How to Play Red Dead Redemption 2 to Relax
Serious spoilers below, so if you’ve somehow made it this long not playing RDR2 and still know nothing about it and still want to play it spoiler-free, you should probably leave. But not before telling me how you’ve remained spoiler-free for so long while living on the internet. I haven’t seen anything beyond the first season of Game of Thrones but I know all the major beats for the entire thing because I live on the internet and spoilers are like fucking currency around here. If you’ve already played, or haven’t played and never will and want to read anyway, please proceed past the Spoiler Chocobo.
Or How I Learned to Ignore the Main Plot and Love Wandering Around
For anybody reading who hasn’t played, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an open world prequel to Red Dead Redemption, which is a game that came out before I started playing games so for all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist. I mean, I’ve got a vague idea of the plot and I know you play as John and at the end everyone ends up dead and there’s some message about the ‘circle of hatred’ or whatever and see? See how much I know about this game I’ve never played just because I live on the internet? The internet does not keep secrets.
Anyway, RDR2 happens before any of that. You play as Arthur Morgan, a member of the Dutch van der Linde gang, living in the last days of the Wild West in a sort-of America. The game picks up immediately after a ‘job’ has gone bad, leaving two of the gang dead and the rest hiding out in the Grizzly Mountains, the game’s stand-in for the Rockies. Dutch is convinced he can pull the gang out of its death spiral with just ‘one more job’ and keeps babbling about Tahiti, and even without knowing the plot of the first game it becomes obvious really fucking quickly that things are going to go from bad to shithouse. Indeed, by the end of the game, most of the gang (including Arthur) is dead and the rest are scattered.
The game is, in the most correct terms, a Massive Bummer. Arthur’s death is obviously the climax of the game, but even before that, in Chapter Five, Arthur learns he has fucking tuberculosis, a disease famously incurable in 1899. For the last chapter of play through, you play as a man visibly sick. Your health and stamina are permanently lower than they were and you can’t fix yourself with food without making yourself sicker. The whole time you’re walking around he just looks and sounds terrible, gaunt and constantly coughing.
This is a game people play for fun.
But it is possible to play this game and have a relaxing time!
Fuck the Main Story and Never Play Past Chapter Two
What are you supposed to do, then, if you don’t play the game’s plot?
I’m imaging people who haven’t played this game asking. People who have played obviously know the answer is ‘a fuckton of wandering around.’ As I said previously, the game takes place in a sort of pseudo-America, and I really mean that. It stretches from an area resembling West Virginia in the northeast to the inner southern states in the south, culminating in Saint Denis, an obvious stand-in for New Orleans. The center of the map is clearly the Great Plains region pushing west into the Rockies, and of course New Austin represents the southwest. It’s fucking huge, takes forever to get anywhere, and is filled with stuff to do that isn’t the main plot, including:
- Stranger missions
- Bird watching
- Robbing houses
- Falling off cliff sides
- Taming wild horses and selling them for profit
- Complete some of the Challenges
- Fill out your Compendium
- Killing the various gangs of bad guys over and over
- Treasure hunting
- Bounty hunting
- Ignoring your gang friends when they come find you to ask why you never come back to camp
- Making NEW friends. Better friends. Friends who aren’t trying to stab you in the back. Friends who aren’t trying to get you into dangerous situations due to their own greed. Friends who don’t take advantage of your slow but trusting nature to turn you into a thief and a murderer.
- Collecting herbs
Let’s Answer a Few Questions
Q: Why Don’t You Play Online?
A: Because I fucking hate it.
Q: Why Don’t You Just Play At The End As John So Everything Is Open?
A: Because I fucking hate John.
Q: Why Stop At Chapter Two? Why Not At Least Play Through Five?
A: Because I can do what I want, get off my fucking back about it.
No, Seriously, Here’s Why You Want to Stop at Chapter Two
If like me, you don’t want to play online and you hate John’s stupid guts, here’s how far you want to get in the game before you fuck off from the gang forever.
Obviously, you need to get out of Chapter One, where you’re stuck in that snowed-in town. I mean, you can probably fuck off? But you’re going to want to get to Two to unlock a few things, so power through Chapter One and get the gang down to the Horseshoe Overlook.
Once there, you can safely do “Polite Society, Valentine Style,” “Americans at Rest,” “Who is Not without Sin,” and “A Quiet Time.” Missions you’ll definitely want to do:
- “Paying a Social Call” will get Kieran untied from the tree and mildly trusted by the rest of the gang.
- “The First Shall be Last” will rescue Sean.
- “Exit Pursued by a Bruised Ego” will get you the Legendary Animals Map
- “The Spines of America” will unlock the fence, so you can begin selling all your stolen goods.
At this point you’ve unlocked everything except two, and I’m going to leave it up to you to decide if the trade-off is worth it.
To unlock upgrading your satchels, thus being able to carry more, you will have to get Pearson new Leather Working Tools, something that only happens after playing “Money Lending and Other Sins.” Strauss asks you to collect money from four people – and that fourth person, Thomas Downes, is the SOB who gives Arthur TB. In this exact moment. You can see it happen. So, yeah, no fucking way I’m going anywhere near any of Strauss’ missions.
Important to note, you can do the first three collection missions, open up the Leather Working Tools, and then completely avoid the Thomas Downes mission. I haven’t as I don’t particularly care about increasing my carrying capacity and I haven’t ever played Arthur as someone who would be comfortable with this particular line of work. If you play Arthur as a homicidal maniac, then go for it.
Now, the other thing you still have to unlock is fishing. I really tried to unlock this without moving too far ahead, but with a little research and my own play-through I have come to a single conclusion: you cannot unlock fishing without first breaking Micah out of the Strawberry jail. And if it came down to fishing, or occasionally visiting Micah and taunting him through the jail window, I know what I’d pick. And I did!
I leave those decisions up to you. Obviously, this is not the way to play if you’re trying to be a completionist. I mean, you never even get to go back to New Austin as Arthur except for rescuing Sean, not unless you want every bounty hunter in the west to land on you with two feet. The only way for that is to play as John at the end of the game.
If you play my way, you’ve locked in the game in what I think is its most positive state. Kieran is in camp and still has his head. Nobody’s been shot. Arthur isn’t sick. And, most importantly, Micah is left to rot in jail while everyone at camp just assumes you’re taking care of it while, actually, you’ve spent the past three days camping in Big Valley and trying to catch sight of a blue jay.