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How to Survive Call to Arms in "Red Dead Online"

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Surviving Call to Arms.

Surviving Call to Arms.

Don’t Worry, There Are No Helicopters

With the Blood Money update comes a new game mode, “Call to Arms.” This is essentially Red Dead Online’s answer to GTA’s survival mode. You and up to four players are tasked with surviving 10 waves of enemies, with or without the help of 10 townsfolk and three other players on each map.

To unlock this game mode, visit your Post Locker at Camp or a Post Office to collect the telegram for Call to Arms. To access Telegrams, hold right on the D-pad and select them from the Documents section of your Satchel. A list will appear on the left with each Call to Arms map.

If you make it to the end, you receive one gold bar and a couple hundred dollars in cash. Even with the 48-minute cooldown period, that is a pretty decent payment. When Call to Arms was first released, Rockstar Games endorsed it with a 3X reward event week. As you can imagine, this disenchanted a lot of players after the event was over, but it still gives out a decent reward. Some argue that “the reward doesn’t pay for the amount of ammo and tonics used.” In this article, I’ll explain to you why that’s not true. Hopefully, this will make the game mode easier for you.

You can find nine Yarrow, here north of Saint Denis.

You can find nine Yarrow, here north of Saint Denis.

You can find five Ginseng at this farm in Ambarino.

You can find five Ginseng at this farm in Ambarino.

Making Use of the Crafting System

Regardless of whether you play Call to Arms, you might not be familiar with RDR2’s crafting system. You can literally create tonics and certain ammunitions that will not just make Call to Arms easier but any situation in the game less challenging.

Be on the lookout for the following while in Free Roam:

  • Yarrow and Ginseng: Used to make Potent Health Cure which will give you a yellow health meter (essentially giving you 200% health).
  • Indian Tobacco: Used to make Potent Snake Oil which will give you a yellow dead eye meter.
  • Animal Fat: Can be crafted into Fire Bombs, explosive rounds, and Volatile Dynamite (if you purchase the pamphlet from the Fence). You can collect this from Wild Boar, Bears, Pigs, Ducks, Geese, and Beavers.
  • Big Game Meat: Can be collected from any predator in the game (you know, the red dots). Easiest to “farm” from the Alligators in the swamps of Lemoyne. When cooked with Wild Mint and Creeping Thyme you can enforce your Health and Dead Eye Cores respectfully. Oh, and Oregano enforces your Stamina Core but that doesn’t really matter with Call to Arms. Yes, there’s running, but not that much.

Feel free to buy the Special Health Tonic and Special Snake Oil pamphlets from the Fence, but the Potent Tonics will be more than sufficient and don’t require any extra herbs to make.

See the "condition" meter? That is not the worse it can be, but it's still not good for weapon performance. Gun Oil is a great thing to have.

See the "condition" meter? That is not the worse it can be, but it's still not good for weapon performance. Gun Oil is a great thing to have.

The Little Important Things

In Red Dead Redemption 2 and Online, there are several little mechanics that come into play that add realism to the experience. For other players, these details are probably named “a pain-in-the-ass,” but they are not that bad to manage.

  • Cores: Most importantly, you have three cores: Health, Stamina, and Dead Eye are represented by a heart, lightning bolt, and dead eye, respectively. The more solid these cores are, the faster the meters will refill and the stronger each of these attributes will be. The cores also act as a second meter. If the circle has been depleted, the core will be your last line before you deplete it into the red completely. Health depleted equals death, stamina depleted equals minimal movement, and Dead Eye depleted means no use of your Dead Eye ability. Your cores can be replenished by eating and drinking various items in the game. Hunting is important, not only for making money but also keeping your character fed.
  • Your meters can be upgraded: At the beginning of the game, your health, stamina, and Dead Eye meters will be at a fraction of a circle (depending on what you put you invested your skill points into while in character creator). Once you reach Rank 10 and unlock the Bow for purchase, hunting animals with it will get you health XP. At Rank 14, you can unlock the Fishing Rod for purchase and earn health XP for each fish you catch. Stamina can be upgraded by running around on foot. If you’re familiar with the character of “Famous Shoes” from Streets of Laredo you might want to consider running everywhere until you have a full Stamina circle. Dead Eye XP can be achieved by killing enemies (extra points for headshots) and skinning animals. Before you ask, no, it’s not a grind.
  • Aim bloom: Around the turn of the century, double-action revolvers were an accurate advancement in firearm technology that people were keen to utilize. In Red Dead Online they are crap specifically because the game’s aim blooms. If you feel like your bullets aren’t hitting it’s because, for certain weapons, you need to wait for that circle to tighten around your aiming reticle. This can be a little frustrating at first, but you will develop a rhythm with each weapon you use. You will develop a slight bit of patience with this game’s shooting mechanics.
  • Weapon Maintenance: Over time, your guns will get dirty with use and the environments you carry them around in. Mercifully this is not an issue during a Call to Arms session, but whatever condition your guns were in before you started will be carried over. Make sure to have a decent supply of Gun Oil in your inventory at all times. To clean your gun, hold left bumper/L1, select the weapon, press the Left Stick Button, then hold X/Square when your character examines it. You can also pay a $1.50 fee at a Gunsmith. Keeping your weapons clean maintains their intended working condition. (Note: You can tell by the stat bars in your inventory when it’s time to clean your weapon.)
Stop at the nearest Gunshop and stock up.

