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Last of Us Part II

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Finished it last week. 

 

Spoiler

What exactly was the reason it got review bombed? It was a strange ending, when they were in the farm house I was thinking 'please be the end please be the end', but Ellie wanted to go get revenge. Really tragic.

 

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Mandalore said:

Finished it last week. 

 

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What exactly was the reason it got review bombed? It was a strange ending, when they were in the farm house I was thinking 'please be the end please be the end', but Ellie wanted to go get revenge. Really tragic.

 


 

Spoiler

The backlash can mostly be attributed to bigotry around diversity issues and fan attachment to Ellie and Joel's relationship, which gets cut short and sidelined for half the game.

It's perfectly fair to criticise the game, or dislike it, it's just that some criticisms are more legitimate than others. For example, the story being split in two was a problem for me, but more because of the pacing issues that arose from it (with Abby's section essentially being a series of flashbacks within flashbacks), rather than the fact that you have to play as a new female character with big biceps. 

There's also some truth to the idea that TLoU 2 has been held to a higher standard than other games because of its technical brilliance and movie-like production values. Some users overcorrect their scores in order to counteract the praise these kinds of games receive, which is also indicative of a wider social media trend where only the most controversial takes get noticed.

 

Edited by dwarf

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Posted (edited)

@Mandalore, I agree with @dwarf on this one. Unfortunately, while I do think that there are a number of legitimate criticisms to make about this game, the main reasons behind the review bombing come from a place of hatred. 

Spoiler

Having a female protagonist causes enough of a stir these days, but a female protagonist who is anything but straight? Yep, that seems to lure a lot of hateful people out of the woodwork.

This is then perhaps compounded in their minds by having a female character who is ripped (even though this is contextualised in the story!), the brutal murder of Joel (which I can understand a bit more, not to the extent of leaving hateful messages for others, but at the end of the day it was the event which sparked Ellie's path for the rest of the game, so was somewhat necessary for the story they wanted to tell...though maybe a little excessive for my taste), people feeling like Ellie didn't get the revenge she wanted, and having a second protagonist, Abby, who was not marketed as such.

I want to get back to that later though, as it ties into my main legitimate criticism of the game, and I want to suggest what Naughty Dog could (and given a similar example in the gaming industry, perhaps should) have done which might have at least addressed my main criticism, too. 

Like dwarf mentioned, I think this game has some serious pacing problems, and the story structure and pacing issues go hand in hand for me. While revenge and the trail of carnage it leaves behind was the main motivation behind the plot, I think the main message was about empathy, and putting yourself in someone else's shoes. Early on when I took control of Abby for the first time when on the outskirts of Jackson, I immediately knew that we would return to playing as her at some point: it just didn't make sense to put as much work as they did into that section otherwise.

For me personally, I think that Naughty Dog did a great job of turning me from someone who sided with Ellie and wanting to rain hell down on Abby for what she did to Joel, to by the end of the game finding it difficult to look at the screen as we traded blows down in Santa Barbara. While I think that Abby's motivation was about as clichéd as it could get, I didn't mind it by the end, and think that this game did a great job of humanising Abby in a number of ways (as someone with a fear of heights, the way they incorporated that into her gameplay was great). Lev was also a big part of that too, and sending a strong message about the importance of empathy given the state of world today was a worthwhile message for Naughty Dog to follow through on. 

However, I do think how Abby was incorporated into the story when she first became playable for an extended period after Seattle Day 3 as Ellie caused some pacing issues. I think the main reasons for pacing issues in this game are the varied day lengths, the freedom of scavenging, and the overall story structure and arrangement. 

While not every day needed to be of equal length, I do think that certain days in Seattle just felt endless, and added perhaps a bit too much for my liking to the overall sense of urgency in the game, dragging it out quite a bit. While I think this feeds into the great experience of exhaustion on all fronts, which I think is great for a game set in a world like that, it just isn't as tightly paced as it perhaps should be, and not nearly as good with its pacing as the first game clearly showed Naughty Dog were capable of. But again, still contributed to the overall experience, so this is the lesser of the three culprits in my opinion. 

The freedom of scavenging I think is what could hurt the pacing considerably, depending on your playing style. I'm not talking about the more open areas, such as when you first get to Seattle as Ellie, but more about the second half of the game as Abby. This touches on the story structure a bit, but I think the freedom of scavenging plays into it a lot.

The game had been building to a climax on Day 3 in Seattle as Ellie, so being sent back to Day 1 as Abby, at least for me, had me wanting to get back to Day 3 as soon as I could to see how it played out. This was in stark contrast to my playing style of the entirety of the first game and the first half of this one, where I would scour the perimeter of a building once - if not twice! - before moving on, for records of the old world, supplies, or things like the safes. Having the second half of Seattle as Abby, minus of course the open area as Ellie on Day 1, be just as open for scavenging as it was with Ellie just hurt that pacing a lot for me, and I'm sure many others. I wanted to get back to Day 3 to continue the story, but I also wanted to take this world in and learn as much as I can about it. I ended up sticking to my old play style even though I was torn on doing so, and having that choice for players to hurt the pacing I feel caused some issues in Seattle as Abby. I feel like it should have been made a bit more linear and focused, with smaller areas to explore and thus fewer collectibles to find. I think there was a sweet spot here that perhaps Naughty Dog missed out on by being so focused on telling their story.

