Red Dead Online Call to Arms: Essential Tips and Strategies for New Players

Polish your pistols and choose your favorite hat because it’s time to dive into Call to Arms, the exciting new PvE survival mode in Red Dead Online. The town of Strawberry is under attack, and it’s up to you and your posse to ride in and save the day, just like the climax of a classic Western film. Survival is the key, so here are some invaluable tips and tricks to help you conquer Call to Arms rounds in Red Dead Online.

What is Call to Arms in Red Dead Online?

Three players walking in Red Dead Online.
Image courtesy of Rockstar Games

Call to Arms is a wave-based PvE survival mode in Red Dead Online. You and up to three other players will battle through ten intense waves of enemies in one of five distinct areas on the Red Dead Online map. To succeed, you must utilize your custom loadouts, ability cards, and weapons and equipment obtained from the ground.

To access Call to Arms, simply head to any mailbox in the game and receive the Call to Arms telegram. Open your satchel, find the telegram, and read it to choose one of the five Call to Arms games to play, either solo or with your posse. If you choose to play solo, you will enter matchmaking. However, once the matchmaking is complete, you need to wait 40 minutes before playing again. But don’t worry, there’s a way to bypass this cooldown, which we’ll discuss later.

Call to Arms games can be lengthy, but the rewards make it worth the effort. Completing all ten rounds will award you one gold bar or ten gold nuggets per wave (100 nuggets can be converted into a gold bar). Surviving all ten waves without any mishaps will earn you $300. However, coming up short of completing all ten waves will significantly decrease your earnings. Additionally, you’ll gain over 2,300 XP points, making Call to Arms an effective but occasionally challenging path to level up for new players.

Why is it challenging? Well, unless you’re playing with high-level Red Dead Online friends, you may not have the necessary weapons, ability cards, or skills to survive Call to Arms on your own.

Call to Arms is structured like other wave-based survival games, such as the Zombie mode in Call of Duty. Each passing wave introduces stronger enemies, and eventually, enemies on horseback and armored carriages with mounted machine guns. The number of enemies per wave remains the same, regardless of the number of players. Whether you’re playing alone or with a full four-person posse, you’ll face the same number of foes.

Tips and Tricks

Prepare for Battle

A female player crafts by a fire in Red Dead Online.
Image used with permission by the copyright holder

Success in Call to Arms starts before you even begin the game. Here are some essential preparations to make before starting a Call to Arms game in Red Dead Online:

Clean Your Weapons

The importance of clean weapons is emphasized early on in the Red Dead Redemption 2 campaign, and it’s equally crucial in Red Dead Online. Cleaning your guns enhances damage output, fire rate, and reload speed, which are all vital for surviving Call to Arms. Make sure to stock up on gun oil to clean each of your weapons at a gunsmith, general store, or trapper.

Cook Food and Tonics

While there are healing options scattered around each Call to Arms map, it’s essential to enter the game with full cores and items to keep them replenished. This means crafting powerful tonics and cooking the best food. Here are some recommendations for what to consume in Red Dead Online:

  • Potent Miracle Tonic: This tonic fully replenishes your health, stamina, and dead eye cores with just one swig. Craft Potent Miracle Tonics over a fire using Indian Tobacco, Sage, and Ginseng. Keep a few of these on hand and drink them between rounds. Consume one before the first wave starts, but hold off on drinking another until you sense the difficulty increasing around waves 4 or 5. Make sure to have plenty available for the later stages of the game.
  • Minty Big Game: This food choice further boosts your health cores. When combined with health tonics, it makes you nearly invincible. Obtain big game meat from large animals like alligators and cougars.
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Craft Special Ammo

Once you have enough food, it’s time to stock up on special ammo, especially explosive ammo. As the rounds progress, you’ll realize the immense value of this specialized ammunition.

Reset Your Awards

Go to the Awards menu and locate the Sharpshooter category. Reset any completed awards (marked by a gold symbol) to complete them again for additional rewards. Resetting awards is an effective way to earn extra gold during lengthy Call to Arms games. The sharpshooter challenges, which involve killing NPCs, are particularly easy to complete in Call to Arms.

Deploy Friendly NPCs

Upon loading into a Call to Arms game, you’ll have a five-minute preparation period to gather ammo. During this time, you can also strategically position friendly non-playable characters (NPCs) around the map to hold choke points and provide cover from rooftops. Interact with an NPC and select the “Follow Me” option to get them to follow you. Once in position, interact again and instruct them to stop following.

NPCs are incredibly useful in Call to Arms, as they contribute to eliminating enemies. However, expect them to survive only until around the eighth round. If all the friendly NPCs die, you won’t receive any penalties. Placing them near cover or on rooftops increases their chances of survival, which, in turn, improves your own. If you plan on camping on a rooftop, it’s wise to take one or two NPCs with you.

