It has been 4 years since RDR2 dropped in 2018, an unbelievable thought for first-time players today! Boasting a highly detailed map with careful decision-based story-telling, intelligent NPC (non-playable character) interactions, wondrous and weird mysteries scattered across the game, easter eggs galore and SUPREME character depictions, its no surprise that Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 still continues to garner player ravings and respect in 2021.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is Rockstar’s most recent release, with fans now gearing up for any news on the next Grand Theft Auto installment. In the meanwhile, players continue to indulge in this 2018 Wild West story. RDR2 follows its precursor Red Dead Redemption (2010), with the story taking place in the same universe, featuring both beloved and serially detested characters from 2010 RDR.
If you’ve played Red Dead Redemption (2010), and you’re just getting to RDR2, we can safely say you are in for a wild ride! If you’ve acquired RDR2, haven’t played the first game (or some of Rockstar’s other releases), don’t worry! We’ve got you covered!
In this piece, we’re giving you a *spoiler-free* crash course into the intense, grueling, and beautiful world of Red Dead Redemption 2. From what you need to look out for from the very beginning of Story Mode to random quirks that will affect gameplay later, here is everything about Red Dead Redemption 2 you need to know before you start playing. You’re going to want to take some mental notes (or bookmark this page for later!)
The Honor System
If you’ve caught wind of some of the RDR2 gameplay videos and press floating around, there’s a solid chance you’ve heard of the Honor System. Similar to RDR (2010) and very far from GTA V decision-making, Red Dead Redemption 2 puts value to your every decision in-game, making it so that random occurring events, NPC reactions and rare and uncommon unlockables differ based on the choices you make!
Right off the bat, pay close attention to your Honor Meter (displayed on the bottom of the screen when triggered). We’ll get into some more details about the Honor System as we go along, but here are your thumb rules:
- EVERY decision you make affects your Honor – this applies to both Story missions and random occurring and side missions.
- You can garner both high and low Honor very quickly with interactions – Your main character, Arthur Morgan, will almost always find himself with either the option to ‘Greet’ or ‘Antagonize’ NPCs. This applies to all NPCs on the map, aside from those that have triggerable extra missions. You will notice your Honor go either way depending on how you choose to interact with NPCs. This is a quick and effective way to push your Honor meter to where you want it to be – and bear the repercussions, of course, good or bad.
- Story Mode will sometimes affect your Honor – While RDR2 is as immersive as decision-based gameplay can get, there is a general story that plays out. This means your main character will often find themselves in questionable situations (as is the nature of the wild west) and you will have to snap to action to bring your Honor back to where you want it. You can’t avoid main story heists, a staple within the RDR2 era, and you will be subject to tasks that will either gain you good or bad honor – in spades. Keep this in mind if you’re gunning for the full experience, and make plans to manipulate Arthur’s honor to do this!
It won’t take you more than an hour into the game to get a proper hang of the Honor System. However, keeping to Rockstar tradition, don’t be surprised if you come across new quirks and hacks as you play through – you’ll know what we mean when you see them!
This little tip is what we hoped we’d gotten before we dove into RDR2! Now, there are some fairly convenient and ‘street-smart’ ways to gather those big bucks early on in the game. However, here’s one important place your Honor System comes into play. Easier money comes from dirtier tasks, and those that don’t negatively affect your Honor can take some time!
You will also see yourself needing extra cash to pay some unavoidable bounties, splurge during story and side missions – and that is if you’re being extra-stingy. There are otherwise plenty of items you can purchase in-game and activities that will require some loose change – it’s all part of the experience and makes for very realistic gameplay.
Still, if we’d known early on of RDR2’s cash system, the game would’ve only been better. It’s like real life – use the same logic you would IRL. But here’s a teeny guide to help you along nonetheless:
Earning Money: Good or Neutral Honor Activities
It’s the Wild West, the era of outlaws and gunslingers, so earning money keeping your character’s ‘morality in check is understandably challenging. Earning honest wages takes more time and effort – but if that’s the route you’re taking, here’s how to see it through:
Hunt wild animals and sell harvestable
Make sure you hunt outside town limits, and never hunt farm animals. That is an instant Honor loss! Once you’ve ‘done the deed’ you can either take the entire animal to a Butcher nearby or Skin it for harvestable that you can sell to merchants around the world for money or rare crafts.
