Open-world games have been around for a long time now, and with advancing technology, the worlds we get to explore are getting bigger, more alive, and more believable. One studio, in particular, is known to craft worlds that are way ahead of their times and are simply the pioneers of this genre. I am talking about Rockstar Games here, of course. Known to craft “worlds” that are huge, rich in detail, and extremely diverse, Rockstar Games have been at the forefront since the year 2000 and are quite simply the masters of the genre. With “worlds” like Liberty City, Vice City, San Andreas, and more under their belt, each new game that Rockstar works on aims to be bigger, better, and more authentic than the last. One such game they released back in 2018 is “Red Dead Redemption 2,” which featured a giant open world for the players to get lost. While they have excelled at making big, lifelike cities, with “Red Dead Redemption 2,” they took to the past and focused more on the frontier. Open fields that stretched on for miles on end, lush forests, sweeping deserts, snow-capped mountains, and a few towns sprinkled in the middle. I will only be talking about the world here and not the game or its mechanics; that’ll come later. Let’s jump into this world head-on, dissecting it and understanding what makes it special and worth exploring.
America, 1899. The end of the era of gunslingers and outlaws and the beginning of civilized life. Rockstar Games set out to capture this moment in American history, and boy, did they do it right. “Red Dead Redemption 2” boasts a giant, and I mean a GIANT, world that is divided among 5 states, each packed with its own beauty and detail.
Let’s start with the state of Ambarino. Covered in the mountains, ready to touch the sky, this hilly area of the map lacks any towns or civilizations but makes up for it with its gigantic mountains, winding roads, and snow-covered peaks. Ambarino is the perfect area to go camping, catch some fish, or simply ride around the mountains on horseback. It’s especially beautiful when it rains, as the entire area gets covered in fog like a cloud that simply came down to the mountains to get some rest. There’s a sense of calm but also dreariness at the same time when you pass through Ambarino. The natural beauty, sky-high mountains, and lakes full of fish are all worth soaking in but contrasting them is the lack of any hubs of civilization. Trees and winding roads cutting through mountains as far as the eye can see set up an atmosphere that feels isolated. You may find an odd passerby here or there or a hunter’s cabin, but that’ll be the extent of social activity you’ll encounter in this state. Go further north in Ambarino, and you enter an area where a thick white blanket of snow covers the land, glowing as it gets bathed in sunlight. The isolation of Ambarino is on full display here, as this area of the map is devoid of any people. You may stumble across a few gang members hiding from the law up here, but these folks are deadly and will attack you on sight, so it’s best to keep your distance. The sounds of wolves howling echo in these lands, and bears often patrol near the frozen lake, looking to catch a fish. A few vacant cabins are sprinkled around where you can get a glimpse of what was there if you choose to venture inside. Cold, calm, and isolated, this part of the map may not be the most populated, but it sure is a treat for your eyes. Ambarino, as a whole, is a hilly state untouched by man for the most part. If you wish to survive on this land and be one with the wildlife for some time, then Ambarino is the state you should spend some time in.
Next, we have the state of New Hanover, with its grassy plains, ranches, and the town of Valentine governing these lands. Plains covered in grass stretch for miles on end, surrounded by some rock formations. Roads cut through these plains, connecting the town of Valentine to Emerald Ranch and a few other places. Said roads are also crowded with wagons, stagecoaches, and riders on horseback. Let’s take a look at Valentine for a second. A road covered in wet mud stretches through the middle of the town, crowded by townsfolk and passersby. The town has a church and a ranch full of cattle and chickens. You can visit the saloon, get drunk, and start bar fights, or you can visit the hotel to spend the night or take a bath. You can also eat food and buy medicines by going to the convenience store or the doctor’s office or go pay a visit to the town sheriff to see if there are any bounty signs you can hunt. The town is the center of civilization for the state of New Hampshire, full of life with people going about their jobs, drunks asking for the way back home, and houses being constructed. Further east, you can visit Emerald Ranch, which, as the name suggests, is a giant ranch full of livestock that provides supplies across the state. The people are friendly and hardworking here, except for the owner, who is always hostile and has some skeletons in his closet. The saloon here is also shrouded in mystery, as it is closed for good and covered in bullet holes and blood. Wonder what went down there? Up north, you can visit the town of Annesburg, a coal mining town polluted to the brim and full of miners. The housing here is not the best, and people usually tend to mind their own business and not involve themselves with strangers. On the other hand, the forest surrounding Annesburg should be avoided at all costs, especially during the night, as it’s full of predators and a deadly gang that goes by the name of “The Murfrees.” All in all, the state of New Hanover is a welcoming and temperate state full of people to interact with.
