Red Dead Online as a mostly single-player game in 2022

As you might imagine, Red Dead Online has come quite a ways. Perhaps not in the specific direction some of us might have preferred, but it’s covered some distance at any rate. And I’m pretty sure it’s now a perfectly viable, although Rockstar idiosyncratic, single-player game that you can also play with friends if you feel so inclined. Plenty of tracks of progression, story missions, challenges, collectibles, hunting, fishing, bounty hunting, and so much wonderful horse business all the while.

I had previously played enough that I had a fair bit of money and no idea what to do with it. So I sat down, pored over the help screens, looked through all the progression menus, read through the catalog, and so forth. I nearly spent all my money on a red dress in the hopes that I could make my avatar look more like Sarah Palin, but I think it’s a lost cause at this point and I’ve grown rather attached to my rough-hewn severe-looking frontier schoolmarm.

So I instead bought a dog for camp that doesn’t do anything except bark and let me pet it. Worst $400 I ever spent. Well, second worst. I bought an Xbox One once. But now I’m saving the rest of my money for a stew pot. I guess I could upgrade my weapons? But for what I’ve been doing, my trusty cattlemen revolver and shotgun have been plenty sufficient. I even took down a grizzly bear with the shotgun without getting off my horse! The less said about my encounter with a cougar, the better.

Anyway, I had forgotten there was a camera in the game. I knew there was photo mode. I mean, duh. But there’s also an actual camera that you have to put on a stand, which I re-discovered after jumping into a nature photography public match.

Every now and then, as if to remind you you’re playing an online game, a message pops up telling you about some public match starting. These aren’t the usual deathmatches, though. They’re weird challenges with hunting and fishing and even photography. I had to see how that worked and, sure enough, it was about what you would expect. A handful of folks teleported to Tall Trees or Ambarino or somewhere (?) to take animal pictures for 10 minutes, only occasionally running into each other. I guess there are elements of PvP, because we’re earning points for our pictures. One time another dude spoiled my shot of a deer when he walked in front of me, which I guess was a very PvP thing to do, but I don’t think he meant to; I think he just didn’t see me. Then there was me getting killed by a charging grizzly before I could get the camera set up. How long until cell phone cameras get invented?

So, yeah, of course there’s a camera in the game. So when I jumped onto the train to just ride the circuit and reacquaint myself with the layout of the five-state area (I’ve been playing almost exclusively in New Elizabeth, but there aren’t any geographical or area-level restrictions in Red Dead Online), I remembered the camera. I climbed up on one of the cars and set the camera on its sticks as the train trundled into the mists of Lemoyne on the way to St. Denis:

Out of the mist into the sunset:

So much detail, both pastoral:

And big city:

It was night by the time we reached Anneburg:

And then up through the Grizzlies and eventually back down to West Elizabeth and my own camp.

If you’re not just running through a bunch of multiplayer shooting matches, the ratio of “time spent” to “progression made” is probably abysmal compared to other games. And I don’t mind in the least. I’ve got a camp set up on the Hawkeye Creek just south of Strawberry and I’m plinking away at missions and progression, thinking about moseying way the hell over to Rhodes to start up the bounty hunter role. Maybe bounty hunting (against AI enemies!) will get me to upgrade one of my guns or even buy a better one.

There are five “roles” at this point in the game, although it looks like two of them – moonshiner and naturalist – require some gameplay to unlock. But I’m pretty sure collector, trader, and bounty hunter are immediately available to anyone who cares to pursue them. There’s plenty to do even if you ignore the roles, but Rockstar seems to offer each of them as tracks with distinct types of gameplay, specifically to appeal to those of us who don’t just want to play deathmatches.

I’ve seen other players a few times. I was only griefed once, but it was a doozy because I didn’t understand how it worked and the other guy knew exactly what he was doing. Some guy with a bunch of random letters for a name showed up and kept standing suspiciously close to me, obviously trying to goad me into attacking. I was having none of it. So he eventually opened fire, which didn’t hurt much. If you don’t have yourself flagged for PvP, you take reduced damage. So I just ran back to my horse to try to ride away. But he kept attacking and, bam, I died. So after I pressed charges and respawned and got killed again, I selected parley, which I thought meant we couldn’t damage each other. But he still found ways to blow me up, as if he were attaching grenades to me or something? He even put me in a cage at one point – apparently you can summon cages in Red Dead Online? – and sprinkled me with some liquid or poison or something that made my character shriek in pain. I had no idea what was going on. I could have easily moved to another instance, but out of curiosity, I stuck it out to see where this was going. Nowhere, obviously, and he eventually got bored and went away. I did, however, lose the grizzly bear skin I was bringing back to camp. That smarted.

So that was once in probably about ten hours of play and I could have easily avoided it if I weren’t curious to see where it was going. I’m hoping to hook up with a couple of friends later, but mostly I’m playing it as a traversal game with mild survival mechanics, occasional shooting, as much hunting and fishing as a feller could want, and a graphics engine that looks – and runs – amazing. The last time I’d played, it was with an Nvidia 1080 and the graphics were suitably dialed down. With my 3070, I pushed everything up as far as it would go, expecting to selectively notch down some stuff to manage the framerate. So far, no notching down necessary.

More dispatches to follow!

-Tom

I feel attacked.

