It really was for nothing: TLOU 2

Deceptive advertising

Within hours of starting the Last of Us: Part II, Joel is killed. But because it wasn’t spelled out graphically in front of me, and I never saw the body go into the ground, I didn’t quite believe it. Not after seeing trailers showing an old, grizzled Joel in the verdant Seattle landscape. In particular, this trailer — in which a hand reaches out and grabs Ellie from behind, and after a moment of shock, she turns to see Joel, who says, “You think I’d let you do this on your own?” — had me holding out hope. It wasn’t until I reached that point in the game and the exact sequence and line was said by Jesse that the truth started to set in.

Trailers (like this one) showed Ellie and Joel together in footage that ultimately did not appear as advertised in the game. Photo by BagoGames via Flickr.

Two unique factors

The Last of Us is, on the whole, a fairly generic game. A third person stealth-action cover shooter that takes place during a zombie apocalypse. You even escort a young girl. Nothing about that screams “originality.” But what made the first game one of the most revered games of all time was two things: Ellie and Joel, and Ellie’s immunity.

The Last of Us Part II removed both factors that made the first game unique and revered. Photo by Rob Obsidian via Flickr.

Nonsensical actions

Perhaps the biggest casualty in this boilerplate plot about revenge being bad is logic. Joel forgets all of the caution that has kept him alive when blurting out his name to a group of strangers (hell, saving a stranger is out of character for him). Tommy, who pointed a gun at his own brother in the first game, has the same brain fade. Abby leaves Ellie and Tommy alive for no good reason. Ellie realizes that revenge isn’t worth it in Seattle — then goes ahead and throws away her family life to do it all over again. Tommy, who convinced Ellie to leave Abby alive in Seattle, is the one that pushes her back to it. These actions aren’t within the characters themselves, and it didn’t feel good to take them. Because they weren’t believable.

Joel’s trademark caution was thrown out in sacrificing him to the plot. Photo by BagoGames via Flickr.

A Failure in Storytelling

Ultimately, the Last of Us Part II takes everything the first game built up and wastes it on a story that’s been done before to try and create the illusion of depth. Every major action is done for the sake artificially advancing the plot. By killing off Joel so early, the game is forced to try and develop half a dozen new characters and cram their arcs into a plot that doesn’t allow for arcs.

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Anthony Jondreau

Anthony Jondreau

I use the basics of fiction writing to tell help people and companies tell their stories. Find me at www.anthonyjondreau.com or anthonyrjondreau@gmail.com.