From a plot perspective, it isn’t as welcoming or better than the first. But, The Last of Us Part II still is a worthy entry in many other ways and worth playing through, despite the controversy.
It’s been two months since The Last of Us Part II has released and I’m not entirely sure why it took me this long to get a review up for it. To be quite honest, I did enjoy the game. I do understand the anger from the loyal fan base and in many ways, it’s completely justified. Maybe I was just gathering up my thoughts about it as a whole and trying to muster up my own opinion rather than caving into the mob mentality that this game is utter trash and should’ve never been made. Honestly though, this ignorant statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
Is the sequel better than the first game? No. But, did we really expect Part II to be better than a game that’s widely considered a masterpiece? I mean, The Last of Us is hard to top in terms of the narrative, the character development, and the gameplay/combat. In some ways though, I do think the game is superior though, and it all has to do with the gameplay.
The combat is vastly improved compared to the original in many ways. There are different weapons to use and different upgrades to each weapon, new items to craft and abilities to enhance, and the way you go about killing your enemies, both human and infected, is extremely creative. You can take your chances and go head on while risking the consequences, or you can be stealthy and take out the enemies in a more methodical and thought provoking way. There are so many ways to go about advancing in this game. You would have to spend hours trying to figure out all the different varieties of the game.
The first game had this, sure, but it was also a bit linear in its world exploration. You would go from one point to the next in order to move on to the next phase of the game. I would say Part II improves on this aspect in many ways, even if it still isn’t a full-fledged open world experience. There are certain sections of the game, especially early on, where the game takes advantage of this the most. There are many locations to explore, new weapons and items to find, and a number of dangerous enemies in the middle of all of it. I believe this is where the game is at its best.
Fans didn’t react negatively to this game because of how it’s played, though. In fact, I believe the majority of the criticism has everything to do with the narrative. I usually avoid spoilers since I believe most stories benefit the most from a first time experience rather than going in with pre-conceived notions. Unfortunately, this game may have been doomed from the beginning mainly because of the leaks that came before its release. If you haven’t played the game and don’t want the story ruined, then it might be a good time to navigate away from the page.
Most of you already know, but the biggest spoiler from the leak is Joel being killed by Abby. Although many details from the leaks ultimately ended up being false, some of the biggest ones were sadly true, including Joel’s fate. I tried to avoid the leaks, but social media is a monster nowadays and seeing them was inevitable. As a diehard fan of the first game, I was severely disappointed with this creative decision as many others were. However, I never considered not playing the game because it’s Naughty Dog we’re talking about here. Seeing all the fantastic work they’ve done throughout the years, it’s hard to even fathom the developer making a game that isn’t good. I still don’t agree with the direction they ultimately decided to take, but it’s one I’ve learned to live with, especially after playing through the game fully and reaching my own opinion on the game as a whole, rather than just certain pieces of it.
While most of us don’t agree with Joel’s death, we can’t say it doesn’t make sense, considering his actions in the first game. It’s hard to accept, of course, since most gamers tend to emotionally attach themselves to certain characters from many of our favorite games. But, again, he had this coming. I simply wish we had a bit more time with him before he was gone for good. I always expected him to die in this game, just not in the way he did, which was a bit abrupt and rushed.
As for the rest of the story, I believe it progresses pretty well. Ellie’s out for revenge and is completely ruthless in her approach. She kills everyone who was involved and doesn’t let anyone get in her way. With other characters aiding her along the way, such as Tommy, Joel’s brother, who’s also out for revenge, Dina, and Jesse, I can say these relationships are also developed in a unique way, even if they aren’t as fleshed out as the first. The only ones who really feel the most intimate are Ellie and Dina since they’re emotionally and intimately involved. Jesse comes in and out of the game, even though he does play a pivotal role in more ways than one. The same can be said about Tommy, who’s mostly causing havoc in the background. It’s safe to say Ellie’s story is somewhat fulfilled at the end.
Before I discuss that further, I also have to touch on the other character you play as, Abby. Digging into further spoilers, Abby is the one who kills Joel. The reason why is Joel killed her father, who was the doctor in Seattle who was trying to create a cure through Ellie, who is immune to becoming infected. These are the events of the first game and in the sequel, it all moves forward very fast, at least from Abby’s perspective. In many ways, it’s also a revenge story for Abby and you can also say that her story is more fulfilling, at least for her, than Ellie’s.
At first, it’s hard not to dislike Abby for what she’s done. But, as you continue playing as her in almost half the game, you learn more about who she is. She has a tough exterior and she’s been through quite a bit, but at the end of the day, she has a good heart, and this is shown in great detail when she meets two Seraphites (or Scars), Yara and Lev. The Seraphites (who I wish the game delved into a bit more) are a group/cult in the game who are complete savages and, in my opinion, deserve everything they got. Because of certain decisions made by Lev, they try to kill them and Abby basically saves their lives while them also saving hers. At that moment, you see who Abby truly is, which is seeing people for who they really are rather than who they are affiliated with.
At the end, both Ellie and Abby show a bit of restraint and, in many ways, shades of forgiveness. Both have done horrible things and both are out for revenge for events that transpire in the game. But, at the end of the day, when it comes down to acting on that anger, they’re both able to hold themselves back and let the other live. It may not be the conclusion many fans wanted, but you can sit there and say it doesn’t work or it’s bad writing. It may not be the ending or the story you wanted, but you can say the characters aren’t well though out and the story isn’t properly conveyed or written. Both of their lives are forever changed due to everything that has happened. I also believe there’s more stories to tell, especially from Abby’s perspective. There may be more to do with Ellie’s arc, but we’ll see what happens.
The Last of Us Part II worth the journey. It isn’t as great as the first and it shouldn’t have to be. It also isn’t the most ideal story many fans were expecting it to be. But, for me, it does work in many ways. I wish I got more time with Joel and I wish his story would’ve continued at least until later in the game. But, that’s why game developers are unique creators and why they’re successful. They take risks knowing very well they may get a ton of negative backlash.