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How you've been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 wrong this whole time

Since its release in October 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2 has taken the gaming world by storm. Met with rave reviews from critics and fans, the open-world romp through the Wild West has become one the biggest hits of the decade. Much of the title's charm comes from Rockstar's strong attention to detail, giving us a world that looks and feels real. Red Dead Redemption 2 functions less like a video game and more like an immersive jaunt through the highs and lows of a life spent on the run.

With so much to take in, it's easy to overlook aspects of the game. Players have discovered much of what you can do through trial and error, as RDR2 doesn't lay everything out in the open. New facets reveal themselves with each playthrough, leading to better strategies for getting the most out of the mechanics and story. Here are 12 ways you've been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 wrong this whole time.

Indulging bad habits

Rockstar has packed Red Dead Redemption 2 with several features designed to give players a more realistic experience. From shaving and bathing to doing chores around camp, these mundane tasks contribute to the immersion of the game. They also give you more control over Arthur's appearance and statistics. 

One feature, met with both praise and criticism, is Arthur's weight class. Like real life, Arthur's lifestyle choices take their toll on his body. Eating more (especially snacks such as candy and chocolate) and engaging in sedentary activities will pack on the pounds and push Arthur into the overweight zone. Similarly, skipping meals coupled with lots of physical activity will make him underweight.

Each weight class has its pros and cons. A hefty Arthur can take more damage but his stamina will deplete faster. When underweight, Arthur gains a boost to stamina but his health suffers. While the mechanics for the weight system remain somewhat murky, eating two or three times a day will help you achieve and maintain a perfect weight. Well-rounded meals of meat, fruit, and veggies seem to work the best, as does eating at least one meal at camp. 

Rest appears to act as a catalyst for the system, triggering weight gain, loss, or maintenance based on what you've consumed. Sickness also causes Arthur to lose weight faster, something you must keep in mind later in the game.

Eating your own food instead of camp meals

Beyond your weight, eating has a big impact on your Red Dead Redemption 2 experience. Meals play a leading role in restoring your Health, Stamina, and Dead Eye cores, making cooking and resource gathering key skills to master. Not all food is created equal, however. Keeping your cores topped up can also be a costly affair. 

While hunting is an excellent way to maintain a steady supply of meat, it can grow time-consuming and tedious. It's tempting to skip this mechanic, instead purchasing snacks and ingredients from General Stores. Like real life fast food, though, this will quickly empty your wallet of money best used elsewhere, especially in the early game.

Hold on to your hard-earned cash by eating at the gang's camp whenever possible. Snagging a bowl of stew from the cooking pot is free and will restore your health and stamina cores to max. You can even upgrade the cooking pot later on, causing the stew to refill your Dead Eye core too.

If you're set on eating out, skip the snacks and candy at the General Store and head to a hotel or saloon instead. While these meals come with a higher price tag, they have some of the best dishes in the game, ensuring your get the most bang for your buck.

Neglecting your camp

The gang's camp is good for more than free meals. Acting as Arthur's central hub, you can unlock several mechanical and story benefits by investing your time and money.

Maintaining camp morale is the key to success. Donate funds or trinkets to the tithing box every few hours and complete your share of chores to keep your camp members in high spirits. Happy camp mates will then donate free items such as provisions, ammo, and medicine. This will increase their donations to the tithing box.

Once you unlock the Ledger, you can put the camp's funds to good use. This allows you to upgrade tents and wagons, increasing the quality of resources and recipes on offer. You can also build a horse station and chicken coop, which confer their own benefits.

Other than monetary contributions, you should spend time getting to know your travel companions. The characters at the camp feature extensive backstories and dialogue options. These conversations reveal core insights about Arthur's personality and progression. They also shine a light on some of Red Dead Redemption 2's most interesting story components.

For those shooting for the game's good ending, engaging in camp activities will help keep you on the right track. Besides helping with camp morale, completing chores boosts your honor.

Ignoring new journal entries

Arthur Morgan stands at the center of Rockstar's sprawling simulation of the Wild West. With his gruff exterior, Arthur fills the role of the renegade outlaw well. Still, there is much more to his character than what you see at first glance. Hidden beneath the gritty surface you'll find an artistic soul, shaped by a surprising core of loyalty and courage. Though the game does a good job of showing Arthur's many facets, you can easily miss out on the most interesting and touching details in your race to the finish line.