PRO TIP#1: You are likely to lose honor if you kill an animal and leave it unskinned
When in story missions, you will find some time to loot the bodies of those you and the gang have gunned down. Now, remember to use IRL logic here – if you’re the bad guy in the story, looting will most likely give you Honor losses – whereas if you’re on the ‘right side of history’ (we said no spoilers), you can loot tactically between missions and after completion – provided the game doesn’t cutscene you out off-location.
Tame and sell horses
This here is a gold nugget of information if you’re generally aversed to animal violence and stealing from incapacitated NPC bodies. Granted, catching wild horses and inducting them into human civilization for a lifetime of servitude is far from the nicest thought. However, considering the era RDR2 takes place in, horses in-game bear similar functionalities to cars in GTA V. You have stables scattered across the map, with the option to board your horses, make upgrades to your equipment and sell horses you acquire. Now, note that we said ‘tame and sell horses’. If you steal someone’s horse, you’re looking at an Honor hit, and questions from suspecting NPCs. What you want to do is find horses out in the wild and use game controls to tame and mount them. You can keep your primary horse riding alongside by calling it to you at intervals. Ride to the nearest stable and sell your newly-acquired horse. Stables will pay well for higher-level horses, differing across the different types you can find in the game. It’s a fun activity if you aren’t in the mood for serious gameplay, and you can earn some honest money!
PRO TIP #2: Keep two horses on your person! Use your ‘Horse Calling’ feature to keep your primary horse following you when you Tame and Mount a new horse. An additional horse serves as ‘boot space’, VERY handy when you’re out hunting and foraging!
Go Treasure Hunting
Players can find various treasure items across the RDR2 world using treasure maps that can be bought (on unlawfully seized) from NPCs in-game. Rewards are more than worth it, and you will find yourself immersed even more into parts of the world you wouldn’t have ventured into before.
PRO TIP #3: Go out and explore the entire map. Take a walk around dark alleyways at random times of the day. Interact with NPCs you come across, but keep your ears and eyes peeled for any random-occurring activity. If it seems ‘illegal’, can decide how you want to lawfully intervene – just make sure to disarm instead of killing any aggravators if you’d like to maintain your Honor Level.
As you unlock new areas on the map, you will gain access to multiple Sheriff’s Offices. Walk in (don’t run!) and locate Bounty Posters – pick these up and you will unlock approximate map locations for the outlaws in question. If you bring your bounties in alive, you could also unlock ‘secret endings’ – you can watch them hang for their crimes.
We haven’t been too successful at this, for lack of a better understanding, but if you’re well versed in the act of gambling, you’re in for a treat! In-game gambling functions just like the real deal, a careful balance of luck and skill. You can find opportunities to gamble in Saloons across the map.
Earning Money: Negative Honor Activities
Like we said, its easier being bad in RDR2. True to the game’s realism, the world will respond accordingly – so choose wisely!
This is perhaps the easiest way to earn quick large sums of cash in RDR2. Commercial establishments, unsuspecting campers and travelers, trains in transit (easier than a stationed train, that comes with serious heat!), housing and settlings around the world – if it exists in-game, there’s a 99.9999% chance you can steal from it!
PRO TIP #4: If you unearth a ‘secret establishment’, you can rob from it! We won’t say where, we’d rather you stumble upon these yourself, but it’s possible, and the safest activity on this negative honor list.
Sell to Fences
Early on in-game, your main character will gain access to a discreet new establishment – Fences. This will be after a Story-Mode mission, so don’t fret if you can’t see them yet – you will have plenty of time to pawn off your more illegally acquired items soon enough! A larger score you can sell to Fences are Stagecoaches. You will come across a lot(!) of stagecoaches as you ride across the map. Hold these up ride them to your nearest Fence for a handsome sum!
PRO TIP #5: When you takedown an enemy camp or settlement, make sure to look around for Stage Coaches in their area. You can sell these stagecoaches to Fences for a good price, arguably one of the better prices in-game!
Sell Stolen Horses
Soon after gaining access to Stagecoach Fences, your character will be introduced to Horse Fences – allowing for the sale of illegally acquired horses in-game. As with stagecoaches, when you encounter enemies or aggravators and take them down, you have the option to ride their horse to the nearest Fence – who will take the horse off you for a price higher than that of lawfully tamed wild horses (at Stables).
We’ll wrap this list up with 3 points, the very first point should keep you plenty busy (and loaded)!
