The Gameplay Loop is Too Grindy
I was surprised to discover that Red Dead Online seems to be following a reasonably deep story, and the way in which it’s sticking to much of what made Red Dead Redemption 2 special. It hasn’t abandoned the methodical approach to gameplay, the measured pace, and emphasis on survival mechanics.
The trouble is, that doesn’t necessarily work all that well for an online experience, especially in combination with the extent to which Red Dead Online asks players to grind for weapons, items, clothing, ranks, and everything else.
Surely the draw of online play should be accessibility, allowing players to jump in and quickly set-up, get involved, and start playing to their preference? It’s not quite the case from what I’m seeing, though. Certain clothing is strangely locked behind ranks, while others are horrendously expensive.
The worst of it, however, is the gold bars. This is Red Dead Online’s premium currency, which can be bought with real-life money as well as earned in-game. 100 gold nuggets equal a single gold bar, and nuggets are given as rewards for completing various modes, such as PvP, or by finding treasure scattered across the map.
Gold bars can be used to purchase unique items, but as of right now, obtaining them without forking out real-life money is a total grind.
One player calculated that 1 gold bar equates to about eight hours of gameplay. For reference, it costs the equivalent of around 30 gold bars to change every metal option on your rifle to a different color. Yeah… that’s one hell of a grind.
More importantly, horse insurance, your guarantee that you’re animal pal won’t die permanently, is only purchasable via five gold bars (although your first is free).
Of course, having a premium currency benefits players from having to worry about items continually ramping up in price moving forward, as they did in GTA Online. But it doesn’t really solve the issue if the premium currency itself is a huge grind to obtain.
It’s also doubly annoying given that, plenty of the purchasable items in the beta aren’t limited to cosmetics — they’re functional, too, like horse insurance or particular fishing rods.
It’s obviously causing a sticking point for some players, who are already lamenting Rockstar Games’ implementation of the premium currency. The fear moving forward is grinding hours of gameplay will be the only way to take full advantage of Red Dead Online’s most compelling items and equipment. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.