My main issue with the pacing, though, comes down to the overall story structure and arrangement of its timelines. I think the main one - getting to Day 3 as Ellie in Seattle and then at the climax being thrown back to Day 1 as Abby - I mainly covered before, but yeah, it just wasn't well structured in my opinion once Abby came into the fold for that extended period in Seattle. The prologue in Jackson, and playing as both Ellie and Abby there, I thought was completely fine, as were Days 1 - 3 in Seattle as Ellie. It's just building to a climactic story moment, seeing as the game throughout, but especially up until then, did not waver from the focus being Ellie getting revenge for Abby's brutal beating and murder of Joel, so it felt like having the rug pulled from under it, and that same moment in Day 3 as Abby just didn't land as hard because the focus was everywhere but on Ellie (rightly so as she didn't know she was there, but it was mostly on the Seraphites). I feel like the game hadn't done much when you change over to Abby to make her a character you wanted to play as, either, considering what she did to Joel and how she also killed Jesse before we go back, so I think if there's a point to genuinely lose interest in continuing with the game, it's right there.

Add that to the fact that she wasn't even advertised as being playable too and how we've practically ended up with Snake and Raiden in MGS2 in 2020 and...yeah. Outside of the needless hate, I can empathise with hardcore fans not being fans of the decision to make us play as Joel's killer, who was not advertised as being playable. I also think that Paris Games Week 2018 (?) trailer shouldn't have been shown, to be honest. 

Back to the structure though, I wasn't the biggest fan of how we had a bit of an epilogue with Abby in Santa Barbara either before her capture, because it felt a bit unnecessary. I liked the false flicker of hope then that they're heading to the Fireflies only for it to result in Abby and Lev's capture (though of course they do make it in the end), I just think it would have hit so much harder if we just went back to Ellie and had no idea what had happened down in Santa Barbara. 

I also think the flashbacks were sometimes a bit strange too. I loved the museum as Ellie, and how we kept coming back to the murder of Abby's dad too, deeply instilling this knowledge that it plays over and over again in Abby's head. But I think because of where the first one came quite a bit into the story, much as I enjoyed it, I had a false impression that I was much further along than I was? Might just be me, but I also feel like constantly returning to the aquarium was a bit much too. 

Oh, and a pacing issue actually related to mechanics: Abby's skill tree. I think having an entirely different skill tree for Abby which starts from scratch was a poor decision, especially considering that she's spent years building herself into the WLF's best killer, only for us to...start from scratch? I think it would have been much more effective if those skill trees were already mostly filled in, and to tie it back to the freedom of scavenging, doing so would have meant not needing to search for as many supplies, which could have allowed for smaller areas and fewer supplies and collectibles. 

 

Now, my suggestion for what Naughty Dog could have done. I think it's the height of hubris for a second to suggest that this would have fixed all of the issues with pacing in this game, and to make a suggestion that would potentially improve a narrative by an award-winning team like Naughty Dog, but heck, I'm throwing my hat into the ring here because I genuinely think that criticism falls flat if you don't constructively have suggestions for what could be done to improve it. 

I've toyed with a few ideas in my head, the first of which was alternating between Ellie and Abby on each day in Seattle and keeping everything else practically the same, but I think you end up with the same issues. 

So, what I settled on was a complete rearrangement of the story that we were told, slight tweaks to the story to not give anything away, and a completely different marketing strategy. The story structure that we were given in TLOU2, for all intents and purposes, was Prologue in Jackson, Days 1 - 3 in Seattle as Ellie, Days 1 - 3 in Seattle as Abby, and Epilogue in Santa Barbara, with some flashbacks thrown into the mix.

The story structure that I think would have worked better for pacing, and for fans, would be the flashback of Abby when she was younger with her dad ending outside of St Mary's Hospital, followed by Days 1 - 3 in Seattle as Abby, the Prologue in Jackson, Days 1 - 3 in Seattle as Ellie, and then the Epilogue in Santa Barbara. I think that Naughty Dog should have learned from the mistakes of Metal Gear Solid 2 when it came to marketing this game, and flipped that mistake on its head: build it up to be a game about Abby, not Ellie, then surprise us in the second half completely by getting to continue Ellie's story.

This is a game instead about the Washington Liberation Front, who are an organised militia who are trying to bring peace back to their corner of the world, and are at constant conflict with the Seraphites. We play as Abby, the WLF's greatest killer of Seraphites - what happens when she finds herself saved by one, and starts caring for them? That's enough of a driving point for marketing and the story alone.

