstar’s new game, it’s the title. The fact that it’s called Red Dead Redemption 2 seems to imply that it’s a sequel to the first game, when, in fact, it is nothing of the sort. RDR2 is actually a prequel which takes place twelve years prior to the first game and tells the story of a character who is only tangentially related to John Marston, the protagonist of the original release. What’s more, Rockstar's new western is a much more serious and involved game which mostly focuses on new characters and previously unrevealed plot elements. Don’t go into this expecting a continuation of the first game’s story.
14 Best Friends Forever
They say that you should be kind to your fellow man, yet, if video games have taught us anything, it’s that our fellow men are more often than not brainless NPCs who are better off forgotten. How many times have non-player controlled followers in other Rockstar games brought an end to their lives by accidentally walking off of a cliff or having the gall to get in the way of your RPG shot. This is pretty far from the case in RDR2 and players actually need to pay attention to their fellow gang members lest they miss out on important side quests or draw the ire of neglected friends.
13 The Life of a Criminal
Red Dead Redemption 2 may encourage players to take things a little slower than they otherwise might in a game like Grand Theft Auto V, but that doesn’t mean that the game has devolved into a walking simulator. As previously mentioned, Arthur Morgan is an outlaw through-and through and players are actually encouraged to take part in all sorts of criminal activities from the mild to the extreme. RDR2 players will have had a hand in all manner of crazy capers by the time the credits roll: from sticking up unlucky travelers to full-on bank heists, there’s plenty of pulse-pounding, high-octane moments to be found in the wild west.
12 Animal Husbandry
If there’s one earnest complaint to be leveled at Grand Theft Auto V, it’s the title’s absolute lack of animal husbandry. Players have long complained that they don’t have the option to tame any of Blaine County’s local fauna and instead have to settle for ultra-fast sports cars and commercial jet planes. Kidding aside, animal husbandry is a major part of Red Dead Redemption 2 and, instead of building a metaphorical bond with your car in GTA V, players will build very real bonds with their horses in Rockstar’s new game. This matters because your treatment of your steed will impact the way it behaves. Be careful, though: if your horse kicks the bucket, it will be gone forever.
11 On the Hunt
Though hunting was a part of the original Red Dead Redemption, it feels like a much more fleshed-out experience in the game’s sequel. In Red Dead Redemption 2, players will be tasked with hunting down all manner of fauna for various reasons. Animals are chiefly useful for their pelts which can be used to craft new items or sold for cash (or donated, if you’re really lame). The hunting mechanics are more involved this time around, as well. Animals need to be spotted through the binoculars and taken down with the correct type of ammunition or their pelts will be ruined. It’s a complex, rewarding system, and it outdoes many of those awful Cabela’s-sponsored hunting games.
10 The Fastest Hand in the West
Returning from the original Red Dead Redemption, Deadeye is an in-game system by which players can slow down time and target specific enemies without the need to aim at them manually. It functions sort of like the V.A.T.S. system in Fallout, though it is a little less complex here. In Red Dead Redemption 2, Deadeye is a much more useful mechanic than it used to be and it can also be incrementally upgraded to target more enemies, last longer, and eventually target specific body parts. It’s a major improvement from the first iteration, through some of the more useful upgrades can’t be unlocked until late in the game, which mitigates their usefulness to a certain point.
9 Survive or Thrive
In a bold new step for the Rockstar Games open world formula, Red Dead Redemption 2 incorporates some incredibly in-depth RPG mechanics which wouldn’t ordinarily be found in one of their more over-the-top games. An attempt at grounding the much more narratively serious RDR2 in reality, there is now a weight system which may impact player inventory, but it gets deeper than that. Players will need to monitor Arthur Morgan’s eating and sleeping habits lest he suffer stamina and health penalties, and they’ll even be required to make sure that he’s dressed properly for the climate, as poor preparation for cold environments may dramatically impact his stats.
8 Advanced Cartography
Tedious menu navigation can sometimes bring down even the greatest of digital experiences: everyone loves The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but that menu was just way too clunky. That said, bringing up the menu and slowly pulling up the map in Red Dead Redemption 2 can get old fast, and some players may opt to wander around aimlessly rather than get the map out every five seconds to make sure they’re headed in the right direction. However, savvy players will no-doubt know that holding down the start button will immediately open the map, which saves a few seconds of effort per use.
