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Red Dead Redemption 2 changed gaming and you barely noticed

Ever since its release, Red Dead Redemption 2 has been nothing short of a game-changer. Like the original game, it presents an opportunity to do whatever you can think of in an outstanding Western open world. But it's so much deeper than that, from building a camp to greater heights, to completing missions that either make Arthur a scoundrel or a good guy, to the emotional ties with friends and newcomers alike. Its depth is unparalleled.

So we're taking a look at some of the key ways it changed gaming since its release. There's a reason it easily outsold the original release, and it sets the pace for whatever's set to come next from Rockstar Games. The industry will never be the same again. Let's take a look at the biggest ways in which this cowboy sim is forcing everyone else to up their game.

Red Dead Online has become something special

Rockstar Games promised to build up Red Dead Online to the same level as Grand Theft Auto Online, which helped boost sales of Grand Theft Auto 5 to more than 100 million copies sold. And thus far, they're fulfilling that promise. The publisher released a number of updates over the past few months, providing players with various activities to take part in. Whether it's joining up with a posse to hunt down a contract or raiding a nearby camp and clearing out the ne'er-do-wells, Red Dead Online has more than enough stuff to do.

A recent update for the game, Frontier Pursuits, introduced various ways for players to make progress. They can become a Trader and set up a shop to sell goods; they can take up collecting and become full-fledged treasure hunters; or they can track down criminals and pick up some cash as a Bounty Hunter. The choice is all yours.

Rockstar Games has lots more planned for the game in the years ahead — with a level of unprecedented support, similar to GTA Online. Sitting alongside the already packed Red Dead Redemption 2, that's more than what most developers can achieve in today's market.

The amount of Easter eggs to find in Red Dead Redemption 2 is staggering

Most games have a number of Easter eggs to track down, giving players something to look for over the course of their journey. But Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn't just rest easy on a few hidden goodies. Nope, the ones they have here are almost countless, and some of them are a real treat to discover.

The big one here would have to be the UFO, which has become a staple in some of Rockstar's best-selling games over the years. With a little bit of digging, players will be able to spot a visitor from another world.

There's an Easter egg for everyone here, from a mysterious ghost train that runs along the track between New Hanover and Lemoyne, a witch's cauldron that hides in a hut in the wilderness (just don't drink out of it), a tomb loaded with Viking ruins, to a home in Grizzlies East, Ambarino that pays full-on tribute to Lord of the Rings with its Hobbit-style design.

The staggering amount of Easter eggs — and the range of secrets they possess — are more than what players would typically find in a game these days. Hopefully, Rockstar Games continues this trend with its next release.

Red Dead Redemption 2's NPCs aren't one-dimensional

When players go through most games, the non-playable characters that they interact with usually don't have much to say. You go up, get whatever mission you need to get from them, and ... that's about it. But Red Dead Redemption 2 actually fleshes these characters out, as most of them have a life of their own to some extent.

A YouTuber by the name of Defend the House previously posted a video where they simply followed around a non-playable character for a whole day. But rather than just taking an aimless route, this person actually did some work around the house, took a lunch break, finished up their work, and then drank afterwards until they passed out. And keep in mind that this was just a random character.

The interaction with some characters goes pretty deep as well: Arthur often has to make decisions that change their fate, whether good or bad.

It's staggering to see NPCs in a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 actually do their own thing, rather than walking in a pre-programmed circle, waiting for the lead character to interact with them. Companies and game developers will have to learn to apply that level of depth into their own games.

Antagonizing goes much further than expected in Red Dead Redemption 2

Sometimes the slightest behavior can have a huge effect on another character within Red Dead Redemption 2. This adds significant replay value to the game, as players can explore how different actions can have different consequences.

Case in point: Arthur can be a nice guy. As a result, most people will be cordial, save for the jerk or two that require action to back off (or tick them off enough to pull their gun).

But his darker nature is equally impressive. He can actually scare the daylights out of someone enough to have them run blindly in front of an approaching wagon. Or, for that matter, he can create enough fear to get nothing but silence in return.

That doesn't mean everyone's going to back down. Sheriff types and criminals will probably challenge Arthur if he's too cocky, resulting in fisticuffs and even gunplay. It shows true depth with character –- and gives the player more trouble to get in aside from missions.

With this combination of both breadth and depth, Red Dead Redemption 2 packs a high level of replay value that isn't seen that often in today's game market, even in open world games. Even the bad choices reap a rewarding experience.

The side quests can be just as fun as the main ones

Red Dead Redemption 2 has dozens of hours' worth of story, leading up to the events of the original game. But that doesn't mean the player always has to stay on the main path. In fact, some of the side missions waiting to be discovered can be surprisingly entertaining, giving Arthur something exciting –- and fun -– to do.

For instance, one character, Miss Margaret –- who's actually a Mr. Margaret, but never mind -– asks Arthur to collect animals for part of his show. But along the way, he gets some help from his assistant, who does some wrangling of her own. It's a neat way to discover one of the game's best undiscovered characters.

