Red Dead Online's final goodbyes are in a good mood

Red Dead Online's final goodbyes are in a good mood ...

Red Dead Online has reached the end of its useful life, both as a fantastic experience Ive studied for hundreds of hours, and a game that will never fulfill its potential, forever in the shadow of its bigger (and much more lucrative) sister, Grand Theft Auto Online. It's worthwhile to revisit the frontier to see what the game has accomplished since its 2018 release.

Your character is betrayed, condemned for failing to commit crimes, and sentenced to be hanged as an outlaw. Jessica LeClerk is a renowned high-class lady who has her own revenge motive since she was recently widowed by scavengers attempting to snatch her husband's fortune. Once the player has been unleashed on the frontier, it's time to get back to work fulfilling robbers, killing horses, and securing a stable of beautiful

If you follow the LeClerk missions, you are placed through a brief campaign that requires you to make the occasional moral choice. Do you return a broken child to her father, or let her run off with her lover? Do you tie some neer-do-wells to the tracks and let the train enact justice, or are you more merciful?

The honor system runs during gameplay, but this tendency wears off after LeClerks missions; it tends to fill up over time when you brush and feed your horse; it's usually pretty clear what leads to an honor drop or recovery; self-defense is fine, but killing witnesses is a no-no.

It just never matters. Beyond a few cosmetic rewards, there are certain characters that were discarded at some point, such as Old Man Jones who feels like the angelic answer to the devilish Stranger in the Red Dead franchise is just there. It's a feeling that everything is heading towards something, but Jones sort of fades once he's gone.

Once you complete the campaign missions, cowpokes can hunt and fish, establish a camp and cook some delectable stew, hunt down high-priced criminal weapons, or manage your own moonshine shack. I jump on my big horse Hayseed and wander out in search of missions in the vast, unspoiled wilderness.

The main focus of these activities is always the same: you're either riding your horse, swinging a lasso, or shooting a pistol. Red Dead Redemption 2's outstanding grappling, fighting, and physics systems add flavor.

The world itself is also organic, although it isn't as detailed as the single-player experience. I may discover someone trapped under a rock, only to discover it's a dangerous trap set by bandits. Or, I might find someone who needs help returning home after a wolf attack, and when I return they'll find a mission available at their ranch, which naturally leads me to Valentine, where I collect a bounty off the board.

Red Dead Online is a wonderful social game, but it isn't exactly the same as its older brother in GTA Online. The action is rarely interrupted by a clash in the middle of a city or a frantic horse change.

Rockstar's vast open world is still stunning to explore and bursting with little secrets to uncover. There's a lot of joy to be found in individual moments, but there's no overarching vision that led Red Dead Online to a tangible and concrete destination, and now there will probably never be one, as Rockstar continues to devote time and energy to the monumental GTA Online.

There's something tragic about that, because while Red Dead Online can't be bothered with flying cars and Elon Musk's parodies, it does provide warmth. In GTA Online, we'd contemplatively stare into the fire and drink coffee out of a tin cup before boarding our horses in search of love.

The fans who stayed engaged through new character roles and the occasional event in search of some greater recognition or vindication from Rockstar have come to an end. Only time will tell whether the group the game has attracted sticks around or departs for a brighter future elsewhere.