Best Ability Cards for Call to Arms

An outlaw wields a shotgun in Red Dead Online.
Image used with permission by the copyright holder

Ability cards are akin to perks in Call of Duty loadouts. They grant passive bonuses that complement your playstyle, and selecting the right ones is crucial for success in Call to Arms. Since survivability is paramount in this mode, focus on ability cards that boost health regeneration and reduce damage taken. Remember, you can only choose one Dead Eye card and a combination of three passive cards. Here are some excellent choices:

Dead Eye Ability Cards

  • Paint it Black: “While Dead Eye is active, you can mark targets on enemies and shoot them with precise shots. Each shot consumes Dead Eye.” Similar to Dead Eye in the campaign, this card allows you to mark enemies with a small black X before firing at them.
  • Quite an Inspiration: “While Dead Eye is active, you and your allies regenerate health. However, the effects do not stack if multiple team members have this ability active.” Since the effects do not stack, it’s best to coordinate with your posse to avoid redundancy. It’s still useful for matchmaking to ensure you have it when needed.
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Passive Ability Cards

  • Gunslinger’s Choice (yellow): “While dual-wielding, you deal more damage and have better accuracy.” Dual-wielding pistols is the way to go in Call to Arms, making this card extremely powerful.
  • Sharpshooter (yellow): “While using a scope, you deal more damage and take less damage.” Sniper rifles are your best friends on most Call to Arms maps.
  • Iron Lung (green): “Your stamina regenerates faster, and you take less damage depending on your current stamina level.” With plenty of tonics at your disposal, this card helps you avoid excessive tonic usage by boosting your overall damage resistance. As long as you’re not sprinting excessively, your stamina will remain close to full at all times.
  • Strange Medicine (green): “You regain a small amount of health whenever you inflict damage. Your health will otherwise regenerate at half the usual rate.” Since you’re constantly dealing damage, this card ensures a steady recovery of health. In Call to Arms, survival matters more than damage output.
  • Fool Me Once (blue): “You take less damage each time you are consecutively shot. The effect ends if you don’t get hit for 10 seconds.” This card is especially useful when sniping a machine gunner out of a carriage, particularly when combined with the Sharpshooter card.
  • The Unblinking Eye (blue): “Dead Eye and Eagle Eye drain at a slower rate.” This card barely made the list and is handy for beginner players who don’t have access to the best tonics. Keeping Dead Eye full can be a lifesaver in dire situations.

Special Enemy Units

Arthur Morgan mounts a machine gun in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Image used with permission by the copyright holder

As mentioned earlier, Call to Arms progressively becomes more challenging with each wave. Enemies become sturdier, and special units start to make appearances. It’s essential to prioritize dealing with these special enemies before focusing on the regular enemies.

Whenever your mini-map pulses, you know there’s a sniper nearby. They are marked on the map, and you’ll also notice their sniper glint. NPCs will alert you with voice lines, and you’ll hear your heartbeat when a sniper has you in their sights. With all these warnings, don’t let a sniper spoil your Call to Arms game.

Machete-wielding enemies charge you with their blades. While they may sound intimidating, they are actually quite weak and easy to eliminate. If you happen to get killed by one, it likely means you weren’t paying enough attention.

Heavy armor enemies wear steel bucket hats, resembling the Black Knight from Monty Python or the Vanguard Class in Chivalry 2. They require quite a few bullets to take down and carry a dangerous shotgun. Avoid letting them get too close under any circumstances. Fortunately, their armor slows them down, making them vulnerable targets in the open field.

Enemies will eventually arrive on horseback, but they are not significantly harder to kill. Aim for headshots and eliminate them while they’re still mounted. However, three enemies will ride in on carriages, so focus on shooting the drivers to stop them in their tracks. Eventually, these carriages will be armed with mounted machine guns. In that case, prioritize taking out the gunner, as they can cause considerable harm to you and your teammates. A sniper shot or a well-placed stick of dynamite will do the trick.

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Map-Specific Enemies and Events

Apart from armored enemies on horseback, certain maps feature unique enemies to watch out for. In Strawberry, dogs will attack you, and on MacFarlane’s Ranch, a train carrying machine gunners will pass by. However, the most dangerous map-specific enemies are the cannon operators at Fort Mercer. A direct hit from their cannonballs can instantly kill you, so snipe them from afar to neutralize the threat.

Map Strategies

A cowboy takes cover in Red Dead Online.
Image courtesy of Rockstar Games

Call to Arms takes place on five different maps in Red Dead Online: Strawberry, Blackwater, MacFarlane’s Ranch, Valentine, and Fort Mercer. In general, you can adopt a similar approach on each map. Seek out a rooftop or high ground, and use your sniper skills to secure victory. However, in the narrow alleyways of Valentine and Strawberry, having a shotgun ready is essential to deal with enemies that might surprise you around corners.

Horses spawn in various locations on each map, so take advantage of them to swiftly eliminate enemies in the early rounds. As with any wave-based game, the faster you clear the first few rounds, the better. However, once armed enemies start appearing, it’s best to abandon your horse and find a secure spot on a rooftop.

Aim for Headshots

It goes without saying that headshots are crucial in Call to Arms. Your ammunition supply will deplete faster than you expect, and while it may take four or five body shots to kill enemies as they become stronger, a single headshot can eliminate most foes.

Keep Track of Ammo Boxes

Ammo crates are scattered throughout each Call to Arms map. While these crates refill between rounds, they only provide standard ammo. Therefore, avoid wasting any special ammo during the early rounds. Use up your regular ammo first, and then replenish it by collecting more before the next wave begins.

It’s useful to leave one enemy alive at the end of each round, giving you and your posse more time to gather ammo. Unfortunately, there’s always a chance that an NPC will kill that final enemy, so this trick doesn’t always work.

Cooldown Work-Around

There is a way to bypass the 40-minute cooldown in Call to Arms, but you’ll need a few friends to participate. The cooldown only applies to the posse leader. Therefore, after the game ends, have one of your friends start a new posse. They can then invite you to join a Call to Arms game, allowing you to continue playing without waiting for the original posse leader’s cooldown. With this strategy, you can keep running Call to Arms games, as they usually take between 20 and 30 minutes. Having at least three friends involved works well, but for the best results, gather a group of four.

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