Shelby is a fan of all things video games, movies, and music.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was my most anticipated game last year and ended up being one of my favorite games of the year, possibly even topping the list. However, over the course of the year Rockstar Games has released lots of content for its Red Dead Online component which I found to be mediocre in its "beta" stage but now enjoy hopping on with friends for a few hours a week. So, after a year's worth of additions and several playthroughs I'd like to take a look at Red Dead Redemption 2's update history as well as the elements that may or may not have held up over the year.
To start, let's discuss some of the negatives that have been improved. A prime example of this is the increase in looting speed, picking plants, etc. that Rockstar has added to the game. This addition greatly reduces the annoyance that seeing the same looting animation for the thousandth time brought the majority of players, even if certain players will defend the lengthy animations for one reason or another. However, this seems to only be active in online and only during certain situations. Rockstar has also added various new weapons to the game, such as the LeMat Revolver (my personal favorite weapon) which gives players more variety and customization options to play with as they enjoy the game. Of course, these new weapons are online-only additions. I guess, "That's The Way It Is."
Beginning to see a pattern here? Much like Grand Theft Auto 5, Rockstar Games has largely left the single-player portion of Red Dead Redemption 2 untouched while making improvements only to the online version. While this isn't exactly a problem, as I generally hope for my games to stay the same after launch, the fact that solo players have gotten the shaft on new content leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths. Hopefully, Rockstar moves the new content to be included in the recently announced PC port of the game to the PS4 and Xbox One sooner rather than later.
Red Dead Online
Now that the gripes about no new single-player content have been addressed, let's go over the positive additions. For example, the game's entire online portion Red Dead Online. With a "beta" releasing roughly a month after the game's launch date, Rockstar has taken a similar path as their previous game's online incarnation Grand Theft Auto Online when it comes to the online game-play loop. Initially releasing a largely bare-bones "beta" featuring a handful of stranger missions and a focus on competitive matchmaking, Rockstar Games started their online service with a swing and a miss as it launched seemingly incomplete. Players who began playing at launch experienced the obvious server issues that plague video game launches, with constant disconnects and errors that refused to let players begin missions or login to the game at all. This initial impression burned a lot of people, including myself, on the game for quite some time. As an avid fan of the original Red Dead Redemption's online component, I thought it would be impossible to make an emptier (though still fun) version of an online open world. As it turns out, I was wrong.
Small Changes, Big Effects
However, time heals all wounds (more accurately time and the blood, sweat, tears, etc. of Rockstar employees who probably aren't treated well enough to tolerate their working conditions) and Red Dead Online has taken a considerable turn for the better. Small updates such as the aforementioned sped-up animations, along with slightly improved controls have begun to coerce players back into the fray for more cowboy shoot-outs, races, and fishing than you can handle. But it was Red Dead Online's massive "Frontier Pursuits" update released in Summer 2019 that brought many players back in as the online portion had finally been brought to an acceptable standard.
Red Dead Online: New Roles and Lots of Cash
It was this summer update that introduced things such as dynamic events, challenges, items, you name it and it was probably added to Red Dead Online. These dynamic events, along with smaller changes throughout the year such as anti-griefing measures ensure players would have a more enjoyable time moseying through the world of Red Dead Online as the online world finally felt more alive than the original game and players didn't have to worry about so many random bullets to the head.
The Most Important Change
Of course, I haven't touched upon the most significant part of the update. The added roles: Bounty Hunter, Trader, and Collector. This aspect of the update is the cherry on top of the summer update adding tons of replayability and more importantly variety to the world of Red Dead Online. Each role has something beneficial for almost all types of players. More action-oriented players can dive into the Bounty Hunter role, those who love to explore and scour the world for collectibles can don the Collector moniker, and those who like Grand Theft Auto Online's businesses will feel right at home with the Trader role. By satisfying so many different types of players, Rockstar brought many players back in who had simply disregarded the online, such as myself. The inclusion of roles also had a more subtle effect on the game.
Why These Changes Are Important
Creating these roles introduced a "gameplay loop" that so many games rely on. It's an important aspect of development, being the driving force behind what players will be doing in the game and why they will find it satisfying. By making these three roles, Rockstar enabled players to switch between three entirely different playstyles that can keep players online for hours if they're so inclined. Bouncing between the roles is satisfying as it enables the player to see the results of their work and feel as if they're making progress at a reasonable pace. Whether it be cold, hard cash or the predatory Gold Bar micro-transaction currency Rockstar has balanced almost everything you can do in Red Dead Online to not feel like a waste of time like the rewards for completing activities did at launch. Of course, it's possible they intentionally lowered payouts at launch just so people such as myself would write positively about the payout increases but that's getting into (probably true) conspiracy territory.
So, in the end, Red Dead Redemption 2 itself hasn't changed much over the past year. Arthur Morgan's adventure is practically the same as it was when we first experienced it last October. However the online portion has improved tenfold over the past 10 months and I'm excited to see what updates they have in the future. So, here's to the future of Red Dead Redemption 2/Red Dead Online, may the sun never set on this cowboy, and for the love of everything treat your employees like human beings Rockstar.