Red Dead Online has reached the end of its useful life. It is both a fantastic experience that Ive studied for hundreds of hours, and a game that will never fulfill its potential, forever in the shadow of its bigger (and far more profitable) competitors, Grand Theft Auto Online. It is worthwhile to take a look at the game as a whole after its 2018 release.
Your character is betrayed, framed for failing to commit crimes, and sentenced to death as an outlaw, thanks to the efforts of high-class lady Jessica LeClerk, who has her own ingenious revenge plot since she was recently widowed by scavengers trying to steal her husband's fortune. After being released on the frontier, it's time to get back to work fulfilling paychecks, killing robbers, and grooming a stable of beautiful horses.
If you follow the LeClerk missions, you are put through a brief campaign in which you must make the occasional moral decision. Do you return a broken daughter to her father or let her run off with her lover? Do you tie some neer-do-wells to the tracks and allow the train to enact justice, or are you more merciful?
After LeClerks missions, the honor system disappears, but it tends to fill up gradually when you brush and feed your horse; it's usually pretty clear what leads to an honor drop or recovery. executing witnesses is a no-no.
It's just never really matters. It's like great ideas went awry at some point, and characters like Old Man Jones, who feels like the angelic answer to the devilish Stranger in the Red Dead franchise are just there. It's all about the beginning, but Jones kind of disintegrates after dropping all of his foreshadowing.
Once you've completed the campaign missions, cowpokes may have fun doing their own thing. You can camp and prepare some delectable stew, hunt down high-priced criminal fines, or manage your own moonshine shack. Then I jump on my big horse Hayseed and wander out in search of missions in the vast, unspoiled wilderness.
The core of these activities remains the same: you're either riding your horse, swinging a lasso, or firing a pistol. The excellent grappling, fighting, and physics systems in Red Dead Redemption 2 add to the fun.
The world seems to be more organic, although it isn't as detailed as the single-player experience. I might find someone who is trapped under a rock, only to discover it's a ruthless trap set by a bandits. Or, I might discover someone who needs help returning home after a wolf attack, and when I return they will find a mission available at their ranch, which leads me to Valentine, where I pick a reward off the board.
Red Dead Online is a great social game, but one that can never quite match up to GTA Online's. It's a great social game, but one that rarely escalates beyond a brief horse battle in the middle of a city or a frantic horse change.
The vast open world of Rockstar is still fascinating to see and full of little secrets to uncover. There was never a clear and universal direction 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 GTA Online's gigantic world.
There's something tragic about this, because while Red Dead Online can't guarantee flying cars or Elon Musk parodies, it does provide gravitas. My friends and I were always half in character as we sailed along the frontier. In GTA Online, we'd contemplatively stare into the fire and drink coffee from a tin cup before going off at a canter on our horses.
The experience for fans who stuck it out through new character roles and occasional events was a disappointment, as it now sits in a state of purgatory. Only time will tell whether the group the game has attracted continues to thrive or if the game develops a brighter future elsewhere.