Red Dead Online is currently in beta testing and doesn't feel entirely finished yet. But it's big, and there is still a lot to see and explore, money to be made, gold to find and things to shoot.
I've been playing Red Dead Online solo and with friends for the last week and have some tips and recommendations for those starting out or even for players who are a few hours into their online wild west adventure. We are still early into RDO's existence, and as such this isn't a totally comprehensive list. We'll update this information as the game changes and evolves.
You Don't Need To Have Finished Red Dead Redemption II Before Jumping Into Red Dead Online
Some players might worry about RDO spoiling Red Dead Redemption II's narrative or that the online narrative will be confusing without finishing the main game. Red Dead Online is a prequel to the main game, though it's not entirely clear how early. Random characters you encounter won't be dropping major spoilers about the end of RDR2. Random players might, though, so be careful.
But You Should Play SOME Red Dead Redemption II Before Jumping In
Spending some time in RDR2 will help you out tremendously in Red Dead Online. While RDO has a tutorial, it isn't as in-depth or detailed as the tutorials in RDR2. The controls in RDR2 and RDO can take some time to get the hang of, and practising them in single-player is a good idea.
There are also a lot of systems to manage, like warmth, hunger and cleaning guns. Red Dead Online uses all of these systems, so learning how they work in single-player is highly advised.
Take Your Time In the Character Creator
This is a beta, so things will likely change, but currently there isn't any way to change your face or gender in RDO once you're out of the character creator, so make sure you're satisfied with those options before you finish and start the tutorial. You can change your teeth, hair and beard options at barbershops in-game, but that ugly mug of yours is permanent, at least for the time being.
Don't Forget To Clean Yourself Up
While Red Dead Online doesn't feature interactive baths like the main game, there is still a way to clean yourself up. When at your camp, you can walk over to the area where Cripps is sitting and find a barrel of water. This barrel of water will allow you and your posse to clean your faces for free. As far as I can tell there isn't a gameplay reason to do this, but if you hate having townsfolk comment on how bloody or muddy you are, go wash your face.
To Make Money, Focus On The Story Missions
You might be tempted to start exploring in Red Dead Online the moment you finish the tutorial, but all that stuff will be waiting for you. Instead, focus first on the seven or so main story missions. These can be played with friends and also pay out decent amounts of cash and XP. The final mission currently available in Red Dead Online pays between $100-$250, which is a sizeable amount of money in this game. A recent update has also improved payouts on repeat completions of these missions.
To Make Even More Money, Find Some Treasure Maps
I avoided treasure maps for some time in Red Dead Online because the first treasure you open during the tutorial doesn't reward you with much. Later on I tried finding some treasure and found an empty chest, which I figured was a bug. So I gave up on treasure maps. Don't do this.
You earn treasure maps when you reach certain levels, like level 10. But another great way to find maps is to finish gang hideouts that spawn on the map in different areas. After killing everyone in the hideout, take some time to loot all the bodies, and you might find a treasure map.
Each chest I've found has contained between $100-$150 and usually has some gold nuggets in it too. Unlike in single-player, treasures are much easier to find in Red Dead Online. They show up in Eagle Eye, your controller vibrates as you get close and the search area is automatically marked in the world after reading the treasure map. If you find an empty chest, keep looking.
Treasures can spawn in a few different locations in each search area, and sometimes two chests will spawn, but only one chest has the treasure. Once you find your treasure chest and loot it, the map is removed from your inventory.
You Can Change Your Outfits
Once you are in the world of Red Dead Online, you might want to change your clothes, buy some new outfits or maybe just roll up your sleeves. To do this you can visit your camp, but you can also access your wardrobe at most general stores and tailors. Head towards the back of the store and you'll find a locked door that will bring up a prompt asking if you want to enter the wardrobe.
Use Your Personal Catalogue To Save Some Time
You can buy guns, ammo, gun oil and much more in your personal catalogue, which you always carry on you. Once you buy something from the handheld catalogue it is delivered to your camp or can be picked up at any post office in the game.
