Red Dead Redemption 2 is, without a doubt, the most ambitious game Rockstar has ever created. From the 200 different skinning animations for animals to the sheer amount of customization on your saddle, Red Dead Redemption 2 is packed with intense attention to detail.
To go with this, there are a ton of new mechanics and elements, like a focus on survival. Arthur Morgan has to eat food, take baths, drink tonics, and more, all to keep his cores up and make him the best outlaw he can be. These survival mechanics aren’t nearly as intense as they’d be in other games, but they do help double-down on the immersion Rockstar is going for.
Every facet of Red Dead Redemption 2 is fine-tuned to help make it the most immersive western game around. A dynamic conversation system lets you talk to each and every NPC in Red Dead Redemption 2 with the ability to greet, antagonize, and more.
Skinning animations are different for all 200 animals in the game, and if you don’t turn in an animal carcass in a timely manner it’ll start to rot and decay, with flies buzzing all around it. From the way dirt and mud cling to Arthur’s clothes, to the way your horse crumples if you run into a tree or rock, it’s all filled with absurd detail.
This translates to the survival mechanics in Red Dead Redemption 2. Depending on what climate he’s in, Arthur needs to wear hot or cold clothing, or his body temperature will increase or decrease accordingly, reducing the cores of Arthur’s health or stamina in turn.
You also need to eat food or drink tonic to bring your cores back up to full, which will result in your health and stamina recovering much quicker.However, the kind of food you eat also matters as eating loads of unhealthy things can result in Arthur gaining weight, which results in his stamina draining faster or him taking more damage in battle.
Even past this letting yourself get dirty and smelly, or keeping blood on your clothes, will result in people treating you differently and in extreme cases thinking you’re up to no good. To do away with this, you’ll need to have Arthur take a bath, or find some new clothes to put on.
These are all incredibly complex systems that work together, layering on top of one another. However, the influence they have over actual gameplay isn’t as large as they could be. These things will lower your cores, but will by no means kill Arthur or make it impossible to play.
An average player could, conceivably, play a large portion of Red Dead Redemption 2 and not even realize these things were affecting them if they didn’t pay full attention to the game’s tutorials. Red Dead Redemption 2’s UI and systems don’t make it immediately obvious how these mechanics affect Arthur, and unless you’re looking for it, you won’t notice.
Because of this, the survival mechanics feel half-baked. They’re not something you really need to think about, but more something you might happen to notice or think about every once in a while.
The level of immersion in Red Dead Redemption 2 is fantastic, and having to wear warm clothes or eat foods definitely helps sink you even further into the Wild West world. Coupled with this is the phenomenal job Rockstar did of building Red Dead Redemption 2’s shops, with shelves fully stocked with period piece items that you can look at and examine to buy.
Past that immersion, though, survival mechanics should serve a larger purpose if it’s something Rockstar really wanted to use. It’s baffling that there isn’t an option in Red Dead Redemption 2 to either turn them completely off, or double-down on the need to use them.
For players that want a massive open world to explore at their leisure, the survival mechanics can be a small nuisance that get in the way of that goal. For players wanting a hardcore survival experience, these mechanics don’t do nearly enough. Instead, they try to tread a middle ground and end up feeling just that, middling and often tedious.
I sincerely hope that, down the line, Rockstar chooses to add in changes or options with the survival mechanics. A new difficulty like Hardcore Mode in Fallout: New Vegas, that really requires you to focus on survival, and seek out food and other options. Or a passive mode that lets you remove survival mechanics, creating an easier exploration experience.
Rockstar doesn’t need to remove the mechanics as they are now, just provide options for players. If absolute immersion is your deal, great, but that’s not for everyone. At the moment, you’re forced to use the survival mechanics how they are, and for some players, myself included, it’s an annoyance they’d rather not have to deal with while roaming through the Wild West.
For even more on Red Dead Redemption 2, take a look at seven ways it perfected the Wild West genre, or six things to do after you’ve beaten the main story.