Spoilers for The Last of Us, The Last of Us Part II and The Walking Dead Ahead: When I experienced The Last of Us in 2014, I experienced a roller […]
Spoilers for The Last of Us, The Last of Us Part II and The Walking Dead Ahead:
When I experienced The Last of Us in 2014, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. The introduction scene set the tone of the game by letting the player know they were going to be emotionally devastated by the end of their journey. Tess, Henry, and Sam all died in different but sad ways. However, by the end of your journey, Joel shows that the only thing the mattered to him was saving Ellie and you have a sense of hope as they approach their new lives in Jackson together.
Before diving into the story of The Last of Us Part II, I want to discuss what I thought about the other parts of the game. The animations were the best I have ever seen in a video game. The graphics would be the best I have seen this generation if I had the option to turn off the film grain. The soundtrack was just as amazing as the first game’s score. The acting was top of the line with a stellar cast. Majority of the flashbacks are excellent and give time to characters that didn’t get as much time as they deserved. Exploration around the world was rewarded with interesting dialogue, easter eggs, and even a few hidden cut scenes. I did feel like the safes that could be unlocked through out the game were way to similar. The only exception to that was for one of the safes, you have to break open a vending machine to find an extra soda that has a clue on it. My one other grievance with the game is that I wish we saw less time in Seattle. Don’t get me wrong, Seattle looks incredible but I think spending over half the game in one city is a little bit to much. I think the journey to Seattle and/or Santa Barbra deserved more time. I also feel just a little more time in Jackson could have benefited newer players so they could bond with Joel a little bit more.
The Last of Us Part II starts off with Joel telling his brother Tommy about what really happened to his former group who went by the fireflies (Joel killed them all because they wanted to kill Ellie to find a cure since she was immune). When Tommy gets back to Jackson, he tells Joel that he will bring what they talked about to the grave because he knows that Joel just wants to move on from what happened at the end of the first installment.
For the next section of the game, the player switches between playing as Ellie and Abby. Ellie shows a day in the life of a typical able body person in Jackson. Through Ellie we meet both Dina and Jessie who later become essential characters to the story. Unfortunately we don’t see this side of life as long as I wished we would have. The player spends about 15 minutes exploring Jackson before heading off on a patrol. When we switch protagonists, Abby reveals that her group is searching for a male that lives in Jackson (later revealed to be Tommy so they could eventually find Joel). Luckily for them, Abby runs right into the two of them when she is being chased by a horde. What are the odds of that! After Abby, Joel and Tommy all work together to temporarily escape the horde, they decide that they will go to Abby’s camp because they won’t be able to make it back to Jackson in time. As many of you know because of leaked game-play that came out months before launch, Ellie gets to the house just in time to watch Abby execute Joel with a golf club.
This scene hurt me. I replayed The Last of Us right before the launch of its sequel to get reinvested in all of the characters. I remembered how good the relationship that Ellie and Joel had in the first game. It was ripped away before I even got the chance for their relationship to grow again. The worst part about it all is that like many, I knew this scene was going to happen but it still hurt. When The Last of Us Part II leaked, I tried to avoid it. Unfortunately the twitter trolls were to strong. It only took two days until an Abby meme showed up on a thread that was about universal basic income (absolutely nothing related to gaming). However, when the cast and critics of the game started to say that the leaks weren’t telling the full story, it really got my brain moving. I went back to old trailers and saw clips of an older Joel in scenes that would have to happen later in the story. I had theories where maybe Joel some how survived but unfortunately those were incorrect. In the end, the two times we see Joel in the trailer were there to throw us off. The one scene is swapped over to Jessie in the main game. The location and lines stay the same.
The other scene was when Joel rides to St. Mary after Ellie sneaks out in the middle of the night to go there. In the trailer, we see a Joel who looks like the older Joel we see in the first bit of the game. The version we see in the full release of the game looks a lot more like the younger Joel we all know and love from the original game. There is also the fact that Abby is barely seen in any of the trailers. We see her in one promo and that is it. There is never any mention of the fact that you will play half the game as her.
Could have Naughty Dog done this on purpose just to deceive people? Probably. Could have Naughty Dog had a different vision for the game originally and changed it? Also possible. If you look at the art work from the “extras” screen in-game, we see Ellie at locations such as the hospital basement (during the epic boss fight we do as Abby, not from the Nora chase) and the island during the WLF invasion. During an interview in Indiewire.com, it was confirmed that in a previous version of the game, Ellie did travel to the island but we have no idea if you would have still played as Abby in that version of the game.
I struggled with playing as Abby originally. You take a good six hour break from being Abby and then you are brought right back to her after she shoots Jesse and holds Ellie and Tommy at gun point. The flashback of her at the zoo showing her dad save the zebra (my favorite animal) made me feel partially bad for what Joel took from her. Abby’s dad seemed like a guy who just wanted to have the world go back to normal no matter the cost. Those feelings go away once you start playing as Seattle as Abby and Joel’s death is brought back up. There are moments during day 1 of Abby that I enjoy like when Mel’s dog is a complete bad ass and the fact that we can see the Washington Liberation Front from a different perspective (they aren’t the one sided bad guys that Ellie’s point of view makes them out to be). But it takes me until the middle of day 2 to actually start to care about Abby as a character. Abby spends a lot of time bonding with Lev and has some of the best set pieces of the entire game during these two days. But that eventually ends and you go right back to the moment where Jesse was shot. They put this scene right after Abby finds out that Ellie killed Owen, a pregnant Mel, and her dog (in self defense). I feel the need to add that the dog’s death hurt so much more then Owen and Mel dying. Not that I didn’t care about either of their characters. I just had problems with things that both of them do as we play as Abby while the dog is perfect. Anyway, Naughty Dog obviously wants the player to be mad at Ellie at this point of the game but it feels so out of place trying to kill Ellie as Abby after you watch her shoot Tommy in the head (a character we have known since the original game!). I am prompted on screen to spam buttons to punch Ellie but I obviously don’t have any interest in wanting to see Ellie die. Abby was ready to kill a pregnant Dina but is thankfully stopped by Lev. This is now the second time that Abby has left Ellie to live after killing one of her friends right in front of her.
