Thought Corner: The Last Of Us Part 2

Hello and welcome to all you beautiful people. The time has come at last. It’s time to talk about The Last Of Us: Part 2. A game that has greatly divided the community. Today we’re going to look at the many different aspects of the game and touch on the parts that have sparked rage in many fans. So without further ado let’s get into it.

Spoiler Warning!

For any non Playstation players or those who might not know, The Last Of Us: Part 2 is the long awaited sequel to, you guessed it, The Last Of Us. Fans have eagerly awaited this sequel since the initial release of the first game back in 2013. Well maybe not all of them; some think a sequel was unnecessary. That might be true but Joel and Ellie’s story touched so many hearts that people wanted more, I certainly did. In June 2020 developers Naughty Dog and writer and director Neil Drunkmen released what fans had been waiting for. The reception was… mixed. A number of critics and fans praised the game, whilst a good dose of players felt disappointed.

Visuals

The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Granted graphics don’t make or break a game but they certainly help. Loyal fans look back on The Last Of Us and remember the incredible locations and stunning views. 7 years later this post-apocalyptic world looks more beautiful than ever. An example of how much the graphics have improved can be seen right from the off set with the scene of Joel saving Ellie in Salt Lake City. The 2020 version displays huge improvements: sharper visuals, the lighting and shading and the characters looking even closer to real people. We’re verging on an era where video games look so real they just become playable movies. Making it difficult to tell whether it’s computer generated or live action. With some games already achieving this feat.

There are so many stunning views it’d be hard to pick a favourite. Near the top world be at the beginning; Jackson with and without snow. Gorgeous. Most of the sights to see are within a beautifully destroyed Seattle. Stunning in it’s own way.

https://www.ign.com/articles/the-last-of-us-2-walkthrough-chapter-1-jackson-patrol

With the large buildings and spaces to admire it’s easy to get swept away looking around, missing all the intricate tiny details. This game is full of details. The team behind The Last Of Us Part 2 clearly put a lot of work into it. Some examples include leaving footprints in the snow, Ellie squinting when zooming in, clothes and hair when in contact with water, blood seeping through bandages, Ellie physically puts things in her backpack. There is so much more. Things that take multiple playthroughs to notice.

Gamplay

The gameplay skeleton is still there, the way you learnt to play in The Last Of Us. Building on that skeleton, the developers added some things and altered others. A major change is the ability to go prone. Instead of just crouching you can also go prone letting you crawl around in tall grass, making it harder for you to be seen. You can also shoot whilst prone. Play your cards right and you can clear out an area by being on your stomach. If you’re forced into hand to hand combat with infected or other survivors it’s made easier with the ability to dodge attacks. You can even dodge Clickers from grabbing you. A detail that should’ve been there from the beginning.

You play as two different characters which, of course, have different play You play as two different characters which, of course, have different play styles, weapons and craftables. Ellie is built for stealth and hiding. She still has her unbreakable knife, perfect for stealth takedowns. She can craft trip mines, place them and lure unsuspecting enemies to them. In addition Ellie can craft smoke bombs used for either escaping, hiding or running in for an attack. The standout Ellie specific guns are the bow and hunting rifle. Bow is the obvious choice for stealth, arrows are easily crafted. The hunting rifle is powerful and easy to aim. Finally Ellie can swim now. Is it bad they took away one of her weaknesses? No. Not only would it be a bit frustrating for the player to maneuver around a flooding city as a character who can’t swim but living in a post-apocalypse world knowing how to swim would increase your survivability. Also Joel would’ve been a terrible dad if he didn’t teach her. He gets flashbacks to manueving her around on a pallet and that one time she almost drowned. Ellie feels like a more developed version of her setup in the first game. It’s good that she isn’t a carbon copy of Joel. The developers made her her own character.

