By: Corey Lack
So, when the Last of Us Part 2 was announced, many people were excited to see how the story continued after the events of the first game. Then, the second game came out and many people were very disappointed in it. The writing in particular was decried as being less than it was in the first one. For the most part, I’d agree with the issues people had with the game, but before I get more into it, I want to issue a major spoiler warning as I will be discussing major plot points of the story.
First, let’s discuss the elephant in the room, the death of Joel. Most people have made this the biggest issue with the writing, specifically how he died. He dies, not in some heroic or action-packed fashion, but in a sudden attack from a woman he just saved. The woman, Abby, brutally murders him in front of his surrogate daughter, Ellie. Most people have an issue with how sudden and how insignificant it made his death seem. This is actually the only part of the writing I don’t have problems with. Last of Us is not known for dwell on the deaths of their main characters. In fact, the only death that was focused on was Joel’s daughter, Sarah. Tess, who tried to die a noble sacrifice, died a death that resulted in nothing beyond giving Joel and Ellie a few extra seconds. In short, I didn’t expect Joel to die any other way beyond the way he did.
The issue with the writing that I had was the lack of light moments throughout the game. In the first game, there were plenty of memorable light moments, like Ellie telling lame jokes to Joel, Joel explaining what an ice cream truck was, or Ellie’s excitement over seeing monkeys for the first time. That’s not to say that there weren’t light moments, but they were few and only appeared as flashbacks and they were usually the shortest sections of all of them. There’s also the extended period where the player has to play as Abby near the end of the game. The idea is clearly to humanize her and her friends before and after they torture and murder Joel, but this falls flat as the only ally of Abby that I genuinely felt bad about killing was the dog Alice who got the least amount of screen time of all of them. Yes, you do, unfortunately, have to kill a dog, multiple ones in fact. The parts to humanize the group fell flat to me and to be honest, it did nothing but show their hypocrisy to me. They, both when they were members of the Fireflies and the WLF, act like they are in the right no matter what they do, because the ends would justify the means. For instance, carving the brain of unconscious, fourteen-year-old Ellie was fine because studying the fungus attached to it would give them a chance to create a vaccine against the plague assaulting the world or, in the recent events, murdering anyone that comes into their territory because they might be a threat and need to protect their noncombatant members. All of this just made me hate the characters even more rather than feel conflicted.
Gameplay-wise, it is much more polished and all-around better than the first one. For one thing, players can go prone and crouch to hide in different levels of grass. This makes stealth attacks easier, though they are not foolproof as the enemies can still spot the player if they get close enough. Also, there was a portion that made the game open-world. The developers put in an ingenious map mechanic that let it fit more in with the game and there were plenty of places to explore. However, this was only for a single short portion of the game, much to my disappointment.
In short, the game had a number of nice ideas, but ultimately, bad writing and not going far enough with the interesting mechanics just served to make the game “okay” but not as good or as fun as the original. I give it two and a half dead bloaters out of five.