State of the Game: Red Dead Online - an untamed playground to make your own fun - Eurogamer.net

State of the Game: Red Dead Online - an untamed playground to make your own fun - Eurogamer.net

State of the Game: Red Dead Online - an untamed playground to make your own fun - Eurogamer.net
Aug 04, 2022 4 mins, 9 secs

Have you ever met a cheater in Red Dead Online?

It didn't take long for me to realise what was happening - Red Dead Online is notorious for its cheaters, and one of them had decided to spend their evening targeting me.

As I orbited the Earth like an actual spaceship, I sighed, resigned myself to my fate, and shut down the game.

Yet on reflection, the whole incident - including Rockstar's seeming indifference towards helping a player - does embody the problems that Red Dead Online has been unable to shake over the years.

At its core, Red Dead Online's world offers a startlingly intricate wilderness simulation, and provides a brilliant stage for roleplaying life on the American frontier.

It's a shame, because there's plenty to like about Red Dead Online - and I only wish Rockstar had done more with this potential.

Earlier this month, of course, Rockstar announced that it will no longer introduce any major new updates for Red Dead Online?

The developer confirmed that it had been steadily moving resources over to GTA 6, and that new Red Dead Online content will now be limited to small events and experience improvements.

So in short, if you're looking to get into Red Dead Online in the year 2022, what you see is what you get.

As the multiplayer component of Red Dead Redemption 2, Red Dead Online was blessed with strong foundations in the form of its game world.

With a fantastically detailed rendition of 1890s America as its stage, the challenge for Rockstar was to create systems that would allow players to meaningfully engage with this world.

Red Dead Online opens with a series of story quests, introducing you to the game's mechanics and sending you off on your journey.

Once unleashed into the open world, you can also earn money through free roam quests, which are tasks such as stealing wagons, or delivering goods.

Rather than simply dressing up as a specific character, these roles allowed players to actively roleplay as a trader, bounty hunter or collector (or, in later updates, a moonshiner or naturalist).

As I saw a player once describe it, Red Dead Online suffers from "1890s wages, 2020s prices".

The two main forms of currency in Red Dead Online are cash and gold bars, the latter of which is a premium currency.

For new players it's a brutal grind, as the money you earn quickly flies out on weapons, ammo and tonics.

Rockstar's attempts to push players towards doing this through high prices and tiny mission rewards, however, makes the game feel extremely harsh.

The monetisation problem also has a wider impact on the game world.

In order to control the amount of dollars that players can earn, it's difficult to make money outside of the limited routes permitted by Rockstar.

For this reason, Red Dead Online's world can feel rather restricted, despite its seemingly open nature and focus on immersion.

But it feels like Rockstar overemphasised PvP at points in Red Dead Online: nearly every matchmaking mode is focused on PvP, and even PvE quests, including stranger missions and trade wagons, encourage ambushes from other players.

There are a couple of co-op PvE events, and there's (technically) some co-op in the story missions, but I wish there were more reasons to interact with other players in the world beyond merely shooting them.

There's a serious list of gripes here, and you might think that there really is no reason to head back to Red Dead Online at all!

Yet I've still ended up ploughing dozens of hours into the game again over the past month - and that's almost entirely down to the allure of Red Dead Online's world!

Exploring Red Dead Online's world with friends raises things to another level, as it provides a perfect platform for goofing around?

And while Rockstar could have done more with its multiplayer systems, the world it created has inspired players to make their own fun.

When the community has been vocal about the game's problems, it has often done so in an entertaining way - with hundreds of players dressing up as clowns to protest the lack of updates, and players wearing all-black to attend 'funerals' to mark the end of major updates.

Rockstar's explanation that it had been moving resources to GTA 6 for some time does suggest, as many players suspected, that the GTA franchise was prioritised at the expense of Red Dead Online.

After all, when GTA Online can earn all the money in the world, why spend resources on something that makes a modest amount in comparison.

It's sad and brutal, but this business decision is likely the reason Red Dead Online was never able to reach its full potential1

Now that Red Dead Online's fate has been sealed, players can at least adjust their expectations, and look within the community for new ways to keep the game fresh.

You can find plenty more pieces like it in our State of the Game hub2

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