Apply As Much Real-Life Logic As Possible
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game like no other, and those that come close only hold the smallest candle to it. The main reason for this is Rockstar’s unmatched ability to imitate life.
Red Dead is set in the Wild West, and the world does more than paint a vividly realistic picture for players. Everything about Red Dead Redeption 2 is realistic – NPCs are fleshed out and intelligent, Establishments and Homesteads boast impeccable and sometimes secretly-rooted detailing, and your central characters feel real – this is the most important bit.
So if you want to take in the full experience, with all its intricacies, apply real life logic.
If you’re hunting with a revolver, don’t question the poor quality pelt
This took us some time to understand ourselves, but after multiple hunting rounds and even more poor quality pelts, we tested a theory. When you look at an animal whilst hunting, the option to Study it appears. This is your best friend. Find animals of Good or Pristine quality – these will give you Perfect Pelts.
PRO TIP #5: Use the Varmint Rifle to increase your chances of getting Perfect Pelts from smaller animals.
Your Horse Is Your Best Friend
In a similar way to how your car is your best friend in GTA V, of course. This means you can level up skills, modify and upgrade and “bond” with your horse to gain access to precision moves and better abilities. If you’re truly gunning for the gold, make sure to Study any horse you plan to tame for your use beforehand – if the maximum upgrade isn’t maximum enough, you’re probably better off using it as secondary and selling it after a few level ups.
Multiple Sources of Income is Where Its At
Just like in IRL, your best bet at living an above average lifestyle in RDR2 is by having more than one source of income. Get into the habit of hunting, looting and taming horses when you’re out and about. Doing only one of the three won’t reap as many rewards, and you’ll quickly find yourself out-of-pocket.
- Stable the trigger fingers and use your lasso instead
Easier said than done when a stray NPC pulls their double-barrel on you, but if you’re able to keep your impulses in check, you might unlock extra dialogue and gameplay – and hang on to your Honor level! Simply lasso the individual and hogtie them (away from witnesses) and voila! *que A Whole New World*
Memorize your inventory slots
As you dive into the RDR2 story, you will find yourself championing certain weapons better than others, and preferring higher-powered healing aids and boosters over the slower-acting ones. It’ll be a quick-learned and much-used skill to memorize your weapon, inventory and horse inventory slots. Whether you’re attempting or escaping an impromptu ride-by, or filling up on health and dead-eye mid-shootout, switching through your inventory quickly will be a brag-worthy talent.
Take Frequent Baths (and stay well-groomed and even better dressed)
Ah, Red Dead NPCs! The very cream of the crop! Quick to notice the stench of a man fresh from a hunt and even quicker to comment on it! Now, don’t take NPC commentary lightly. Thw world is designed to react to you, in every way you can think of. This means that if you’re stinky, you’re bound to attract more eyeballs and snide remarks than usual. If you’re on the other end of that spectrum, your Honor level is likely to rise faster than usual. You can thank your fancy tailored suit and freshly pommaded hair for that!
You don’t have to shoot if your horse is fast enough
Famous last words! Honestly though, we’ve managed to ride our way out of tricky situations more than we’d like to admit. You see, it’s a quick calculation of ammo vs reward, and we arrive at a deduction – probably not worth it. You don’t have to shoot bounty hunters or tiresome gangs if you can ride out of danger, so keep your horse in unmatched shape and upgrade it completely. You’ll thank us later! Now, important to mention here is this does not always work. Specifically in story missions – if you’re accompanied by one of the gang members and the game prompts you to shoot oncoming assailants – do it! Otherwise you’re looking at a Restart From Checkpoint, we won’t say how.
These are some instances of real-life logic ingame. It is near impossible to know everything about Red Dead Redemption 2, and that is perhaps the games greatest strengths. You will need to immerse yourself completely and understand the game before you can make strides towards manipulating it to go the way you’d like. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a heartbreaking hellfire, a video game pinnacle of story-telling – you’re gonna LOVE it!
But before we leave you to it, an important closing message:
Play The Story and Side Missions To Keep Progressing
It’ll be easy to get carried away doing menial or challenging tasks outside of your main character’s story. Make sure you play both the main story missions and side missions equally to keep progression of the game fair. This is important, whether you’re looking at being outgunned or outbid – play through missions because the game is going to keep you well-stocked.
That’s it from us. Go on, go forth. We’ll see you in 100+ hours.
Featured Image and Internal Images via Red Dead Wiki.