Red Dead Online – Beta Impressions

Bring the Gang

I was able to access Red Dead Online on Wednesday and have a few thoughts since spending a few hours in the game. Here are what’s impressed me so far:

The World

Every area is open to the player right from the jump. You start in New Austin and after the opening missions, you are free to roam and engage in a myriad of activities across the map. I played on a server with the max amount of people and saw no framerate drops even while travelling through densely populate areas. This is was impressive especially considering that the online component of Red Dead will be in Beta for quite some time.

The Strangers

Quests are given by strangers that can be found all over the map. While this isn’t particularly groundbreaking, there are a number of strangers that make an appearance who were featured in the first game. Once I booted up the map for the first time, I highlighted a few areas of interest and wondered if Rockstar would have included those characters as Strangers in the game and to my surprise they did. It’s a nice nod to the fans and its always fun to see a familiar face.

Aggressive Predators

If you ever played through the main campaign and wondered where all the predators were, fret not as they are everywhere and they are aggressive. Casual strolling through the wilderness requires moving with caution or you may come across a group of predators, who will spook and knock you off your horse. As I was completing a bounty mission, I was attacked three times by cougars. It led to some incredibly tense moments and I was able to net some sweet pelts which I sold in Valentine.

Gameplay Diversity

Even while missing certain features from the main campaign, such as gambling, there is a lot to see and do in the world of Red Dead Online. Currently, competitive multiplayer consists of racing, various takes on deathmatch, and a Battle Royale mode, Make it Count, in which players are given throwing knives or a bow to use to eliminate opponents and staying still for a period of time will immediately make your position known to everyone. My favorite mode so far is Name Your Weapon, a free-for-all in which your score is not only based on killing your opponent but the weapon used when doing the deed. I didn’t have any slowdown during competitive, but I was kicked from the server once. I expect this to happen multiple times during the beta, but so far its surprisingly only happened once. You can also engage in story quests with other players and friends if you so choose. These tend to net the most money out of all the activities. What’s interesting is that your quests can be interrupted and hijacked by other players. I feel like this will be a unique dynamic going forward and will exploited by players looking to troll others.

Now while my experience has been pretty positive so far, I do have a few gripes and future concerns:

Strange Economy

While there are a number of ways to earn money, whether it’s completing quests, competitive matches, or discovering hidden treasure, it never feels as if you’re properly compensated for your work. This can be especially troublesome with the cost of goods in the game world. Everything is far more expensive than the main game counterpart and while it’s understandable that it may take time to progress through the ranks, the rewards are still underwhelming. Food sells more than some of the loot you’ll acquire off killing certain enemies. Doesn’t make sense yet, but hopefully they’ll be more balance in the coming weeks. One of my bigger issues is the cost of creating a Posse. While a temporary posse can be created with no cost, these disband once you leave the game world. A persistent posse costs 200 dollars, which feels slightly pricey to play with a larger group of your friends.

Shooting Mechanics

If you had issues with the dated shooting mechanics from the main campaign, you’re going to continue to be frustrated as unfortunately those issues persist in the multiplayer. I found this to be the most problematic during the competitive deathmatches as there was a delay when trying to lock onto a target. It can be frustrating when there is lag when trying to sight down on an opponent only to miss because of the weapon sway. In certain matches, players tried to forego these frustrations by rushing the opponent and attempting to stab them to death. It was honestly more effective than shooting.

Repetitive Missions/Quests

One of the issues that I found with GTA online in the early goings was that missions would quickly become repetitive. This isn’t so much of a gripe at the moment because you can easily just ignore these missions and cause havoc across the world, but it is a future concern. While there are a number of strangers, most missions follow a similar structure. The only nuance is that it can affect your honor based off who provides the mission. I expect that like GTA online, new missions will be introduced that will allow more variety.

No Content Creator

One of the biggest draws of GTA Online is the content created by the community. You have to wonder with the limitations of the game world, if a content creator can actually thrive in the way that GTA Online did. The world of Red Dead is grounded due to its timeline, so there will be restrictions in regards to what the player can create. I believe that deathmatches will remain unimpeded in regards to player creativity, which is something to look forward too, but racing modes will suffer because of the game world.

Overall, the launch of Red Dead Online has been pretty impressive when compared to the launch of GTA Online, which made it practically impossible for you to login during the first few days. While the servers will be tested with the beta opening to all users, I’m confident that this will be remain a relatively smooth experience. Looking at how Rockstar committed to the experience of GTA Online should ease any concerns regarding the future of Red Dead Online. As long as the future content is free and the presence microtransactions are kept to a minimum, then the acclaimed developer will have a persistent online world that can eventually replace GTA Online, which has had a consistent presence since its release. That would be an impressive feat.

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