Abby is the one that feels closer to Joel in her set up. She’s built for aggressive play. She has to craft shivs which means you have to use them Abby is the one that feels closer to Joel in her set up. She’s built for aggressive play. She has to craft shivs which means you have to use them carefully. Pretty much need to save them for Clickers similarly to the first game. Her craftable throwable is a pipe bomb, a very direct explosive. Some Abby exclusive weapons are the flamethrower, a double barrel shotgun and a crossbow. Unlike Ellie’s bow, ammo for the crossbow can’t be crafted. So aim for those headshots. The double barrel shotgun is powerful and good to have if been swarmed. The flamethrower is the best weapon to use against Bloaters, a luxury Ellie doesn’t get. Abby has a fear of heights, not quite crippling but it’s extreme. Her phobia is seen several times throughout the game.

In order to unlock new skill trees you have to find training manuels shattered throughout the game. A cool way of doing it. Ellie’s skill trees are more stealth focused where as Abby’s is fighting and weapons based. Refelecting the set ups the developers made for each character.

The gameplay in The Last Of Us always felt a bit repetitive, Part 2 is similar in that regard. Some enemies have been added that change the dynamic a bit but ultimately it’s still the same. You go from one group of enemies, whether infected or survivor, to another; killing them either in stealth or head on. It must be difficult to play The Last Of Us 2 with a pacifist approach, especially since some enemies you have to kill. Between enemy encounters is either story progression and/or supply gathering. There are some very minor bits of puzzle solving. Restarting a generator or getting to an area for supplies and collectables.

The improvements to the gameplay in Part 2 did make enemy encounters more enjoyable. Going prone being a big help. Two things there should’ve been more of are areas where water is used as cover and having the ability/choice to send infected after enemy survivors. Overall like most people I don’t play this series for the gameplay. The story and characters are what most people want.

Enemies

Let’s talk about the enemies. First the survivors; we have the WLF, Let’s talk about the enemies. First the survivors; we have the WLF, Seraphites (Scars) and Rattlers. All have both male and female soldiers. Yes there is gender equality in the groups of enemies you slaughter. Progress. The developers have also named all of these survivors across all factions. No longer can gamers go on guilt free killing sprees of nameless fodder. Although fighting them isn’t all that different, each faction has their own personalities and way of survival.

The WLF don’t live all that differently to Jackson. They have agriculture and power. Unlike Jackson they are fighting a civil war. They’ve formed an The WLF don’t live all that differently to Jackson. They have agriculture and power. Unlike Jackson they are fighting a civil war. They’ve formed an army/melicia to protect their people against the infected and the Seraphites. The WLF are the first to introduce dogs as an enemy. Dogs can follow your scent trail, allowing them to quickly find your hiding spot. Really you want to take them out as quickly as possible. At first I felt bad about killing the dogs but swiftly got over that when they became annoying. Use explosive arrows to take out both the dog and they’re handler. No longer a problem.

The Seraphites are a religious group at war with the WLF. They verge on cult territory. All follow the teachings of a woman who believed she was a prophet. Their primary weapons are melee and bows and arrows. They have a few guns but it goes against their rules to not use anything from the ‘old world’. During combat they communicate using whistles. Getting hit with an arrow slows you down and you have to pull it out. Seraphites have a unique enemy. A bigger person with a sledgehammer. They’re a little bit harder to take down. Ellie can’t engage them in melee combat so best to shoot them. Abby however can and faces off with one on Seraphite island that just does not want to die.

The last faction are at the tail end of the game, the Rattlers. At first I thought these people were cannibals but now I’m not so sure. They take people they find in Santa Barbara prisoner but I don’t know what they do with them. Abby and Lev were there for a few days before they left them to die. The Rattlers didn’t seem like good people. Getting enjoyment out of hurting people and teasing the infected aren’t good signs. They might have kept infected as pets. This group didn’t have any new enemies, too late in the game, but they had dogs. Plus they had infected chained up, giving you the option to release them upon the survivors during encounters.