Guns are the exception. When you buy these from the catalogue they go directly to you horse. Even hours into Red Dead Online I still have to remind myself to buy stuff using the catalogue, instead of riding out to the nearest shop.
Go Hunting To Make Money (And Get Free Food)
As you travel around the map, keep an eye out for animals you can kill. Hunting is a great way to stock up on meat without buying food, which you'll need to survive in Red Dead Online. You'll have to cook any meat you collect, but that can easily be done at your camp or at most random campfires you find the world. Hunting also rewards you with pelts, which can be sold. Even a lower quality pelt is worth selling when you are first starting out.
You can also pick plants and herbs (use eagle eye to highlight them, just like in the main game). Some plants, including carrots and berries, can be fed to your horse, which needs to eat as well. Others can be used to season food, making it more effective.
Anything hanging on or draped over your horse can disappear if you are kicked from the server. (This has happened to me multiple times in a single session.) Don't ride around too long without going back to a butcher and selling what you killed.
Don't Worry About Getting Horse Insurance
Unlike in the main game, horses in Red Dead Online don't really seem to die. Your first horse will have insurance, but any horses you buy after that will cost five gold bars to insure, which for most players will be too expensive. But while insurance does make the process of getting your horse to return faster, horses without insurance will also respawn.
The timer for a non-insured horse to return seems to be about two minutes, and the vet costs are around $2-$4. Even if your horse dies, you can always call the scrawny nag. It isn't a great horse, but it's still faster than walking, and it can also carry pelts or people.
Change Your Horse Permissions
The default for who can ride and lead your horse is all players. This means I had a player jump onto my horse and ride it off a cliff, killing it. To stop this from happening, change who is allowed to ride your horse in the player menu. Hit left on the D-pad go to the stables option, and from there you can edit who can ride your horse.
Be Careful With Your Money
After finishing the story missions and doing some fishing, you might have a decent amount of gold and cash on you. Don't spend it all too fast, especially the gold. Right now, gold in RDO is hard to earn, and we don't know if prices will change or gold will get easier to find in the future. So for now, hold onto any gold you have and wait. Same goes for cash. Eventually you will find ways to earn cash and you can be a spend a bit more freely, but be frugal early on.
When Returning to Multiplayer, Choose Where You Want To Spawn
The Netflix-looking-menu for RDO has a few useful features. One of the most useful is that you can actually tell the game where you want to spawn. The map is big, and getting around it can take some time. If you know you want to be near Blackwater, choose to spawn in West Elizabeth instead of somewhere farther away.
Fast Travel is Available, But It Isn't Free
You can fast travel in RDO, but the costs can be a bit high for players first starting out. If you really need to get somewhere fast and are willing to spend $4-$11, then look for fast travel markers on the map.
These markers look like sign posts and can be found in towns and near some train stations. Prices can vary depending on how far away your destination is. One free way to sort of fast travel is to back out of the game and use the menu to spawn somewhere else in the world. Sell any big pelts or game you have on your horse before doing this, as they will disappear once you leave the session.
The More The Merrier
Posses in Red Dead Online are easy to set up and allow you and three friends to quickly group and start tackling missions and free roam events. To start a posse, hit left on the D-pad to open your player menu and then pick posse and form a posse. You can invite anyone, including random players. To accept an invite to a posse or a session, open your player menu, use left on the D-pad and check the invites tab.
RDO does support up to seven players in a posse, but it costs 200 in-game dollars. While there are some benefits to a bigger group, don't feel rushed to set up a big permanent posse. If you and your friends do want to set one up, coordinate with each other so only one player has to spend all that money, not everyone.
For example, I've been playing a lot more RDO than my friends, so I had more money and could easily afford to start a permanent posse, saving my friends $200. Don't spend money you don't need to spend if your friends already have a permanent posse set up.
