You’re thrown into a bunker. Is there an exit? Probably. But it will take some time to get there because you didn’t spring for the caddy car you need to navigate your labyrinthian lair. I, an AAA RPG slut, recently dove into GTA Online in a real way for the first time. Soon after the flavorful character creation, I was thrust into the game’s reality. And I realized there would be no hand holding, no quest list, and no mercy.

Grand Theft Auto Online has one elegant premise, you are a bad guy: someone who’s not afraid to kill, but pretty afraid to die because you’ll have to re-do that quest’s cutscene. The early game is brutal for new players; every early job you pull gets you shot to hell by other players, some weirdo’s kid won’t stop talking on the open chat system, and navigating the map tab is a level of RPG madness I thought only reachable through Lord Sheogorath.  

There are really no hints on how to navigate the system to actually become the elite lord of Los Santos that you know you can be. Which is fine, the utter lack of narrative hand holding for new players is also what makes it an S-tier example of a true RPG. But there’s something that doesn’t feel great about having to google basic controls or how to find and navigate the damn menus.

Of course, this is PvP gaming, the learning curve is not insurmountable for new players, but it’s pretty f***in high. Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends; are all brutal PvP games where you’ll get picked off right away. Dying again and again until your cerebral cortex cobbles together some semblance of survival skills and you “git gud”. But those games all exist within very specific parameters. You are on an active battlefield: fight or die, that’s all there is. But the nuances and hard to navigate stories of GTA Online is where the game shines. The possibilities in the city are seemingly endless. In GTA Online the game is not just about killing, it’s about the least n00b friendly activity of all: building a life.

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