Saddle Up: Starting Your Journey in Red Dead Redemption 2
We offer a few gentle pointers to help you get the most out of the game's opening.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is out today, and if you haven't already, make sure to check out our full review, which describes and explains just why this is an utter masterpiece, and a strong contender for when Game of the Year votes have to be handed out. The game has the potential, even for ardent fans of Rockstar's signature open-worlds, to confuse you, as mechanics have been added to secure extra depth, and structures have been tweaked to provide you with more longevity.
Therefore, it can be overwhelming to sit down with Red Dead Redemption 2, and if you're about to do just that, we can provide you with a few tips to get you properly introduced to this brimming game world and to fast-track your journey to becoming a proper outlaw in the dying west.
Let's start with finances, as having a few dollars in your pocket is pretty much tied to much of the mechanical and visual variety the game has to offer. After all, everything costs something, be it pelts to upgrade your camp's aesthetic make-up or dollars to purchase new parts for your weapon of choice.
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In Red Dead Redemption 2 bodies will continuously stack up around you, and that's almost regardless of the activity you choose to spend time on - one way or another trouble will find you, resulting in dead bounty hunters, O'Driscoll soldiers, or lawmen scattered on the ground around you. Whereas this seems trivial, it can be a quick source of revenue to spend extra time looting these fallen adversaries, even in main missions where it would seem like you need to move on quickly.
Especially early on during the first and second acts of the game, money will be sparse, and you'll desperately want to buy new clothes, new camp upgrades, and additional weapons. One quick way of earning revenue in a part of the game where that alone can be tricky is to simply make sure you loot every single fallen enemy, because the majority of them will not only have additional ammo but also the odd valuable.
In particular, you'll pick up golden pocketwatches, wedding rings, miracle tonics, and the like, and all of them are worth a few bucks. They stack up quickly, especially when several early missions end with at least 30 corpses scattered about the place. Looting takes time and demands a bit of inventory management, but it's definitely worth it. Remember, though, that these items can only be traded to a fence, which you can find in towns such as Saint Denis.
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However, when you first come into a bit of money, we actually recommend you don't keep it for yourself, but donate everything you can to the camp treasury. Why? Well, many of the upgrades you want are either tied to pelts, which you need to hunt for, or story progression. You won't get your hands on an upgraded repeater right away, but your camp could use the extra funds you retrieve from all those corpses. You can always donate money to the camp, and you can even donate the aforementioned pocket watches and wedding rings without having to fence them first. The camp's money can be used to secure better ammunition, better food, upgraded tents, more hitching posts for horses, and the like. This does not only improve camp morale but gives you a lot of necessary resources.
When you do leave the camp and are able to take more food, tonics and ammunition with you, it's still a good idea to keep a constant eye on your cores (new circular meters that show your vitals). Rockstar has added stamina and health cores, and while they display how much health and stamina you have at any given moment (naturally), they also show you how quickly they're running down, as Arthur needs rest and food in order to function properly. Sure they can be postponed using tonics, but ultimately you need to respect Arthur's need to take a breather.
Either sleeping at camp or taking a room at a hotel (or even setting up a camp of your own, which can be accessed through your saddlebags on the left trigger while standing next to your steed), will replenish your strength, and should you choose not to do that, you won't aim as efficiently, and you won't be able to sprint for long enough.
In a word, maintenance is key to succeeding in Red Dead Redemption 2. Carrying gun oil, tonics, and hunting regularly to have a stock of food ready to be cooked at night - these are all important things to factor into your thinking. Therefore, even though it may be considered busywork, pick up relevant items in various shops every time you cross through towns like Valentine, Blackwater, or even Saint Denis.
Not only must you maintain your characters, but you must also be vigilant in order to get the full experience. One way to do that is by constantly having an ear to the ground and keeping your eyes open. Much of the content in Red Dead Redemption 2 (and subsequently much of the enjoyment), as well as honour/renegade points and money, comes from assisting people around you, and Rockstar has made these random encounters extra obscure and baked into the experience. No longer will yellow text appear at the bottom of the screen, telling you to pull over and help a woman at the side of the road like in Grand Theft Auto V. Instead, a shot can be heard in the distance, or you might come across a couple in the midst of a heated argument. Small grey circles flash on the minimap, but that's about it. You must read the situations around you, weighing up whether to chime in or to let the incident pass. Either way, keeping your wits about you is key.
Finally, whilst exploring the wild, make sure to visit the trapper every now and again, in order to take full advantage of the pelts you gather. While these can be sold or even donated to the camp, they are most useful at the trapper's camp, or at the shop in Saint Denis. Here they can be turned into valuable upgrades for Arthur, assuring you faster draw times on revolvers or letting you carry more ammunition for your repeater. They require perfect pelts, which in turn demand that you hit your targets with an arrow to the head or the heart. These upgrades are worth every drop of sweat and will help you in the early parts of the game, as enemies can quickly overwhelm you in certain cases, resulting in swift death.
We hope that these tips for starting out in the massive world of Red Dead Redemption 2 are helpful. We'll be sure to follow up with tips for later in the game very soon.