Don't Be Too Worried About Your Honour Meter
Red Dead Online includes the morality-measuring honour meter from the main game, allowing players to be honest cowpokes or dastardly thieves. We are still early on in RDO, so how much the honour meter actually changes the game is still to be determined, but if you care about staying good or being evil here are a few tips:
Many stranger missions will offer you good or bad morality points, which can be seen by holding left trigger while near the stranger. In the bottom right corner of your screen you will sometimes see either a white hat, representing an honourable mission, or a red hat, representing a dishonourable mission.
Even if you do something bad or good, it takes a lot to affect your bar. I maxed my honour out very early into my online experience, and after killing some random NPCs, getting into a fistfight with friends and doing some bad missions it still hadn't dropped.
A good way to earn honour is through feeding and caring for your horse. You can do this by simply feeding your horse some hay or by calming if it is scared.
Most Stranger Missions Can Be Done Solo or With Only a Partner
Many stranger missions in Red Dead Online are easier with other players, but they are totally doable solo. I've done nearly every type of side mission this game has to offer, and there was really only one mission that felt like it needed a posse to complete.
If you encounter a mission about delivering mail, just be warned that this will need at least one or two other players to finish completely. There just isn't enough time to grab a bag, hit all your checkpoints and then come back for the other bags. If you are solo and come across this side mission, you can still partially complete and still receive some cash and XP.
Wave To Folks
My time in Red Dead Online has been mostly troll and arsehole free. Players, at least right now, seem more relaxed and nice than in GTA Online. One key to this is players waving. Waving seems to have become the universal way of saying "Hey, I'm cool!" To wave and do other emotes, hold the left trigger and hit R1 or RB and you will be given a list of emotes.
Try Out The Showdown Series and Horse Racing Modes
While you might be tempted to stick to the open world of Red Dead Online, you should eventually try out the other modes available in the beta. These can be accessed by opening up your player menu and clicking "Quick Join." My personal favourites are the horse racing modes. They feel almost like Mario Kart, with weapon pickups, powerups and last second comeback victories. Just remember you can hit circle on PS4 or B on Xbox One to melee other riders while racing.
The Showdown series is a collection of different deathmatch and team deathmatch modes. They range from a territory control mode to a straight up free-for-all deathmatch mode. This is also where you will find the battle royale mode, but I still haven't played it yet.
Thankfully, matchmaking times are much faster than GTA Online, and after finishing these modes you are rewarded with gold nuggets, cash and XP. After winning one match I was awarded nearly $20. But if you don't win, most payouts are around $4-$9.
Don't Spam The Trigger
During firefights with other players you might feel the desire to rapidly mash the trigger button, but this is a mistake. While you can get lucky and get some kills by shooting as fast as possible, the better method is to be patient between shots. The smaller the reticle the more accurate your shot. Move slow, use cover and space your shots out more. And headshots are very deadly.
Dive! Dive! Dive!
A very useful move to learn in PvP is the dodge. While holding the left trigger and aiming a weapon, you can hit the jump/climb button to dive out of the way of bullets or horses. Mastering the dive can really help you jump up the leaderboard. And if someone dives while you are shooting at them, stop shooting while they jump and refocus your aim on them as they get up. This is when they are vulnerable and can't shoot back.
Don't Forget About Your Ability Cards
When writing this list I actually forgot about my ability cards, which just goes to show how easy it is to forget about these additions to Red Dead Online. Ability cards grant you new abilities, many of which are passive. You unlock new cards as you level up, and you can also buy these cards with in-game cash.
They aren't cheap, but some of them sound very useful. I currently have a card equipped that lets me do more damage when low on health, which is useful in deathmatches. Other cards regenerate health while using dead eye or make cover more effective. Once you equip an ability card, it will level up as you play. Once it levels up you can pay cash to upgrade it, making it more powerful.
Early on you won't be able to buy most cards or afford upgrades, but don't forget to check on your cards periodically as you continue playing.
Zack Zwiezen is a a writer living in Kansas City, Missouri. He has written for Gamecritics, Killscreen and Entertainment Fuse.