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Opinion: Red Dead Redemption 2 Could Be The Best RPG You Never Expected

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With a recent Red Dead Redemption 2 preview event in the bag, the floodgates have now opened and details have been pouring out faster than folks can scribble about them. Of all the new bits of information however, it’s the revelation that Rockstar Games hotly anticipated sequel will have a cornucopia of RPG systems underpinning its action which proves to be the most unexpected.

It can come as a bit of a shock that Red Dead Redemption 2 has been designed around you role-playing main protagonist Arthur Morgan within a living, breathing wider world, rather than just riding around blasting folk in the usual open-world Rockstar template as one might have readily assumed.

From the off, Red Dead Redemption 2 wastes little time letting you know that the stamina, fitness and diet system from 2004’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have all returned. Indeed, if Morgan overindulges in food, you can expect his waistline to expand while his stamina invariably plummets. And as before, the only way to keep our hero fit and trim is to simply get some exercise in – whether that’s running, jumping or horse riding it all helps to make Mr. Morgan a more healthier outlaw.

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How Arthur acts and how he carries himself can have a ripple effect in the world of Red Dead Redemption 2.

There’s more too. Key to any RPG is a bespoke sense of character and by proxy, a sense of self, and in Red Dead Redemption 2 players can live Arthur Morgan’s life in ways that might not have been previously anticipated. Everything from Morgan’s beard (which can be trimmed or not), to his clothes and even his general state of cleanliness can be adjusted and tinkered around with.

More than just a cosmetic indulgence, such adjustments bear functional fruit in the world of Red Dead Redemption 2. Depending on how Arthur is dressed (you can even roll up his sleeves!), how he looks/smells and whether or not he is visibly armed (you have to clean your guns too in order to keep them shootin’ smooth), the denizens of the American West will treat and react to him in different ways by either cowering away, avoiding him completely or offering him opportunities to capitalize on.

At the core of Red Dead Redemption 2 and arguably acting as the beating heart at the center of its RPG style experience is the honor system. Even though Art Morgan is generally regarded as the scum of the earth owing to his outlaw status, it is entirely up to you what version of that role he assumes during the game and the honor system acts a metric to track how famous or infamous you wish him to be.

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The sheer intricacy of detail in Red Dead Redemption lends its world a sense of place like no other.

A much more deeper affair than either Grand Theft Auto V or the previous Red Dead Redemption, choice is a maxim that very resolutely sits at the heart of the honor system and depending on how Arthur reacts to different situations, whether by taking part in actual conversations, or enforcing a resolution by other means.

There are seemingly functional benefits to being honorable and dishonorable too. An honorable Arthur for example, who resolves conflict with words and non-lethal means will gain bonuses from heroic kill shots and will receive more cash from bounties. A dishonorable Arthur on the other hand, one who relishes in killing and had no time for mercy, will find it easier to intimidate witnesses while killshots will also be much more bloody and brutal, too.

Boasting the sort of ripple cause and effect dynamic that so many RPGs hang their hat on, Red Dead Redemption 2’s honor system also causes characters destinies to change and opportunities to appear and disappear, depending on however you decide to approach each situation.

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Encounters can be solved in other ways than just with firearms.

In one situation for instance, Arthur saves a man from being killed by snake and then, after riding to the next town, encounters the brother of that man who offers Art a special mission to complete. As such, more than just opulent eye candy, the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is arguably a character in itself – one that is ever changing and ever reactive to what you do.

Then, finally, there’s the revelation that the whole game, literally all of it, can be experience from a first-person perspective – a fact that lends Red Dead Redemption 2’s RPG underpinnings far more gravitas and intimacy than they might have otherwise have had (a lesson it seems CDPRojekt RED have taken to heart with the forthcoming Cyberpunk 2077.

In the end, though we’ve spent countless hours in Skyrim, Eos and in the Californian Wasteland and beyond, it’s now time to add a new destination; the lawless and pioneering American West, to that list. We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what looks to be Rockstar’s deepest most RPG-like title to date and I cannot wait to see more. Roll on October 26th.

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