It’s been three days since I finished the main portion of the story in Rockstar’s cowboy simulator Red Dead Redemption 2, and even though I’m now deep into the satisfying epilogue, I’m still thinking about those final moments. I’d like to talk about it with somebody, but according to PlayStation 4 achievement statistics, more than a month after the game’s release only about 20 percent of players on the console have actually finished it. I assume the number is similar among Xbox players.
Perhaps you’re among the many players stuck midway through the game, and maybe you’re even thinking about hanging up your six shooters to focus on newer and more exciting fare like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate , which launches on Friday for the Nintendo Switch. I understand your frustration. Red Dead Redemption 2’s main story takes dozens of hours to complete and that’s not counting the many side missions and random activities that constantly pull at your attention. It’s narratively a slow burn, many animations are luxuriously played out in real-time, and simple actions often require lengthy sequences of button-presses to complete.
I wouldn’t blame you for giving up on this game, but having completed most of it, I’m telling you to stick with it. And here’s a tip from a player (me) who spent a ton of time hunting animals, fishing, eschewing fast travel, and generally dicking around: don’t worry about any of that. Mainline the story. By any means necessary, finish this game. The inevitable end of Arthur Morgan, the game’s deeply-conflicted-but-lovable lug of a protagonist, is a gut punch that will stick with you.
Generally, this is how I believe the game should be played for maximum enjoyment: stick around the general area of your current camp, focusing on story missions. Explore a bit if you want—the many encounters you’ll have with NPCs are a treat—but rest assured that just beelining the story will take you across the whole big, open world eventually as the Van der Linde gang moves camp several times.
One of the game’s flaws, I think, is that it’s actually possible to explore the open world “too much.” The narrative impact of moving to a new region in the story is greatly diminished when you’ve been there dozens of times already. New activities open up in these areas when you move camp anyway, so you’re better off waiting for the story to guide you to the next area rather than spend your valuable time criss-crossing the map on horseback during the early chapters.
If you’re worried that mainlining the story this way will rob of you some lackadaisical open world goodness, here’s another tip: there is plenty of time for that after the main story ends in the epilogue, if you’re still jonesing after the dozens of hours that the story requires. If you subscribe to your console’s online service, Red Dead Online is also a decent outlet for aimless cowpoke tomfoolery. It’s mostly the same big world that the main story takes place in, with its own narrative and the added madness of playing among other humans with itchy trigger fingers.
I’m not telling anybody how to play here—this advice is only for people in danger of putting down the game for good without finishing the story. If you’re just taking your time, that’s fine too! There’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in exploring and Rockstar makes it worthwhile for the most part. But if you are considering giving up on Red Dead Redemption 2, I hereby release you—just finish the damn story.
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