Speaking of infected, there have been some very good additions and changes. Runners and Clickers are pretty much the same as the first game. Stalkers are now harder to detect and act like stealthy predators. No longer are you left wondering what’s the difference between Stalkers and Runners. A new type of infected has been added called Shambler. Shamblers are individuals who have been infected for several years and dwell around areas with water. They expel large spore clouds that can cause acidic burns. Upon death the spores explode. Best kept at a distance. I don’t know if I’m the only one who thought this but I never saw Bloaters as a boss enemy in the first game. I just thought they were a rare tougher enemy, similar to the sledgehammer Seraphites in this game. My mind changed when Part 2 gave Bloaters arenas like areas when fighting them. Definitely a boss fight, no doubt about that now. Their charging is also a lot scarier now. Finally, one more new infected was added: The Rat King. That thing is a beast. It’s a Clicker and Bloater fused together to make this giant behemoth. During the Rat King boss fight I was either screaming or yelling. I did not want to fight that thing. I didn’t like it. Truly a fantastic enemy.

Collectables

It’s a small thing but let’s not forget about the collectables. Besides the training manuals Ellie and Abby have their own unique collectable items. Ellie collects superhero trading cards, which are awesome. I’m nowhere near having all of them but I did find an interdimensional whale. Enough said. Abby collects coins, specifically she’s after coins from each state. A hobby she uses to feel connected to her dad.

Characters

Let’s start with our main girl: Ellie. Ellie goes on a significant external and internal journey. She’s experienced loss before but nothing on the same level as losing Joel. After that moment Ellie’s only want is revenge. She arrives in the anger stage of grief and refuses to move. Like with most characters experiencing grief, what Ellie really needs is to accept his death. Accept and move forward. Thankfully she gets there, eventually. She’s not the same person on the other side though. With all the death that she causes it would be concerning if she didn’t change. She kills a lot of people over both games but there’s a difference between the intimite one on one kills and torture Ellie does and the random groups of enemies she has to get through. A major turning point is when Ellie tortures Nina to find out where Abby is. The camera angle, the red lighting, the fact the player has to push a button for each swing of her crowbar highlights that Ellie is crossing a line. She’s going to kill Abby and nothing will stop her. She will do whatever it takes.

Seeing Ellie in flashbacks and on the farm show just how consumed by anger and grief she is throughout her time in Seattle. In those moments we see her goofy pun loving self again. There’s nothing better than her excitement and wonder at the Wyoming museum.

At the final confrontation I was so proud of Ellie for letting Abby and Lev go. She was so close to what she wanted but didn’t go through with it in the end. Even if she had it wouldn’t have made her feel better. It wouldn’t have brought Joel back.

Ashley Johnson, Ellie’s voice actor, is incredible. She does such a good job which is highlighted even more by the use of motion capture. She puts her all into this performance, right down to the facial expressions.

Now for our other main character: Abby. Abby is a bit similar to Ellie. Not in termNow for our other main character: Abby. Abby is a bit similar to Ellie. Not in terms of personality, they’re quite the opposite in that regard. No Abby is also easily consumed by her want for revenge. 5 years Abby focused on getting revenge on her father’s killer. She throws herself into training with that goal in mind. Finally she does get that revenge but at a cost. Torturing and killing Joel haunts her long after she’s left Jackson. That might explain some of her actions when she’s back in Seattle. She’s one of Issac’s, the WLF leader, most trusted soldiers but goes awol to make sure Owen is safe. Everything else kind of spirals out from there. After she finds Owen she does something she never would’ve done before, she goes back to save two runaway Seraphites that she runs into. Unexpectedly for her she bonds with them and those relationships change her. Meanwhile across Seattle she’s losing all of her other friends. I do believe if Dina hadn’t been pregnant Abby would’ve killed both her and Ellie.

Abby is not my favourite character, not just because she murdered Joel. I just didn’t bond or connect with her. Sure you see her side of the story but that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to be okay with her actions. She’s very goal orientated, seen with her obsession for revenge, hunting down Owen and in a flashback insisting they return to training. None of that free spirit goofiness that Ellie normally possesses. I like her more when she’s with Lev but that’s probably because I like Lev.

Whether you like Abby or not we can all agree that Laura Bailey, Abby’s voice actor, did an amazing job. Just light Ashley she gave her all in that performance. It’s heartbreaking to hear that she has been receiving death threats. She is one of the nicest human beings on the planet. A beacon of light who doesn’t deserve this abuse. Actors are not the characters.

