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!