There's also a somber mission in which Arthur has the chance to assist a widow with getting back on her feet. It's an optional one, of course, but it comes with its fair share of emotional heft, as he helps her find the strength she needs to live without her husband.

Once again, this adds to Red Dead Redemption 2's unmatchable replay value. By seeking out side characters, players discover new terrain to explore — and some fun new faces to make friends (or enemies) with.

The camp has more to offer than a typical "home hub"

In between missions, players can return to their camp and get some rest. But there's a lot more to do than that, thanks to the various people within it.

One good example is the Companion Activities. Sometimes people will need something in camp, and if Arthur manages to complete it for them, they'll gain some camaraderie. For that matter, even having a drink or two with someone can be fun. They may even get to the point where they'll walk up and just knock him out cold.

There's also the ability to play poker with friends. It helps when there's a group sitting around, which enables Arthur to practice up for other poker games scattered around the world. Various card decks are available for collecting as well.

Finally, just having talks with fellow gang members and learning more about them can be fun. Arthur might just discover what's really ticking Dutch off.

Considering most "home hubs" are just places to stop and restock supplies, Red Dead Redemption 2 actually gives us one that we care about. And it's also the place to make best friends — or worst enemies.

Red Dead Redemption 2's open world is vast, even by gaming standards

It's staggering to see how much world there is to explore in Red Dead Redemption 2. It's nearly twice the size of what the original game was, which is saying something. And just when you think you've discovered everything there is to offer -– surprise, you haven't.

Just one glance at the map, and players can get an idea of just how much area there is to explore within this game. Most of it is uncharted territory and takes a little while to get to (mainly due to the slow travel Red Dead 2 is "saddled" with). Regardless, once they get over a certain ridge or cover enough ground, discovering a new place is nothing short of remarkable. Even doing something routine like crossing a railroad bridge is quite a sight.

In addition, interior design is equally impressive. Walking into a house and taking a look around can be fascinating, and not just for the required missions.

With miles of territory to cover — players are still discovering secrets in its world – Red Dead Redemption 2 delivers an immaculate open world to explore. Only the likes of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey come close — and even it isn't as big.

The gunfights in Red Dead Redemption 2 actually feel like life and death struggles

In most games, you usually feel invincible as you brush off bullet wounds and finish foes with ease. But that's not always the case in Red Dead Redemption 2. The team at Rockstar Games actually balanced gunfights so they actually feel like a real struggle to survive.

Of course, Arthur can munch down some food and scramble for cover to avoid getting killed. But the sheer struggle is felt with each conflict. Players aren't going up against Stormtroopers with blind aim; these enemies can shoot, and with surprisingly good accuracy. It'll make you think twice about sticking Arthur's head out, save for lining up a head shot.

But these gunfights aren't unbalanced. With the right weapon in hand, Arthur can still clean house on a gang in a satisfactory fashion. On occasion, a dramatic camera angle shows off just how good his last shot went. Then there's the real difference maker: Dead Eye.

Considering most games these days make the player feel like they can survive anything, Red Dead Redemption 2 makes each encounter seem like it could very well be their last. It's a bit scary — and awesome.

Arthur Morgan is doomed, but players can still define his legacy

Like the original Red Dead Redemption, there doesn't appear to be any way to save the lead character from certain death. It's just ... coming. But players are able to guide how Arthur Morgan goes over the course of his journey, whether as an unforgivable low-life or someone that actually tried to make changes for the better.

It's really cool how this plays out one of two ways. If Morgan attains low honor from killing too many innocents or keeping up with his criminal manner, Micah will kill him in cold blood. However, if he manages to keep his honor and help out people where he can, he'll actually be at peace with his passing, dying just as the sun comes up. John Marston didn't have such an option in the first Redemption, though his death was still noble.

Rockstar Games reaches a truly defining moment with Red Dead Redemption 2's endingsBoth the good and the bad ones have meaning and define a character's legacy. Not only did Arthur's story need to be told, but it needed the proper conclusion to tie everything together nicely. Hardly any games justify their leads like that.

Red Dead Redemption 2's epilogue is no simple "endgame"

Although Arthur Morgan's death would've been a proper end to Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar Games chose to extend the story in a surprising way. It catches up with John Marston years later, as he settles into a simple life with his family.

When bandits force his old life to resurface, his wife and child leave. This forces John to re-examine things and build a ranch to coerce them to come back. But shortly after proposing to her and promising that things will improve, the past comes roaring back when Sadie and Charles tell him the location of Micah.

Seeking revenge for his friend, John and company plow through an army of bandits before coming face to face with the treacherous Micah. In a surprising twist, Dutch turns on him. John then finishes him off, complete with a Dead Eye touch. He then returns to his ranch and family, though Pinkerton agent Edgar Ross waits in the distance, setting the stage for the first Red Dead Redemption.

Red Dead Redemption 2 could've ended with a "happily ever after," and a mere Redemption 1 tease. But with hours of content, the conclusion is basically a game unto itself, one that other releases can't match with their wrap-ups.