Red Dead Online, Red Dead Redemption 2’s online sibling, is a remarkable $5 on all platforms until the 15th. It’s also backwards compatible with the PS5 and Xbox Series X. If you’ve always wanted to horse around in the Old West like a GTA gansta, is RDO it worth it? What’s it like and what’s the difference between RDO and RDR2?

Red Dead Online vs. Red Dead Redemption

RDO does feel rather complete, if very open-world. There are even a number of story missions that go on quite a while; I haven’t gotten to the end of them after about 2 weeks of fairly intense but also unfocused play. It’s like a GTA game with slightly simplified and more generic story missions. You’re not a well-crafted outlaw with a long backstory like RDR2; you’re the somewhat faceless (and voiceless) loner that you designed when starting the game, and you can skew good or bad, but there’s no history to you.

That’s okay, because the world is well-populated with activities like PvP races and gunfights, free-range wildlife hunting/fishing, stranger and mail clerk missions, whole-world events, and of course organic encounters with other players, which can be hostile or friendly.

It’s honestly a ton of content and entertainment for $5, especially if you’re an Amazon Prime member or an outdoorsy type. Why these two exceptions? Well, if you’re a Prime member, you can get a stellar starter package, including a valuable bounty hunter license (which unlocks fun bounty missions and fantastic legendary bounty missions), just by visiting the Amazon Gaming site and linking your accounts. And if you’re someone who uses pine needles for bedding, snacks, and deodorant, RDO is your perfect gaming environment, because you can spend hours tracking game, collecting herbs for tonics, and exploring the lush environments, which are varied and remarkably lifelike, if not quite to the visual caliber of a game like Horizon: Zero Dawn.

It also doesn’t hurt that Rockstar is fully committed to this game, more so than RDR. RDO generates income from impatient gamers who want to buy their way to in-game power through microtransactions. RDR does not. So RDO is getting updates and RDR isn’t.

Beginner Tips for Red Dead Online

Red Dead is fun and (like any other MMORPG) grindy… but not bad. The starting weapons are actually very good and there are lots of rotating discounts. Pay attention to those awards and discounts; thanks to one of mine, I got a free horse that is one of the best transports in the game.

I spent a lot of my early gaming hunting, which is profitable, and a lot more profitable than playing humans in the RDO poker rooms. (Humans playing with fake money are almost impossible to bluff out of a pot.) But the story missions, race circuits, and whole-world events are much more profitable.

Sadly you do need to work up a decent amount of gold (if you’re lacking Prime) to get a bounty hunter or trader license, which adds a lot more fun.

My quick RDO beginner advice:

  • make sure you’re always in DEFENSIVE mode to avoid getting hassled by PvPers, although there is no cost to being killed (left on d-pad > online settings). This gets set to Offensive after most activities.
  • do the story missions which are easy and fun
  • do at least one daily challenge per day to earn gold (left on dpad > challenges)
  • accept the posse invitations and participate in the whole-world events that you like; they can be profitable
  • swim and fist fight to increase your stamina and health
  • forget about profit! Many players are suffering from RDO greed, trying to buy that fancy hat or provision their camp with extra gear. Seek out the stuff you enjoy doing, and don’t grind just to get pretty shit. That’s a bad way to game, and a bad way to live.

Is RDO a Good Game or a Great Game?

Gonna have to say “good” from my POV, although there’s a lot here. The core gameplay loop is much like GTA: wander around, look for juicy missions and activities, and buy better gear. At heart I’m just not a huge fan of open-world games, especially MMORPGs. I’m allergic to grinding and bored by the open-world formula, which often breaks down to “wandering through town trying to find something cool to do.” To me, 30% of open-world gaming is like channelsurfing and waiting for fun to happen. Sure, it happens, but I’d much rather be in a well-designed encounter that has stakes and some atmosphere.

To be fair, I’m just scratching the surface, and RDO did just up the ante for me. I finally got my bounty hunter license and I went on a legendary bounty mission. I was matched up with the Wolfman, a squirrely bad guy who lives by a wintery lake in the far north, surrounded by his pack of pet wolves. “Bring some predator bait,” it advised.

Immediately I had a smile on my face. It didn’t matter that I had trouble with the finicky weapon draw UI and got ripped up by three wolves well before finding the Wolfman. It didn’t matter that the Wolfman, when I found him, came running out into the open with his pet bear, yelling something random, where I quickly put a bullet in his head. It didn’t matter that, when I turned my repeater on the pet bear, I realized that the bear wasn’t a pet and shouldn’t be antagonized. (It was a wild bear, and it was a juggernaut.) What mattered was that, unlike a lot of the other missions in the game, this felt like an adventure, not a insta-quest that fell out of the developer’s random generator.


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