(On the other hand, my XBone has never gotten a ton of use. I got it mostly to play PvZ games with the kiddo and that didn’t hold kiddo’s interest for long. I do 100% intend to finish LEGO City Undercover though.)

The frontier is brutal, my friend. :)

-Tom

Single player is the only way I’ve ever played RDO. GTA Online too, now that I think about it, though it seemed like there was a lot less going on there for solo play. I never tried being a naturalist though it sounds interesting, going solely by the name. I should fire this back up.

Casually keeping busy out on the range seems like a fine way to pass the time. Especially with a setting (and game engine) as gorgeous as RDR2.

Having just finished the Dying Light DLC campaign, and with 2 more weeks to that sequel, it may be time for a reinstall.

I don’t recall how friends stuff works, but my character is apparently named Westchick 34931 and my Rockstar Social Club name is tomchick.

-Tom

Once it takes the requisite two weeks to download, I wonder how much of an internet connection this game actually needs if you’re playing solo? Assume we’re talking internet that streams Netflix at 240p, with the occasional buffering. I guess ping doesn’t really matter (ours goes between 60 and 960), it probably discourages other players from interacting with you.

I don’t play RDR2 (yet) but my wife loves it. The sound of RDO appeals to her, as long as she can do her own thing.

ps. $400 well spent, Tom

At least I gave him a cool name:

-Tom

Keep him away from the campfire though.

So can one play this online portion without having played much of the single player portion?

Not only that, you can jump into Red Dead Online without even owning the single-player!

-Tom

Oh wow! I had no idea thank you!

Ok, this has me interested. My love for RDR2 was at least as much for the world it provided in which I could just roam, explore, and live. I frequently would be away from camp so long that Dutch would send someone to check on me. While I loved the Western Noir story of Arthur, I felt that if they just gave me this open, living world as a sandbox to play in, I could be happy just creating my own stories.

I avoided RDO because I’d read stories of people being griefed pretty much non stop, and I really had no interest in basically The Division 2’s Dark Zones set in the RDR world. But if it really is possible to explore the world of RDO without having to avoid PvP pain, I will definitely jump back in.

I picked up RDO back in September on a whim, and quickly had 40 hours in game. I talked my brother into trying it in November and now I have 360+ hours in game. We’ve had a lot of fun, riding around, dying in new and creative ways (We invented water skiing way back in 18-whatever. We were trying to get on those big ships in the river and he managed to get on one, but I missed the jump. He lassoed me and dragged me behind the ship till I eventually drowned.) , hunting and fishing, defending Blackwater till we finally won (took a lot of attempts) and just marveling at all the detail they included, and wondering about all the stuff they left out.

We interact with others occasionally, my brother is much more gregarious than I and jumps right in. I tend to leave folks alone until they mess with me. Most folks have been friendly, some had to fight first but then chilled out and helped us learn the game. Some are complete jerks. Par for the course.

The horses, while definitely not perfect, are the best attempt at horses I think I have encountered in a computer game. And the ones in game are a damn sight easier to take care of than the ones down in my barn.

As for dogs: Your dog is supposed to come get you when baddies are raiding your camp while you are doing trading missions for Cripps. If you aren’t doing those, then he just hangs around and pisses Cripps off. For me, that alone was worth the price of the dog.

There is griefing, mostly getting blown up over and over. Once a guy dropped a full stage coach with horses on me. Another time I found myself wearing a barrel. I was fishing and some guy started spawning giant sharks all around. I usually either wait em out as they tend to get bored if you don’t react, or just go to another instance. Only get annoyed if I’m close to completing something I’ve been working on. It hasn’t been all that prevalent.

The game was easily worth the tenner I spent on it.

Not too far from Thieves’ Landing.

Trestle up north. We were doing a mission at the station situated right behind were I took the pic from, and the last guy we had to get was on the lower level balcony in the right foreground. When my brother shot him, he obligingly fell off the bridge in proper Hollywood fashion.

Life as a barrel:

Horse showing off:

Home sweet home:

Hmm… Might have to check this out again. Tried to play with a buddy last year and got irritated with the loading times, instances and dropped sessions. However I did really enjoy the world from the main game, so an extention of that sounds interesting.

I can’t figure out how to join anyone. Although it could just be I haven’t been online at the same time as anyone I’ve friended in the past. The social system is certainly opaque.

That said, I’m inclined to actually pick up the single player campaign I never completed. I’ll save online play until I remember how to do basic things like feed my horse and open a door.

Haha, I had no idea this could happen! The real question is how they knew where to find you.

You’re going to have to contend with all that in Story Mode as well. Your best bet, regardless of whether you’re doing the story or Red Dead Online, is to hit escape, click on the Help option, and read through all those screens. You’re going to have to learn all that stuff sooner or later!

-Tom

I’m going through all those help screens. Figured best to re-learn on my own than dragging down potential posse-mates.

I’m no expert, but since my brother is the only one I have friended, I can tell you that he shows up in the “Friends” tab on the “Players” window, which you access via the L key. Hit L, then E and it should show your friends. Click on their name and either join their session or invite them to yours.

Another tip I forgot earlier. When you join a session, first thing you should do is hit the L key, scroll down to Online Options and turn Social Matching off. This will reduce the number of players that will spawn near you when they join. If you have it on, the game assumes you want company. ;)