How To Do Open World Right – Red Dead Redemption 2

Ever Wondered What Makes the World of Red Dead Redemption 2 Feel Truly Alive?

How To Do Open World Right RDR2
How To Do Open World Right - RDR2

Rockstar Games has a long and celebrated history of pushing the boundaries of the open-world genre. Their GTA franchise has set the industry standard for what open worlds should be. But today, I want to turn our attention to what many consider their magnum opus, the Red Dead Redemption 2.

Key Takeaways
    • Red Dead Redemption 2 sets the benchmark for what open worlds should be.
    • RDR2 has a masterful introduction that eases players in, building connections before unleashing the vast world.
    • The world is crafted meticulously, from NPC routines to handcrafted interiors, every detail breathes life into the world.
    • Animals in this game aren’t just for show, as they are part of a large ecosystem that keeps working even when the player looks away.

This isn’t just another open world, it’s a meticulously crafted masterpiece that sets a new standard for immersion and environmental storytelling. The open world feels alive, from the snowy mountaintops to the alligator-infested swamps.

Introduction To The Open World

One of the first things the game gets right is our introduction to the open world. Unlike many open worlds that throw players headfirst into sprawling landscapes, RDR2 takes a more measured approach.

The initial chapters of the campaign take place in the snowy mountains, where the Van Der Linde gang finds themselves running from the law.

Blood Feuds Ancient and Modern Story Mission
Blood Feuds Ancient and Modern – Vander Linde Gang

This confined and focused environment allows players to acclimate themselves to the game’s mechanics, controls, and most importantly, the characters. This is genius, as I was not immediately overwhelmed by the vastness of the open world.

This move was effective in subverting my expectations and when finally the map opened up I was surprised to see the size of the world.

Moreover, the immediate shift of environments also showcased the diversity of landscapes the game has to offer. My journey from the white mountains to the green plains is still one of my favorite gaming moments.

NPCs & Their Lives

Another incredibly impressive thing about this open world is the NPCs inhabiting this world. These NPCs do inhabit and live within this ecosystem.

These aren’t simply quest-givers or generic townsfolk. They have daily routines, engage in conversations amongst themselves, and react realistically to the player’s actions.

A bartender might discuss local gossip, a farmer might tend to his crops, and a lawman might chase down a fleeing criminal. These details, while seemingly minor, create a sense of a world that operates independently of the player. I was surprised to see how the player’s actions could affect the future trajectory of an NPC’s life.

During my gameplay, I encountered a father and his two sons fighting a group of bandits. I decided to help them out, after which the father and I got to talking.

He told me how he is building this house and in need of investments. I had a huge bag of cash, so I decided to help this NPC out and left. 

Arthur visting the Architect Father
House Building NPC

Whenever I passed by this house, there would have been more progress and the house would be built slightly more. One day the house was completely built and when I met the father there, he told me how he has sold the house and is ready to return my investments with profit. I took my money and left, and when I returned later a new family was living there, leading a normal life.

These sort of interactions within a video game ecosystem has to be one of the greatest technological achievements and what makes the world truly feel so alive. 

Interior Environments

Another one of the great feats of Red Dead Redemption 2 is the interior environments and buildings. Almost all buildings have an interior and almost all of these buildings are hiding a secret.

The level of detail in these environments is staggering. From the worn furniture in a trapper’s cabin to the dusty shelves of a general store, each space tells a story.

Interior of Braithwaite Manor
Interior of Braithwaite Manor

An even better thing is how much these interior environments have to offer. Players can play a game of poker at a saloon, browse through clothing options at a tailor, or even rob a bank.

These small activities further blur the line between gameplay and reality, making the world feel more lived-in.

Animal Life & Ecosystem

Many open worlds feature animals, but they often serve as mere aesthetic choices to the game. In some games, the most you can do is use these animals as resources. However, RDR2 goes a step further by creating a believable animal ecosystem.

Arthurs Visions of Deer
Arthurs Visions of Deer – High Honor

Predators hunt prey, animals react realistically to weather changes, and species have distinct behaviors. Watching a pack of wolves take down a deer or just casually standing over a lake to see fish swimming is something that you can do during your campaign.

The game also features an incredible hunting system. Each animal can be hunted and then can be scavenged for food and other resources.

What Can We Learn?

One of the first things we can learn is that pacing is crucial. A well-crafted introduction allows players to connect with the world and characters before unleashing its vastness.

Secondly, depth matters. Breathing life into NPCs through routines, conversations, and consequences creates a world that feels truly alive. Finally, details are king. From meticulously designed interiors to a believable animal ecosystem, every element adds to the immersion.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game that demands exploration, interaction, and simply being savored. This is the open world of tomorrow, and future titles will be judged against this benchmark

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