7 Black Market
Convenient though it would be, Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t allow players to simply sell off all of their valuable material at the nearest market. Normal store clerks and traders don’t want anything to do with your illicit goods and stolen items can only be sold to select black marketeers, known as fences in game. This comes with its own set of caveats, as these particular vendors can only be found in certain locations, there are only four in the entire game, they work very strange hours, and sometimes won’t talk to you if you’re a wanted man. This can definitely be annoying, but such are the tenants of the criminal lifestyle.
6 Say “What” Again
Arthur’s criminal lifestyle often requires him to coerce his targets into doing what he wants. In previous games, there wasn’t a whole lot that could be done with most NPCs, and they would often just cower in a corner or run when confronted. In Red Dead Redemption 2, however, some will either freeze up or act definitely when put in a perilous position. If this happens, the player can draw Arthur’s weapon and press up on the directional pad to fire a warning shot in the air. The loud, threatening crack of a revolver often loosens the lips and pockets of most people, though it won’t work on those with particularly strong wills.
5 Keep an Eye on the Map
Smart Red Dead Redemption 2 players will know to constantly keep an eye on their map, as it can sometimes reveal some important information which may otherwise be easily missed. Throughout their 60+ hour experience with Rockstar’s new title, players will sometimes come across white waypoint markers which are meant to indicate side quests. These often have something to do with a member of the Van der Linde gang, and those choosing to skip these missions will probably miss out on some important partner-in-crime characterization. What’s more, some of these are time sensitive, so it’s better to do them sooner than later lest they disappear forever after a certain point.
4 ...And Amber Waves of Grain
Unlike the original 2010 title, the map featured in Red Dead Redemption 2 is absolutely massive. It may not actually compare with some true titans like Just Cause 2, but every square inch is so detailed that it feels much larger than it actually is. Plus, the original Red Dead was set in a sort of brown, dusty plain which didn’t vary all that much from place to place. In Red Dead 2, players will traverse the snowy Grizzly Mountains, the urban sprawl of Saint Denis, the sunken bayou of Lemoyne, and everything in between. A few familiar locations from the previous game have made a return, which makes this map feel like what the original game would have been had the technical limitations of the time not existed.
3 Horse TLC
Every Red Dead Redemption 2 player should already be familiar with Arthur Morgan’s stamina and health systems, but it's equally important to realize that his horse actually has many of the same needs. Horses in RDR2 may be wounded and downed, so it’s always a good idea to have at least one horse revival kit ready to go at all times. It’s worth reiterating that, once a horse is gone, its gone for good, so Arthur really needs to pay attention to its health and overall well-being. Hitching a horse will refill both health and stamina meters, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for one when approaching a town or outpost.
2 I Have a Plan
While Red Dead Redemption’s John Marston was something of a lone wolf, Arthur Morgan is anything but. A prominent figure in Dutch Van der Linde’s gang of outlaws, it’s often up to him to lead the groups and move things forward. With that in mind, it’s often on him to upgrade the camp, which can be done via the camp ledger. Here, a variety of things can be improved or enhanced, which will not only be more beneficial to the player, but it will also inspire Arthur’s fellow gang members to pitch in a bit more. The player is usually responsible for gathering supplies and keeping everyone in the camp alive, but the more upgrades the camp receives, the more autonomous it will become.
1 A Legendary Hunter
Most people familiar with the hunting mechanics in Red Dead Redemption 2 will know that animal pelts are ranked on a three tier system, with perfect pelts only available from three-star animals. To figure out your prey’s species and pelt quality, view it through Arthur’s binoculars. It’s important to remember that perfect pelts will be ruined unless the correct type of ammunition is used to take the animal down, and it can be disappointing to pursue some rare pelts only to find that you’ve accidentally tarnished them as a result of using the wrong type of ammo. It’s a relatively meaty system for a game that doesn’t come affiliated with any outdoorsman stores.
What else do you think people need to know before starting up RDR2? Let us know in the comments!