Red Dead Online is here, and it's as big and ambitious as Red Dead Redemption 2. It also requires learning some new things, even if you have invested dozens of hours into the campaign. In this guide, we will help you get started, give some details that Red Dead Online does not offer advice on the best things to do to get ahead.
It's better together
In a game called Red Dead Online, you should play together. Others are already doing that, and a Posse of three or four will beat a lone wolf pretty much every time. (We talked about it, we just wanted our wolf pelt, but those jerks stole it and killed us.
If you want the kind of solitary bliss that Red Dead Redemption 2 can offer, single-player is your mode. It's best to treat Red Dead Online as the multiplayer game that it is. And we'll get into how you can do that below.
What you can do in Red Dead Online
What can not you do? Just about everything you can do in regular offline Red Dead Redemption 2 is available in Red Dead Online. You can still hunt, get a haircut, hunt for treasure and play story missions. The main difference here is that you will be doing this while living in the same world as other players (some of whom really want to kill you just for fun).
There are plenty of missions, events, and distractions that are unique to Red Dead Online as well. These include:
- Story Missions. Story Missions appear on your map as the same yellow circles as in single-player Red Dead Redemption 2. These are larger, sometimes multi-part missions that fill out the narrative of Red Dead Online.
- Free Roam Missions. These are the icons on your map that look like a stick figure hailing a cab. Free Roam Missions are the Red Dead equivalent of Stranger Missions. You'll get a (relatively) simple task – sometimes with a timer for completing it – and a similarly small reward.
- Free Roam Events. Free Roam Events are player-versus-player challenges that will pop up from time to time as you wander the world. (It's in the name: You're free to roaming, and you can join the event.) They're not location-based, though, so you'll just get a notification in the top left of your screen and you can opt-in.
- Race Series. You will spot these on your map as a checkered flag icon. In these horse races, you will pit your steed against others in three types of races: Lap Races, Point-to-Point and Open Races.
- Showdown Series. The showdown series will appear on your map as icons with either two or three people on them, depending on the size of the teams involved (small teams are Showdown Series, and big teams are Showdown Series Large). These are the more traditional online game part of Red Dead Online, and they get their own section.
What you can not do in Red Dead Online
Pause the game. Because it's, you know, online.
Showdown Series events
Showdown Series events are team-based, competitive matches where you play with matchmade strangers, your posse or some combination of them.
At launch, there are several Showdown Series modes:
- Hostile Territory. These matches are zone capture-style games. Your team has to capture areas of the map and defend them against the opposing team.
- Make It Count. A last one standing, bow and arrow or throwing knives only, limited ammo match where the playing field is constantly shrinking. (It's Red Dead Online Battle Royale.)
- Most Wanted. Most Wanted works a lot like Shootout above, but the higher your score (kills), the more points someone gets for killing you.
- Name Your Weapon. These matches work like Shootout or Most Wanted matches, but your score depends on the weapon you use – thrown weapon kills are worth more than shotgun kills, for example.
- Shootout. This is a basic, one-versus-shootout game where the player with the highest kill count wins.
- Team Shootout. Team Shootout is like Shootout, but it's team-versus-team.
How Posses work
Posses has a way to join forces with other players. They always include a Posse Leader who sets up the Posse, but one is more, well, hardcore than the other.
There are two types:
- Temporary Posses has a limit of four players and disappears when the Posse Leader quits. Think of them as a quick and easy way to get your friends together.
- Persistent Posses cost you money to create, max out at seven players, remain after the Posse Leader quits and are available again whenever the Posse Leader is online. Think of them as the kind of thing that serious players will create to customize their Posses, play against other Posses and even battle against each other with Posse Versus.
To create a Posse, press left on the D-pad and select Form Posse from the menu. You can use the Player section of the same menu to add Posse Members.
How Camps work
Solo players have a Player Camp, which is like a hybrid between the gang's Camp in the Red Dead Redemption 2 campaign than the ad hoc Camp you can create in the wilderness during the campaign. If you're in a Posse, you'll have a Posse Camp.
Camps offer a safe place to rest – as long as you find and raise the white flag – Access to your Wardrobe, and place to craft and cook – and, after upgrading, even fast travel.
If you buy some items like ammunition from the Handheld Catalog (it's in your Weapon Wheel or you can press and hold left on the D-pad), they will appear in a Delivery Box in your Camp. (You can also pick up those deliveries at a Post Office.)
It's worth noting that other items like weapons appear in your inventory or saddlebags instead of being routed through the mail.
