I’ll start off by saying that there will be spoilers in this article. If you’re currently playing the game, I’d advise you to come back when you’ve finished. If you’ve read the leaks or spoilers, before or indeed after release, and think you’ve felt the full weight of the plot, then this article is for you.
The Last of Us Part II is, without doubt, one of the most anticipated AAA games of all-time in terms of what comes next for Ellie and Joel. We didn’t know a whole lot about the premise of the game, apart from the fact that it was a revenge plot, until the game’s major plot points leaked about six weeks prior to release.
Ever since that day, every article that we’ve written about The Last of Us Part II has been met with dozens of people trying to spoil the game for others. These spoilers have included things both correct and wildly incorrect, based on a misinterpretation from an out of context cutscene within a twenty-hour game.
END GAME SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
The two major story beats that leaked prior to release were Joel’s death at the hands of Abby and the mid-game game twist that sees you take over as her to experience the other side of those three days in Seattle you’d just lived through as Ellie.
Reading it on paper, it sounds absolutely crazy, right? Our beloved Joel dies in the first few hours of the game at the hands of someone that he just helped rescue and then as if to add insult to injury, Naughty Dog forces players to play as his murderer for ten hours. Why would anybody want to do that?
That same reason why a lot of people are hating on the game, many without playing it and only reading about it, is the exact reason why this twist is so brilliant. That is exactly what you’re supposed to feel when you take over as Abby. Of course, it comes as a shock to the system as the player’s disdain for her, at the start, is expected to get in the way of the experience.
What happens over the next ten hours is that you get to sympathise with Abby’s story, realising that Abby has spent years going through the pain, with her dad Jerry Anderson, the surgeon who hoped to forge a cure from Ellie’s sacrifice, dying at the hands of Joel. It’s the same pain that Ellie is now feeling and, like Ellie, Abby also has a great group of friends and a life of her own, that is being taken away as you play through her side of the story.
This is not something you could ever understand by reading leaks or a plot summary, just as you won’t appreciate the full scope of the experience by watching cutscenes or having a friend describe it to you. This only works when you play through the game and personally experiencing the many highs and lows that Naughty Dog has intended to make you feel along the way.
Is it fair that Joel died at the hands of somebody who literally drifted into town, someone you had no emotional connection to? Absolutely not, in the exact same way that it was unfair when Joel killed Abby’s dad, an act I’m sure you didn’t even give it a second thought at the time because you had only Ellie in your thoughts. But rest assured, Joel’s death is earned, justified and a necessary price to pay for the wrong he did.
As you go through the game, you have two playable confrontations between Abby and Ellie. Once in the theatre, playing as Abby, as the three-day journeys of both converge in a bloody stand-off and then again some hours later at the end of the game in Santa Barbara while hunting for Abby as Ellie. I can’t speak for everyone, but I felt a great sense of conflict during both of these instances. What surprised me the most though, is the fact that I felt stronger about not wanting Abby to die in that final instance whilst playing as Ellie. Sure, I wanted Ellie to feel satisfied in what she set out to accomplish, but I was incredibly uncomfortable playing as Ellie in those moments, wondering if I was about to see the last gasp bubbles of air dissipate as Abby died there on the beach.
If you had asked me ten hours earlier if I was ever going to feel that emotion, I’d have told you not a chance. In fact, I felt the same confusion that many gamers that have read the leaks and plot experienced. I had it spoiled for me that you took over as Abby halfway through playing the game and I thought it was a horrible design decision, I questioned why it needed to happen, but as I let it happen, and learnt about who Abby Anderson is as a character, it made total sense, and that’s something you are never going to get without playing the game for yourself.
I feel like everybody will take something different out of the game upon finishing, but the message that I took away is that everybody’s life is just as important as each other, regardless of how much they mean to you, and that everybody is the ‘good guy’ in their own narrative. This is a game that allows you to see that from two different angles, and it works.
The Last Of Us Part II will be divisive among those who have finished it. Some will be satisfied when the credits roll and others won’t, but it definitely pushes the boundaries in what could have otherwise been a cookie-cutter story.
In short, play the game before saying that the story is “lazy” or that it’s a silly idea to play as the character that killed another beloved character. I guarantee that it’ll hit a lot harder playing through it yourself, rather than reading about it on the internet and making up your mind based on that.