Mainly due to another game not actually being playable all weekend.
RDR2 has 3 main branches of activities. The main quest (MQ) is scripted like a very long interactive movie. It gates a lot of the other content in the game, and the activities you can undertake. So if you’re playing and wondering why something seems possible but isn’t, it’s usually due to the MQ.
A second branch is the stranger/sub-quest activities that present themselves. These are preset activities that you can undertake and open up nuance to the world around you. They are not as formal as the MQ since they rarely focus on the gang, but instead the world building around you. Some of these quests require you to explore the world to complete, such as finding dinosaur bones, legendary animals, or trading cards.
The third branch is the sandbox and random events. It has general directions but nothing specific or trackable. It could be that you get a tip about a house you can break into, or you meet up with a gang taking some hostages. It provides a significant amount of life to the world around you. One track of this is the upgrade system, which is predicated on collecting specific items – typically from hunting. Of great value are satchels, which improve your carrying capacity.
I opened up Saint Denis and Chapter 4. I figured with nearly all the map open and access to most weapons, I could focus on general character improvement. Camp has an upgrade location where you hand in perfect pelts and get credits for some decent upgrades (non-cosmetic). Some of these are easy (deer), some of them are hard (badger), all of them require work.
Hunting requires planning and preparation. To get perfect pelts, you need to find 3-star animals. First you need to find them! Some are really found in specific spaces (panther, badger) or spawn at certain times. They have a random chance to spawn with normal animals, but to detect them you first need to study the animal (with binoculars). To kill them, you need the right weapon: Bow + small game arrow, Varmint Rifle, or Scoped Rifle. If you don’t kill them in a single shot, or with the proper weapon, the quality of the pelt drops.
That sounds oddly simple. Did I mention that animals can hear and smell you? That they leave tracks you can follow? That predators hunt other prey? So the execution isn’t exactly straightforward. In particular for animals that are more cagey than others (damn squirrels).
For most animals, you can carry their pelt in your belt or on the back of the horse. For large animals (bison, elk, gator), you can only carry one at a time on the back of the horse. And stuff on the horse will disappear if you leave the horse for too long, or fall off if you stumble. Let’s just say it’s painful to hunt a Bison up north, then travel all the way south to hand it in, only to be ambushed on the road and lose the pelt.
The best part of hunting is that it forces you off the main road. This has you find some neat hidden spots in the world, and some extra story. Found an abandoned oil rig, where the owner was killed because he didn’t want to sell. Found a bunch of cannibals. Found some ghosts. Some hidden treasures. A jail break. Thieves blowing up a safe.
You really get to appreciate the finer details within the game. And there are a lot of details.