The game then fast forwards to farm life. Ellie and Dina live on a farm on the outskirts of Jackson. Dina has had her child and names him JJ after Jesse. Things seem happy and it appears like Ellie has finally moved on but during an accident while herding the sheep, Ellie sees Joel’s smashed face in her head. Ellie hasn’t been eating or sleeping much and can not stop thinking about Joel. We get our last happy moment of the game when it is revealed that Tommy survived his shot to the head. Things however go downhill from there. Tommy is blind in one eye, struggles to walk without a limp, and is taking a break with his wife, Maria. Tommy has a lead on Abby’s location (even though it is a complete long shot, which foils pretty well with Abby from the start of the game where she had a lead on Joel). Tommy goes off on Ellie when Dina doesn’t want Ellie going on this search similar to how Ellie acted to Tommy at the start of the game as well. Ellie leaves in the night against Dina’s wishes which also foils with Tommy’s situation from the start of the game.
I had some hope brought back into me during this part of the game. We were finally back as Ellie and I was expecting to be able to experience her journey across a few states. Unfortunately, just like Ellie and Dina’s trip to Seattle, its a time skip. Reading Ellie’s journal talks about passing places like Las Vegas which I thought could have been super interesting. I would have preferred to have more locations on the journey to Seattle and Santa Barbra rather then playing those three days in Seattle as Abby. I think the story of Abby’s point of view could have worked better as a DLC or a standalone expansion similar to Uncharted Lost Legacy.
Ellie finally finds a weakened Abby and Lev who were both captured by slavers after they tried to find the newly formed fireflies. However, Ellie isn’t in the best shape after getting impaled by a tree branch when she gets stuck in a trap. Ellie does some bad ass stuff to escape the trap by throwing one of the slavers into a trapped infected and then shoots the other. When the other slaver sees the Ellie was bit, he tells her what direction to head. Ellie eventually frees the other slaves who tell her Abby was sent to the beach pillars after trying to escape. After Ellie cuts her down, Abby has no interest in fighting Ellie and just wants to leave with Lev. Ellie eventually gets her to fight with her after threatening Lev. Ellie gets two of fingers bitten off but had Abby at her mercy in the ocean waves. Ellie remembers her last conversation with Joel and decides to let Abby leave. The only thing I can compare this to was Rick letting Negan survive during The Walking Dead because of a conversation he had with his son Carl who had passed away earlier in the show. It is worth mentioning, that during the interview mentioned earlier, Neil Druckmann confirmed that the original ending of the game had Ellie killing Abby during their final fight.
Ellie returns back to the farmhouse to find it abandoned. Ellie goes to her art room to find all of her belongings inside. Ellie picks up her guitar and tries to play it but messes up on a few notes because she is missing two of her fingers.
The way that I have decided to look at the ending is this: Ellie is on the verge of having her biggest fear become reality. Being alone. Everyone she has ever cared about has either died or left her. We see Ellie put the guitar down and leave the house. Ellie could be going anywhere but I am going to assume that she is going back to Jackson to win Dina back. I want to assume that Ellie is finally at peace with Joel’s death since she let Abby go but who knows. They leave the ending open to interpret. The ending left me wanting more and I felt empty on the inside. Could you imagine any other story where the main theme is revenge, not ending with vengeance? I get that Naughty Dog wanted to do something different and they wanted to break the cycle of revenge but I would have honestly preferred for Abby and Ellie to kill each other on the beach rather then the ending we got. Abby and Lev are on their way now to join the fireflies. I can’t stop to think about all of the WLF npcs who were killed along the way who were essentially innocent. All of them died because of what Abby did to Joel but she gets off the hook? What about all the WLF members that Abby herself killed when she was protecting Lev on the island? I mean that was worse then Joel killing a bunch of strangers he never met to save Ellie since he at least knew Ellie for more then a day and a half. The only way I can look at this ending and be satisfied is the fact that Abby lost everyone that was close to her besides Lev. I really wish Tommy didn’t pressure Ellie to follow the lead about Abby being in Santa Barbra. If she didn’t go there, Abby would have died on that pillar judging off the bodies that we see rotting away next to her.
To summarize my opinion on the game. Everything was amazing besides the writing. I see what Naughty Dog was going for and a lot of people will enjoy what they did with the story but I personally couldn’t enjoy the second half as the game as much as the first. I struggled to relate with Abby and rooted against her while playing as her which threw things off. In my eyes, this game is a 7/10 if you played The Last of Us Part I. If you are someone who hasn’t gotten the chance to bond with Joel and Ellie, you will enjoy this game a lot more.
Mike from TGP will also be writing an article giving his thoughts on the ending sometime this week but based off conversations I have had with him, I know we agree that the ending left a bad taste in both of our mouths.