As you play the game, Arthur jots down notes in his journal. From recollections of specific events and musings about the gang to sketches of places, people, and animals, Arthur's journal is a treasure trove of information. It's here that Arthur comes alive, revealing the many sides of a complicated man. This painful authenticity can bond you to the character in a way you seldom see with other game protagonists.

Though you might be tempted to skip the extra reading, staying up-to-date with the latest entries will ensure you get the most out of the game. As you read through, you'll unearth insights about events you otherwise would have missed. The pages also hold an abundance of details about the setting and story, sharpening your experience through added depth and context.

Advancing the main storyline before completing Stranger Missions

Stranger Missions have featured in Rockstar's open-world game design since their debut in Grand Theft Auto IV. With each new title, they've grown more nuanced and satisfying, and Red Dead Redemption 2 certainly delivers. 

Indicated by white question marks on the map, Stranger Missions revolve around aiding people in need of assistance. While they don't contribute to the main storyline, these missions make the world feel more authentic and alive. They also help flesh out Arthur's character.

There are 16 Stranger Missions scattered across the map, some of which only appear at certain times of day. Most missions are only available after reaching a specific chapter. Others will disappear as you progress, so you'll want to take time to explore the game's various regions before forging ahead.

Arthur Morgan's story takes some depressing turns. Stranger Missions offer a reprieve from the doom and gloom, as many of the characters you encounter and tasks you complete are highly entertaining. From wrangling escaped circus animals to helping an inventor create a bionic boy, Red Dead Redemption 2 keeps things interesting. You never know who you'll meet on the road or what new adventure is waiting around the next corner.

Switching horses too often

Don't treat your horses like you treat your cars in Grand Theft Auto. In the world of Red Dead Redemption 2, your horse is almost an extension of yourself, with its own statistics, equipment, and needs. 

Though you can find and stable many breeds in the game, it's best to stick with a single horse for as long as possible. Grooming, feeding, calming, and spending time with your mount will increase the level of your bond over time. As you bond with your horse, it will gain Health and Stamina. You can also call it from greater distances and traverse more challenging terrain. The more loyal your horse, the harder it is to steal.

Rising through the four bonding levels unlocks new maneuvers such as Rear, Skid Turn, and Piaffe, making riding a more enjoyable and tactical experience. Forging a strong connection with your mount confers more than mechanical benefits. If your bond is strong enough, Red Dead Redemption 2 will reward you with a touching cutscene at the end of the game, a poignant cinematic you can miss by switching horses too often.

Riding everywhere

Though it's important to bond with your faithful steed, spending hours galloping across RDR2's massive map can grow tedious. While the game offers a stunning backdrop for your exploration, sometimes you just want to get somewhere fast. Rather than spending the bulk of your gaming sessions in the saddle, consider using the two fast travel options in Red Dead Redemption 2

The first option you'll run into is travelling by stagecoach or train. Simply stop by a ticket station and select your destination. Though a time saver, each ticket will cost you a few dollars, making this method less than ideal for penny-pinching outlaws. You can also fast travel from your camp, an option the game doesn't do a great job of pointing out. To enable this option, you first need to spend $220 to upgrade Dutch's lodgings through the camp ledger. This will inspire the other gang members to contribute more to the money box, a nice bonus.

Upgrading Dutch's lodgings unlocks a new upgrade for Arthur's wagon, which contains the fast travel mechanic. After buying the upgrade for $325, you can fast travel to any settlement you've visited before via your camp tent. Camp upgrades become available after completing "Money Lending and Other Sins" in Chapter 2. You'll want to focus on money-making and exploration in the early game to get the most out of the upgrade as soon as possible.

Paying off large bounties early on

The dreaded bounty. Life as an outlaw comes with a certain amount of notoriety. With so many ways to upset the local constabulary, it's easy to end up with your mugshot plastered across town. 

Even if you're shooting for an honorable playthrough, completing some early missions can result in a large bounty on Arthur's head. You may be tempted to pay these off quickly, but this will drain your funds, especially in the early game when money is scarce. As you'll wrack up more bounties by progressing through the game, it's not efficient to pay them off as soon as they appear. Ignore the price on your head and wait for the bigger payouts that come with later missions.