Honor in Red Dead Online
Just like in Red Dead Redemption 2, your actions will affect your Honor in Red Dead Online. Some of these actions will be obvious – like whether or not to leave someone tied up on the train tracks – while others are more subtle (but still intuitive) – like bonding with your horse (s).
Honor can affect the missions you're asked to complete. If you've maintained a high Honor, you'll get more white hat missions like protecting wagons, but if you're going to the outlaw end of the spectrum, you'll get missions like breaking fellow outlaws out of jail.
The best way to make money
After you've completed the intro mission, hit left on the D-pad to open the Free Roam menu. Scroll down to Quick Join and select Story Mission On-Call. You are welcome to do this with our friends without your friends in Posse (aka Fireteam). These missions seem to be capped at four, so a full, four-person posse will not be able to join.
We have expanded this process, which allows you to join others and play story missions, in our guide to making money in Red Dead Online, and you get more detail there. The upshot: You will earn good money for helping others, but there are limits.
Also, do not think getting rich is going to get you all you want – almost all of the items in the Handheld Catalog are gated behind your level. And to earn levels, you'll need XP.
The best way to earn XP
The short answer here is the same as above: Keep doing Story Missions and making yourself available to matchmake in others' Story Missions. You might not make a ton of money every time, but that XP will add up.
Parley and Feuds
The world of Red Dead lends itself to a certain degree of lawlessness. You're going to get shot for no apparent reason. You'll get ridden down the street. It happens.
But if it Keeps happening, there's a system in place to help you work it out and bring a little law to the lawlessness. If you and another player end up in a cycle of murder and revenge, you will trigger one of two options.
- Parley. When one player triggers this mode, you will end up face-to-face with your foe, but you will not be able to use your weapons. You are left with 10 minutes to talk (parley) through your problems with your mouthwords instead of your gunbullets.
- Feud. Both players have to opt in to the Feuds. If both players accept, they are thrown into a three-minute, player-versus-player shootout. Whoever gets the highest kill count wins.
The option to Parley or Feud appears after you've been killed by someone four times. Once you have finished, you and your tormentor (or the person you're tormenting and you) can go right back to killing one another. But you'll get the Parley and Feud options sooner.
Red Dead Online Ability Cards grant you, well, abilities – effects, technically. Put a card in a slot, and you'll get that effect.
You can purchase Ability Cards from the Abilities menu (which is in the main menu). You will get your first Ability Card during the introductory mission, and the next couple cost $ 50 each from within the menu. You can equip (or unequip) them from this menu, too.
The first Ability Card slot you can unlock is for (and called) Dead Eye. It's active, meaning you have to invoke Dead Eye to use it. (Later, you'll unlock slots for passive Ability Cards, whose effects are always active.)
Unlike the campaign, Dead Eye does not slow down time in Red Dead Online (because this game is online and that would not work). Instead, you get something like the Dead Eye you're probably used to, but with a twist. For example:
- The Paint It Black Ability Card lets you paint targets while in Dead Eye.
- The Focus Fire I Ability Card lets you and your team members "deal a little more damage" while using Dead Eye.
- The A Moment to Recover Ability Card slowly regenerates your health when using Dead Eye.
You also have level skill levels as you gain XP. (You can see the XP you've gained when you're hovering over the card in the Ability Cards menu.) Each card has three levels (or tiers), and each enhances the ability.
You will unlock more slots for cards at Rank 10 (1st Passive), 20 (2nd Passive) and 40 (3rd Passive). You will also unlock more Ability Cards as you rank up. You can buy new Dead Eye Ability Cards at Ranks 24, 44 and 50, for example.
It feels like basically everything you do in Red Dead Online will eventually lead to an Award. Picking plants earns you an award. Eating plants earns you an award. Shooting people earns you an award. And awards become Belt Buckles (which are cosmetic, but oh-so fancy).
You will have to buy Horse Insurance during the introductory mission. Technically, insurance lets your horse "automatically recover over time if it's critically injured." Practically, the horse you buy it for will not die and disappear forever. It will heal in time.
If an uninsured horse you own "dies," you have to pay to heal them at a stable. If you have insurance, there is no fee.
It's a great policy. But you have to buy it for each horse, and the cost seems to be based on horse's quality. If you have a really good horse, it will cost you a ton in gold bars.
Keep in mind that Rockstar is launching Red Dead Online as and beta. That means things can and will go wrong. We've seen it happen, from connectivity to missing loot and XP from missions and even a disappearing minimap.