Stop at the nearest Gunshop and stock up.

I advise having your Health and Dead Eye Cores looking like this throughout Call to Arms. It does make a difference.

I advise having your Health and Dead Eye Cores looking like this throughout Call to Arms. It does make a difference.

What to Bring With You

I recommend you wait until you are at least Rank 41 before attempting this game mode. At this point, you will unlock High-Velocity Rounds (for all ammo types) at shops and the Catalogue. At Rank 50, you unlock the Carcano Rifle for purchase, but these can be picked up from weapon drops on every map, and not every map requires you to have one.

By Rank 40, you have every Ability Card slot unlocked, Rank 77 unlocks the Volatile Dynamite Pamphlet for sale, and Rank 90, of course, gives you the Explosive Rounds Pamphlet. Volatile Dynamite is slightly more powerful than standard Dynamite, but the important thing is you have room for eight more sticks of boom boom. Explosive Rounds aren’t necessary but will make short work of armored enemies.

Load for Bear

Economically and hypothetically, if you were to buy every Express and High Velocity round for all ammo types (excluding shotguns and arrows), it would cost you $52. Purchasing the Split Point Ammo Pamphlet ($385) from the fence, and taking the time to craft as many as you can carry, will add extra shots to your inventory.

Save these special rounds for later waves and stick to using standard rounds for the first few. You will save more money and can be restocked throughout Call to Arms from ammo boxes strewn around the maps. (Note: Purchasing the Split Point Pamphlet is also beneficial to quickly completing the “Items Crafted” Award, which can be completed and reset ten times, to gain a total of four gold bars).

The Best of Health

By default you have 10 Potent Tonic slots and 5 Special Tonic slots for each category. By ranking up in the Bounty Hunter and Naturalist Roles you can unlock pamphlets that upgrade your Tonics capacity to 30 and 20. Special Tonics are good to have, but should really just be saved for that moment when you realize you have money to spend. Special Health Cures give you three times the amount of health on your meter, but Potent ones are just as good for Call to Arms. Even better you can craft and/or purchase them in Free Roam.

Theoretically you could spend $45/$90/$135 on a full satchel of Potent Health Cures. You could even reluctantly spend money at Madam Nazaar to buy those herbs needed to craft them. However you do it, make sure you have at least ten to drink throughout Call to Arms. Snake Oil and Chewing Tobacco also plays into how much you utilize Dead Eye. Essentially using the Moment to Recuperate Dead Eye Ability Card (unlocked back at Rank 2) gives you an extra boost of health when you really need it. You don’t need Potent Snake Oil to refill the Dead Eye meter but it is easy to craft, and free.

That is not an old west flashlight attachment, THAT is a sniper.

That is not an old west flashlight attachment, THAT is a sniper.

Make sure to wear your brown pants when playing in the Fort Mercer map. The revolving cannons are no joke. (Yes that black smudge is a cannon shell and I died taking this screenshot . . .)

Make sure to wear your brown pants when playing in the Fort Mercer map. The revolving cannons are no joke. (Yes that black smudge is a cannon shell and I died taking this screenshot . . .)

What You Will Face on the Battlefield

Each Call to Arms map comes with its own challenge in geography and enemy attack strategy, but they all share the same enemy types with each wave. As you progress further into the match, enemies will get increases in health as well as numbers. (Note: Some of these are not official names, but you will know what I’m talking about once you face them.)