If you can't take the heat, you can leave the area where you have a bounty for a few days. When you return, the lawmen there will no longer behave in a hostile manner unless you cause further problems. You can always surrender and serve your jail time if the situation gets too out of hand.

Keep in mind that while you have a bounty on your head, you can't fast travel via stagecoach, one of the main drawbacks of not ponying up right away.

Paying off bounties in general

Having a bounty on your head has its drawbacks. Beyond dogged lawmen and suspicious locals, committing serious crimes can send an entire city into lockdown. Shops will close their doors to you while the cops grow more aggressive with their bullets. 

Higher bounties also draw the attention of bounty hunters. Hungry for cash, they're persistent and ruthless, often appearing when you least expect them. This constant threat of attack can make your travels treacherous and aggravating. Paying off your bounties will let you avoid most of these fights, but this isn't always the best strategy. Rather than treating bounty hunters as pests, think of them as a resource — especially in the early to mid-game. 

The higher your bounty, the more bounty hunters will show up to take you in. This provides a consistent stream of combat, increasing your skills faster than in a mostly bounty-free playthrough. If you're smart, these fights can also provide a steady stream of resources. Each bounty hunter has their share of equipment to loot, which you can either use or sell to generate extra income. This extra crash is a real boon early on when you're trying to save up for expensive camp upgrades.

As encounters go, bounty hunters come off a bit frustrating and repetitive. But with the right attitude, you can turn this drawback into an advantage.

Relying solely on a bandanna to hide your identity

The Wanted System in Red Dead Redemption 2 is a complex beast. When committing crimes, many factors contribute to the level of the offense and the bounties you wrack up. Witnesses play a key role in this system, sending many players searching for methods to hide their identities. 

The quest to avoid recognition has led to a host of frustrations, mostly because of misconceptions surrounding masks and bandannas. Viewing these face coverings as a get-out-of-jail-free card, many players throw on a bandanna before going on a crime spree, only to wrack up hundreds of dollars in new bounties.

While wearing a mask or bandanna makes you harder to identify, it's not always enough to stop someone from recognizing you, much like in real life. If you're bent on evading the law, you must use  a more cohesive strategy. It's hard to fool the NPCs in Red Dead Redemption 2, as they remember details about Arthur's appearance, even if you've hidden his face. Your clothes, hair, facial hair, and horse can all give you away. 

To avoid new bounties, don a different getup, including a new mask or bandanna, whenever possible while committing crimes. To further decrease the chances of an NPC recognizing you, leave the area, switch horses, and then get a shave and a haircut. The more you change, the more likely you are to keep your record clean.

Using ammo to hunt big game

With over 500 animals in the game, hunting is a big part of Red Dead Redemption 2, serving as one of the best resources for supplies and money. When it comes to pelts, quality matters. Getting a clean kill on each animal requires a specific weapon. Choosing the right ammo also plays an important role. 

Rather than struggling to always have the right weapon and ammo on hand, you can use your lasso and knife to net perfect pelts from most big game. You must lasso the animal, then stab it in the heart. It will also need to be in pristine condition when you kill it to produce a perfect pelt. This method does not work on smaller game, such as rabbits. You'll also need a different approach to hunt alligators, as trying to lasso one usually results in your grisly death. 

To improve the quality of every animal you skin, hunt down the Legendary Buck near Mount Shan. Once you've unlocked the first Fence, you can bring the Legendary Buck's antler there to craft a Buck Antler Trinket. The trinket increases the quality of all pelts you acquire while hunting.

Fishing at the wrong time

Like hunting, fishing in Red Dead Redemption 2 is a robust and rewarding pursuit, complete with its own complexities. As in real life, selecting the right bait is crucial for reeling in the big one. Each lure available works best for a specific situation. While using the correct bait is something of a no-brainer, many players shoot themselves in the foot by fishing at the wrong time of day. 

Due to bugs flying close to the surface of the water, fish bite more during the early morning and afternoon. Similarly, many fish are more active when it rains as they mistake the impact of the drops for insects. Certain fish prefer sunny or overcast weather, so you must take this into account if you're after a specific type.

If you're really struggling, try fishing near the mouth of a waterfall. Fish, especially larger ones, like to hang out there due to the water being more oxygenated than other areas. By making these simple alterations to your fishing tactics, you can save yourself a lot of valuable time.