The only other characters I want to talk in depth about are Joel, Dina and Lev. I like Jesse but there wasn’t really much to him. I loved Tommy in the first game but he wasn’t around much in this one. In fact his actions were reckless and nearly got him killed. The only one of Abby’s friends I liked was Manny, he was entertaining and I was a little sad when he died. Not enough to shed a tear though. And finally Yara. I liked her too, just not as much as Lev. Honestly she went through so much I didn’t think she had to die. In the end she did sacrifice herself to protect Lev, her driving character force.

I’m happy with what we see of Joel, him being best dad. That’s all I want, all I could’ve asked for. Fair enough he deserved better and I would’ve preferred he was in the whole game, like most people. Some have touched on the subject of why Joel wasn’t cautious/suspicious of Abby. It’s because he saw a girl the same age as Ellie, why would he be suspicious. That comes back to one of the stand out lines of the game, “I’m just a girl. I’m not a threat.” You can see Joel’s attitude change when he sees the rest of Abby’s crew. It’s too late then, Joel’s fate is sealed. No amount of him showing kindness to Abby will quiet her burning desire for revenge. Maybe it would’ve been different if he was pregnant. I’m kidding.

I really liked Dina. Her and Ellie just clicked. I would even say Dina is a perfect match for Ellie. She’s smart, can look after herself and most importantly has good banter. My gripe with Dina reveals she’s pregnant and from then on is basically out of the game. Don’t let me explore a destroyed city with my ship and then have the upbeat half stay behind at the theatre. I wanted more travels with Dina, that’s all I’m saying.

Finally let’s talk about Lev. I adore Lev. He needs to be protected from this world, especially a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies and cannibalistic survivors. Amongst all the anger and hate about the story people are forgetting about Lev. Lev is another step up in the LGBT representation in The Last Of Us series. I’m so happy that I haven’t seen articles popping up left and right questioning if the inclusion of a tansgender character is necessary. Lev is an amazing character and good representation. Just because the apocalypse happened doesn’t mean there aren’t transgender people, similarly to there still being homosexual people. Lev’s story even resonates with our modern day. Lev’s treatment from his religious society is something still seen in our own reality. Shocking really. I hope there are those who feel seen through Lev. Beyond that Lev is incredibly brave. Still a bit naive but he stays true to himself. I’ll say it again, I adore Lev. His bond with Abby is lovely and that is the main reason I enjoyed Abby’s half of the story.

Story

Alright, the time has come. Let’s get into the story. You start in a semi good place. Jackson is thriving, you can pet a dog and absolutely destroy some children in a snowball fight. Ellie’s ordinary world is perfectly established. The only problem is her and Joel’s relationship is strained, something you don’t know the full picture of until later. Then we switch to Abby, a character you’ve never seen before. We know she’s looking for someone. My first thoughts were this is our villain and she’s looking for Joel. I was correct.

So our inciting incident of Joel’s death happens. The event that has caused many people to hate this game, send death threats and what not. I’ll be honest I didn’t cry at Joel’s death. I was sad, don’t get me wrong but shock overwhelmed the feelings of sadness. Shock that it happened and how. Let’s think about why that is. Joel and Ellie were happy and safe in Jackson. They have no reason to leave. Something extreme had to happen for there to be a story. Unfortunately the character who had to die was Joel. His character arc was complete. He’d accepted the death of Sarah and moved forward. Now Ellie has to experience a similar pain. Could a different story path have been taken? Yes, but we can think about those later.

After the traumatic inciting incident Tommy leaves for Seattle and Ellie goes after him with Dina. Then you have 3 days in Seattle and between each day you have a flashback section with Joel.

I’m perfectly happy with day one. You have a bit of puzzle solving. There’s a slightly open world section that you explore on horseback with Dina. Why isn’t there more of that in this game? Ellie’s 15th birthday is also a great section from start to finish. Heartwarming and magical. After that it gets repetitive. Day 2 and 3 is Ellie going to different locations looking for Tommy, actually she’s hunting Abby/looking for someone that knows where she is. I like the use of pathetic fallacy leading up to and on day 3. This storm is hitting for the climax. You find out that Ellie discovers the truth about what happened with the Fireflies in Salt Lake City. Something that could’ve been handled better. Ellie’s part of the story is very much her seeking revenge and grieving Joel with a bit of guilt thrown in. Ellie doesn’t find Abby in the end but she does leave a trail of her friends’ bodies in her wake. So Abby finds her at the theatre. She shoots Jesse in the eye and holds Ellie and Tommy at gunpoint. At this point we switch to Abby’s half of the story.