  • Gunmen: The main force of enemies you will be facing. They come armed with handguns, rifles, and shotguns. In later waves, they will even toss Fire Bombs and Dynamite. They show up either on foot or being driven in a stagecoach.
  • War Wagons: Armored stagecoaches with a mounted machine gun. You do not necessarily have to use Dynamite or Dynamite Arrows to blow these up. You can kill the driver and gunner(s) with some well-placed shots if you’re in cover. Do not panic while dealing with these wagons. Put something between you and it while you deal with other enemies.
  • Berserker: Armed with machetes and can kill you in one hit. They appear in certain waves, and you can see them coming from a distance away, but it’s best to keep your distance.
  • Snipers/Sharpshooters: In later waves, certain Gunmen will have scoped rifles. As you can assume, these fire very devastating shots that can kill you instantly. Look out for the white reflective dot and stay on cover as much as possible! Even in close proximity, they can fire a critical shot. Listen for the musical cue that indicates they have you in their line of sight.
  • Ned Kellies: “Juggernauts” wearing knight-like armor. They can be quickly taken down with a few explosive rounds or set alight with a Fire Bomb. In later waves they will have a red bar indicating their added health.
  • Cannons: Exclusive to the Fort Mercer map will be revolving cannons setup at various spots. Enemies can take command of these mounted weapons and rain down explosive hell. Even after sniping one Gunman, another can take their place so keep an eye on these cannons.
  • Bloodhounds: Exclusive to the Strawberry map are a few packs of Bloodhounds released during certain waves. Like wolves they will run in and grab a hold of you. If your health gets down low enough it’s a kill animation. They are really more of an annoyance but still a legitimate threat to watch out for.
  • Locomotive O’Death: Exclusive to the MacFarlane’s Ranch map is a train that will come around during a couple of the waves. On this train will be two mounted Maxim guns and a whole lot of Gunmen. It will travel at a snail’s pace around the bend throughout the wave.

Getting Through Call to Arms

I never set out to make a “Solo Call to Arms” article, but with the lack of a proper match making system you may end up doing just that. You can bring Posse members from Free Roam along, but if they are random players and don’t know you are starting a Call to Arms, you should expect them to quit out of frustration. I recommend with people you know, or finding people to play with, since having at least one other person can make this game mode pretty epic. The fun of Call to Arms actually comes from playing with others (unlike GTA Online’s Survival mode where having other players might get you killed).

Apart from the setting, and the above mentioned enemy types, each Call to Arms match plays out mostly the same way. So here are some general tips for prolonging your session (and hopefully helping you beat Wave 10).

Take the High Ground (To an Extent . . .)

Like most other games having a tactical advantage in the height department will help you survive longer. Unless of course you are on Wave 5 where sharpshooters become more common, and in Fort Mercer you have Cannons to contend with. Some Call to Arm maps don’t offer a high ground to battle from such as McFarlane’s Ranch. Whether you’re up top or on the ground always try to. . .

Take Cover

For the most part pressing that Right Bumper/R1 button to get behind something is a great idea. However during later Waves you are going to want to keep moving. I am aware that Red Dead Redemption 2/Online graces us with some neat interiors, but in later Waves they can be a death trap. Yes falling back inside isn’t a bad tactical choice, but “camping” is not going to get you very far. So in later Waves . . .

Keep Moving (and Shooting)

I am not saying run around in zig zags like a Fortnite spasmatic. Relying on staying in one place, in later Waves, will get you ambushed/blown up depending on the map you’re playing on. Moving from cover to cover (and of course keeping your head on a swivel while doing it) will help you take out enemies faster. If you’re hiding in a barn somewhere they will EVENTUALLY come to you, but the enemy AI isn’t in a rush to get mowed down one-by-one unfortunately.

What Guns to Bring With You

You can pick up scoped rifles on certain maps but sitting back and sniping only works for certain enemy types, and on earlier waves. Bring a Bolt Action Rifle with a scope so that you can switch between medium and long ranges. Bring a Lancaster or Evans Repeater for the majority of shooting that you will be doing, do not waste a long gun slot on a shotgun that you will be using 25% of the time. For those rare moments where you survive being overwhelmed by enemies on all sides your favorite dual wielding handguns are useful. Debatably the Navy Revolvers are the best, but you might want to bring Mauser Pistols, just don’t bother spamming Sawn off Shotguns.

The Ammo Makes a Difference

For the earliest Waves stick to using Standard ammunition. It's sufficient and you can collect more of it from the ammo crates around the map. Starting around Wave 5 you might want to switch to Split Points, Express, High Velocity to get that extra kick out of every shot. Once you see Ned Kellies show up switch to Explosive rounds (just temporarily). Dynamite works just as good, and the same can be said for War Wagons.

© 2022 Eric Seidel