Red Dead Online got a major update last week. The update is all about wildlife, giving players new ways to interact with critters. It’s a nice addition that makes me think about the game’s world in a new way.
Players have been waiting a while for this update, which arrived on July 28. The update adds a new role, the Naturalist. To become a Naturalist, players need to head to the small town of Strawberry and speak to Harriet Davenport. When you meet her, via a cutscene, you also meet Gus MacMillan, a man who loves to hunt and who will pay anyone for animal parts. After talking to Harriet, and spending 25 gold bars, you can work with her to study and photograph all the wildlife in the game. This is still Red Dead Online though, so if you want to you can kill everything and bring it to Gus for various rewards, like new outfits. Harriet will become angry if you do this and will insult players who have recently killed animals. If you kill too many animals in a short amount of time she might even spray you with a hallucinogenic chemical and leave, after which she refuses to do business with you for a while.
As a Naturalist, you have a few different ways to study and learn about animals. The simplest is to creep up to a deer or a fox and get close enough to “study” it, which involves locking on to it and holding R1 or RB for a few seconds. There are a few more advanced ways to learn even more about animals as well. You can use the newly added sedative rounds to tranquilize larger critters, like wolves and elk. Once it has collapsed, you can take a blood sample. These samples are prized by Harriet, who will pay you in both XP and cash for them. For smaller animals, you can use the new advanced camera to snap pictures of them to learn more. All of this information is added to your Animal Field Guide, which you get when you become a Naturalist.
A nice and small thing Naturalists unlock: The ability to mercy kill animals. Before, if you dropped a highly rated animal but didn’t kill it you had two options. You could let it bleed out and cry for a minute or more and then skin it when it died. Or you could shoot it one more time and ruin its pelt. Now, players who reach rank 5 of the Naturalist role can mercy kill wounded animals, a feature I’m very happy for. No more waiting awkwardly near a dying animal to skin it.
I’ve enjoyed my time as a Naturalist. Roles in Red Dead Online are great for adding big new bits of content, as well as giving old content a new purpose. RDO has always had lots of highly detailed and impressively animated creatures roaming the woods and mountains. Most of the time you just ride by them or shoot them from afar. This new update gives players a reason to slow down and really look at all the critters in the world, both big and small. For instance, I saw a toad on the edge of the river shortly after becoming a Naturalist. Before this update, I would have run right by it. But as a Naturalist, I stopped to study it, admiring its animation and how it was exploring the mud and plants. It was a great reminder of just how detailed and alive the world of RDO is.
Of course, you can still kill animals after becoming a Naturalist, even though it upsets Harriet. The update added some new legendary animals to hunt down or to study, depending on what rewards you want to earn. There are also some new missions that ask players to free animals from gangs of poachers. Harriet might not like you killing animals, but she has no problems with you murdering people.
The update also adds the game’s third Outlaw Pass, Red Dead’s take on a battle pass. The last one had 100 ranks and cost 40 gold. This one only has 75 ranks but still costs 40 gold. This is a little strange, since the first Outlaw Pass also had 75 ranks but cost players only 35 gold. The rewards are the usual mix of new clothing items, bonuses, money, and emotes. I didn’t see anything too exciting, but a new Outlaw Pass is always welcome. It helps give me something to work on each time I log on until the pass expires on October 19.
As the first big update since December 2019, players had a lot of expectations for this release. While the Naturalist role is a nice new way to interact with animals, it feels like a step back after last year’s large Moonshiners update, which included a mini-campaign, multiple cutscenes, a new business, and purchasable bars. In comparison, this new update feels smaller and not entirely worth the wait. I’m happy to have a new role in RDO that isn’t just about killing people and making money, though. I hope we see more diverse roles like this in the future.