Its been 8 weeks since I have beaten The Last of Us Part II and it has taken every bit of those 8 weeks to truly process everything that Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog gave us with this sequel. The Last of Us Part II was an emotional roller coaster that tests every bit of one’s emotions. From start to finish, Neil Druckmann didn’t let up.
Caution - If you have not played the game yet, but plan to, you may want to stop reading as there will be major spoilers in the is article
This game is really a tale of two people. The first half of the game we are following Ellie on her journey. It is very much a story of revenge that is set off by an extremely tragic event, especially for fans of the series. The death of Joel was met with a lot of fan backlash. Instead of trusting in the story, some refused to even play the game due to a “leak”. Not going to lie, I felt the rage that came with Joel’s death; wanting to enact the same revenge Ellie was setting out to do. However, over the course of Ellie’s portion of the game, I began to change and often wonder how much is truly enough? The body counts, questionable torture, and the downright brutality that Ellie exhibits sometimes make you wish you were not forced to do what the game has you doing. Of all the destruction, the killing of a pregnant woman was one of the worst moments. It was in that moment that I thought Ellie was lost forever. In the quest to hunt down the elusive Abbie, she managed to lose part of her soul. Now no revenge story is without the possibility of redemption. Ellie finally realizes it is time to go home and end it all. It was in this moment that I felt Ellie was doing what I wanted her to do half way through the story, which was to just head home to be happy with Dina. You get to a point where Ellie and Dina has settled down and they are raising Dina and Jesse’s baby. They have a little farmhouse and have a happy life. It isn’t until Tommy shows up, needing Ellie’s help to hunt Abby, that the thought of finishing what was started comes back. Ellie is given a choice, stay and be happy, or leave and have nothing to come back to. As much love as Ellie has for Dina and the baby, she feels the need to leave. This moment was probably one of the saddest moments for me. I did not want Ellie to leave and knew that whatever destruction she was about to dish out, she was never coming back the same. She was truly becoming the monster that revenge has made her to be.
When looking at Abby. I hated her with how brutally she killed Joel. Her quest was very much a story of revenge. Even though she lets everyone live after she kills Joel, I still hated playing as her. To me she killed off a character that I really liked. With that though, I wanted to give the rest of the story a chance, because like all Naughty Dog and Neil Druckmann games, there is always a method to the madness. I still was not a fan of Abby throughout the first day of her story. It was not until she felt guilty for leaving Lev and his sister behind, that I really started to see Abby as someone that could find redemption. Abby, does what it takes to not only save Lev, but also his sister. She is willing to lie and steal from her own faction to save someone from a rival faction; someone she was taught to hate. Further more, when she finds out that Dina is pregnant, she lets both Dina and Ellie walk away. Acting like a parent wanting the best for her child, Abby heads down near Santa Barbara, CA in an attempt to find a rumored group of Fireflys. Unfortunately it proves to be a fake rumor and it causes both her and Lev to be taken captive and forced into slavery. It took Ellie, with her thirst for finishing what she started, to free Abby and Lev. However, Ellie flips the script and fights a very slimmed down and almost malnourished Abby. Even in the end Abby did not want to fight, she just wanted to leave and get Lev to safety. This moment was the culmination in a journey for Abby that I came to love. Seeing her go from someone that was wrecked by the obsession to kill Joel, to someone that has genuine love for another human being, made me tear up. I would never expect a story that had people at two different places to complete a 180 and end the story where the opposite person was to start it.
The gameplay mechanics were similar to that of The Last of Us. To level up abilities, you still need to collect pills, however you gain new abilities by finding manuals. Now there is no right or wrong way to level up as each person’s play style will dictate which part of the skills trees you go with. The work benches make a return as well, and just like The Last of Us, you need to use parts found in the world to upgrade your weapons. One of my favorite weapons to upgrade was the bow because the upgrades are real world upgrades for a recurve bow. All upgrades were very practical for each gun.
A couple of new features are the ability to jump as well as the ability to use ropes. The rope mechanic is simplistic when compared to the grappling hook from Uncharted 4. The ability to jump allowed for additional level design, including jumping between building and levels of buildings, but also adding the ability to silent kill enemies from above. Stealth has always been a key piece of surviving this cruel world. To go along with new forms of infested, Naughty Dog gave players new weapons and mine/grenade type weapons. A couple of these weapons are the flamethrower, silenced submachine gun, and the trap mine. One of the most intriguing additions to the game was the ability to play the guitar. During one scene, Ellie plays an acoustic version of “Take on me” by A-ha.
Overall, this game is an amazing game. From the detailed set pieces and character design to the emotional roller coaster of a story, Neil Druckmann and the team at Naughty Dog delivered. For many, this game is not only on Game of the Year lists, but also Game of the Generation lists. With all the vitriol that surrounded this game, this game still shines through. I think anyone that enjoyed the first game or is a fan of the series should play this game and let their opinion form. Although this game is truly not for everyone with the level of violence in the game, it is definitely one that myself and the rest of the podcast team recommend. if this was the end of the journey for Ellie and this world, I would be okay with it because Neil gave us an ending to this installment that could serve as an overall ending to the games. Only time will tell if Naughty Dog has Ellie and Abby both come back, or they let them ride off into the sunset. Either way, I hope they both look for the light.