Unlike Ellie, Abby has a different goal for each day. Day 1: Find Owen. Day 2: Help Yara. Day 3: Save Lev from Seraphite island. A nice change of pace. Between her days we see she’s still dealing with her dad’s death and moments from her past. Mostly her relationship with Owen. Abby’s sections where she has to face her fear of heights instead of fighting enemies is refreshing. Short lived but refreshing. Finally the boss fight with Ellie is great. Different but I found it great. Facing off in different areas of the theatre with Ellie cycling through all her specific weapons is fantastic. A step up from David’s boss fight. Of course I wasn’t comfortable fighting my girl but that might be part of the point. In the end Abby let’s Ellie and Dina go.

Seeing Abby’s side of the story is a way to get the audience to understand her motivations and empathise with her but I don’t think that’s the whole picture. The goal is not to paint Ellie as the bad guy. It’s showing you that in this devastated world there are no good guys or bad guys. Both protagonists thought they were doing the right thing. They were seeking justice. They are the heroes of their own story and the other one is the villain in their eyes.

The story isn’t over yet. Ellie, Dina and JJ become a happy family on the farm Dina dreamed of. Unfortunately Ellie is still processing her grief and guilt. With a push from Tommy she leaves for Santa Barbara in search of Abby. The time on the farm is special. It’s happy and beautiful. A place both Dina and Ellie can live happily ever after.

In Santa Barbara Abby and Lev learn the Fireflies are regrouping on Catalina Island but are quickly captured by the local faction before they can leave. Lucky for them Ellie arrives just in time to save them. The harmony is short lived because she still wants to kill Abby. Our final fight is two exhausted, dying women punching each other to death. Not the most climatic end but a fitting one. Ellie wins but decides to let Abby and Lev go. Our final scene is Ellie returning to the now empty farm. Here you see her acceptance. The right way for the story to end.

Overall not a bad story. It’s nowhere near as good as the first game but that would’ve been a hard feat to accomplish. I would’ve liked to have the days grouped together rather than the character’s sides of the story. See if that would have affected the emotional impact of character deaths. Different stories they could’ve told range from an attack on Jackson forcing the town to relocate to another immune person showing up. The only limit is the creators imagination and apparently it stopped at revenge story. One aspect I missed was seeing all over the country but I’m just fine with one city. Sometimes it’s good to focus on the impact on one location.

Something else to touch on across both games is the vaccine plot point. Even with our technology today we don’t have vaccines for fungal infections and deceases. How do a group of doctors, who didn’t finish their studies, expect to make one with post-apocalypse resources? Their rush to cut out Ellie’s brain to make this “vaccine” doesn’t make sense either. Surely they’d want to run more tests, think about this more. As far as they know they only have one shot. Why risk their only immune person? Why did no one wake Ellie and let her make a decision? She’s 14, she’s old enough to make a decision about her own life. Why are all these adults making it for her? On another note, why is everyone acting like Abby’s dad is the only doctor that can make this vaccine? There must be other more experienced doctors still alive. Plus all the vaccine’s going to do is protect all the people that haven’t been infected. What about the millions of already infected people? You’d need a cure to help them. A cure that would be impossible to synthesise. 

In conclusion I enjoyed The Last Of Us Part 2. There  were many improvements from the first game. It’s just such a shame the story wasn’t one of them. I would still recommend this game to people, just make sure you also play the first one. The Last Of Us Part 2 gets a Sapphire dragon from me. Not all the way up there but still a fantastic game.

Huge congratulations to anyone who made it this far! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my longest post so far. I’ll see you all in the next one.

-Your Hostess-

Image Source: https://www.techradar.com/reviews/the-last-of-us-2-review

https://www.ign.com/articles/the-last-of-us-2-walkthrough-chapter-1-jackson-patrol

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