Be rough about timelines, to the point where while we've seen St Mary's at the start we have no idea if it's before or after Ellie and Joel passed through, and barely hint at what happened with Abby's dad. All we hear and see are occasional hints at Jackson: maps on the wall in Abby's apartment, whispers of it when bodies turn up, etc. We see Ellie struggle with Joel's death, it's a PTSD-inducing experience for her; with Abby, while this takes place after exacting revenge on Joel, she has fully repressed her memories of an event, the other side of the trauma. Ellie can't bring herself to forget; Abby can't bring herself to remember, now that she has had her revenge. 

But as you play as Abby and check in on the WLF, as you did already, you find that more and more of your friends have been killed as the days go by, and the bodies pile up. Apart from the changes to the story to not spoil the second half, everything plays out the same. Imagine on Day 3 realising that you've caught up to and just knocked Tommy off the pier and into the water! What the hell is Tommy doing in Washington?! And then you get to that same climactic point on Day 3 in the theatre, after you've found Mel and Owen dead in the aquarium, and you track Tommy down. Apparently this has something to do with what happened in Jackson? Then Jesse comes out, and you shoot him down without even knowing who he is. And then...HOLY SHIT IS THAT ELLIE?! 

Cut to black.

We get the Prologue in Jackson, you're now playing as Ellie, and can still experience being saved by Joel as Abby. Things continue as they did in the actual game, Days 1-3 in Seattle as Ellie, same flashbacks as before, then we get the Epilogue in Santa Barbara as her too. We don't go back to playing as Abby at that point, as we already know that she planned on going there, and can find out what fate had in store for her when we get there.

Though we would have been lied to in the marketing about it being focused on Abby, unlike the actual game and MGS2, it would be deceitful in the best way for fans: we actually do get to be surprised as we get to continue Ellie's story. As for pacing? Sure, you want to get back to Day 3 and find out what happens in the theatre, but now you have more of a reason to take it slower, as you also want to figure out what led to that moment. If you played and liked/loved the first game, you also already have a built-in interest in playing as Ellie, which I think overcomes experiencing Seattle from another perspective. 

 

Edited by Julius

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Another absolutely brilliant review from everyone's favourite video essayist, Matthew Matosis :peace:

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I haven't played it myself, I'm not really interested in the game itself; but I love watching Matthew's reviews in general.  So I figured I'd share it here.

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Naughty Dog cant get a break - Factions has leaked too.  Fortunately its a teeny blurry clip.

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I definitely have to get a PS5, in case they make a third part. I'd also like to see a sequel to Days Gone. These last several PS4 games made me so excited to be a gamer again, after I started to lose interest in survival horror games.

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Posted (edited)

Big update coming Thursday.


More info here

Edited by Map
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See I'd be interested in going for the grounded trophy, but I just can't be arsed to go through the slow-paced item collection. Maybe one for when I upgrade to PS5 and have an itch to replay it.

You'll hear from me in a year's time when I nope out after the first proper mission.

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I kind of like that cumbersome feeling, though. You're not well equipped to begin with, which adds to the dread and realism. As the levels get harder, you acquire better s*** to combat said hard levels. I think in the RE games, you can have your gear carry over into the new game, but in general, it makes some of the otherwise challenging parts become nothing but a simplistic cakewalk...

:)

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Posted (edited)
On 8/13/2020 at 12:01 AM, CrowingJoe79 said:

I kind of like that cumbersome feeling, though. You're not well equipped to begin with, which adds to the dread and realism. As the levels get harder, you acquire better s*** to combat said hard levels. I think in the RE games, you can have your gear carry over into the new game, but in general, it makes some of the otherwise challenging parts become nothing but a simplistic cakewalk...

:)

Don't get me wrong - it's a good way to build tension. It's just that it makes up too big a proportion of the game, especially on harder difficulties which require you to stock up.

Edited by dwarf
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I am about 20 hours into this now (and have had it about 6 weeks) and I just don't want to play it anymore. 

The first game I felt was an absolute masterpiece. I loved every single second. 

This game has been boring, repetitive and more challenging to play all round. I don't mean difficulty, although it has had its moments - but there have been countless times I have wandered around not knowing what the same wants me to do next. Or where to go. 

Spoiler

This Abbie section is painful. I feel like I've been playing as her now for the majority of the game and I am just not interested in her story at all. I appreciate it needs to happen so we can understand her motive for Joel etc, but we got that very early on. Having her basically retrace Ellie's steps is just padding and I haven't enjoyed this section of hers at all. 

Also, the game play doesn't seem to have moved on from the original. Same old cut and paste job of explore an outside area, kill some bad guys, have to find a way into a building, kill some infected. Cut scene moves you to a different location. Kill some bad guys outside, enter a building. Kill some infected. Etc. 

I had such huge hype for this game, and enjoyed the early hours but as soon as Abbie's section started and went on, and on and on I have lost interest. I keep trying to go back on to play and will try to finish it, but I am so disappointed compared to my feelings on the first game. 

 

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