The third state here will be Lemoyne. Being the southernmost part of the map, Lemoyne is a swampland. You can visit the bayou here; I don’t know why you’d want to, as it’s full of crocodiles. The bayou is to be avoided, especially at night, as it’s a dangerous place full of Klan members and Nite Folk. There are even rumblings of ghosts being there, so that’s something to keep in mind. The land here is in conflict as it is ruled by two plantation families, the Grays, and the Braithwaites. These two families are always at odds with each other, and you can feel the tension in the air across the state. If you wish to take a break, then you can go to the town of Rhodes, which is much like Valentine but is drier and a little less friendly. “The Lemoyne Raiders” is the gang that patrols the entirety of this state, and they don’t take kindly to strangers like you, so always keep your gun loaded and be ready for confrontations. The crown jewel of the state of Lemoyne is the French city of Saint-Denis. The only city you’ll explore in this game. You can find factories, a huge police station, trams carrying passengers, electricity, and a bunch of fancy stores and salons here. The people of Saint-Denis are welcoming, but are cautious of country folk, and the law here is strict, so one mistake can land you behind bars for the night. Since it’s the most civilized and advanced place on the map, you better follow the rules and be on your best behavior, unless you are looking for trouble, that is. Interconnected buildings, courtyard gardens, shops with imported goods, tailors that make the highest quality suits, and bars that sell the most expensive booze are the things you can expect here. Overall, Lemoyne is a very southern state with humid weather, a gorgeous city, and conflicts around every corner.
West Elizabeth would be our next destination here, with the town of Blackwater being the center of attention. West Elizabeth is not only somewhat hilly but also has dense forests teeming with wildlife. The small hillside town of Strawberry, nestled between mountains, is the perfect holiday spot to spend some time in and soak in the beauty of West Elizabeth. Further north, you can visit Geddy’s Ranch in the Big Valley. Big Valley is perhaps the most beautiful place you can visit in the game. A long stretch of land surrounded by trees with a winding river running across it. Horses, deer, rabbits, and other wildlife can be found running around this area, and it is an extremely peaceful and visually stimulating place to be. The western side of West Elizabeth is where the land starts to get a little dry; an area called Tall Trees is the last lush point you’ll see, full of tall trees that are thick and dense enough to cover the sky. A dangerous gang called “The Skinners” that loves to torture and skin people call this place home, and you will encounter a large number of grizzly bears here, too, so it’s in your best interest to tread carefully around these parts. The last interesting place here is the town of Blackwater. Just like the other Western towns, Blackwater is small, quiet, and law-abiding. A shop that sells pre-made houses, a bank, the dock alongside the post office, the sheriff’s office, and the saloon are the places you can visit here and encounter chatty folk. The state of West Elizabeth is by far the most visually diverse and beautiful place in “Red Dead Redemption 2” and is a place you’d love to spend some time in.
Finally, we have the state of New Austin, which is pretty much a dry desert full of cacti, geckos, and rattlesnakes. Lifted straight from the first game, New Austin features the town of Armadillo, which is struck by a plague and is lifeless. Sick people roam the streets, and corpses lay in piles, ready to be burned. The town does have a working convenience store and a saloon, but you should avoid those unless you plan to get sick yourself. Further west, you’ll stumble across the town of Tumbleweed, which is booming thanks to the town sheriff being strict and forcing everyone to abide by the law. Not a lot can be said about Tumbleweed, as it ends where it begins and is a nice haven in the middle of the rugged, hot desert. Macfarlane’s Ranch is the last civilized spot to the east here, and as the name suggests, it is a ranch that provides all the needs of New Austin. The desert is a dangerous place on its own but is made even more dangerous thanks to the “El Diablo Loco” gang, which keeps it as lawless as possible. As hot and uninteresting as it can be, the state of New Austin does bring with it interesting places to see and people to meet, and it is a place you should visit every once in a while.
The world of “Red Dead Redemption 2” is marvelous on its own, but then there are also the people inhabiting it that make it very interesting. You can interact with just about anybody and find treasure maps, fulfill weird requests, save someone’s life, or get bamboozled by someone else. The interactivity on display here can be mind-numbing at times. Wildlife also deserves special mention, as there are over 200 different species of animals and over 30 different kinds of fish, all of which can be studied, hunted, or skinned. It’s not just you who interacts with the world here as the world itself moves on its own with houses being built, train tracks being constructed, trees being chopped, robberies happening, gang fights to ensue, and so many other things just organically happening whether you are a part of those events or not. Clouds move across the skies, and the weather and lighting change in accordance with them, with crazy rainstorms and thunder hitting the ground or fog covering the land with sunlight barely being able to pierce through. Day and night also influence the number of people and animals you’ll encounter. You can be an outlaw here, killing everyone and everything, or you can act like a tourist, taking trains, setting up camps, playing blackjack or poker, and just being there in the moment. You can live completely off the land by going fishing, hunting animals, and collecting herbs, or you can buy everything from a convenience store. The amount of choice, diversity, and beauty on offer here is what makes the world of “Red Dead Redemption 2” a place to visit and get lost in.