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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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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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@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.

Spoiler

 

 

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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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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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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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If you didn't know, the first game received an update recently, so there's no loading lag anymore.

Hey. You are many years late, Naughty Dog! :idea:

Edited by CrowingJoe79

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I've just completed the game, there's certainly a lot to unpack. Overall I enjoyed it, even if it did make me feel cold and miserable.

My spoiler-free disorganised thoughts.

What I liked:

  • The game is absolutely gorgeous, such a treat for the eyes. I played on PS5 and it looks stunning in HDR. Even at 30fps it is still one of the most visually impressive games I've played
  • The production values and attention to detail really are on another level. During my playthrough I noticed so many neat little touches that other games wouldn't even think about. Cut scenes, voice acting, character animations, direction, visual effects, gore, sound design, fluid controls... it all just adds up to a very immersive experience
  • Beyond the actual plot, they do a great job at world building, such as all the letters scattered about the city
  • I like the improvements to the core stealth-action gameplay. It feels way smoother than the original (I just remember it being kind stiff in places but it was a long time ago) but I love how they made all the "combat arenas" very open. In the first game you felt much more boxed in and the level design was pretty generic. Now you have multiple routes to take and a lot more freedom in how you approach each encounter. You can quietly shank everyone, or set mines everywhere, or bash people's stupid skulls in, or just ruin people with molotovs and a shotty. I would keep things refreshing by trying to change my loadout with each new encounter. Moment to moment gameplay felt satisfying and I never felt like I was fighting the controls
  • Like the first game it does a decent enough job of ramping the action up and down without being too predictable

What they could have done better:

  • The parts between the missions can be a bit of a slog, borderline padding at times. Finding the next bit of the environment to climb starts getting old. If they make a 3rd game they need to think of more creative things to do between the combat bits
  • There's this open world-ish section at the beginning which I thought was interesting but never occurs again in the rest of the game. Just seemed a bit pointless really since it was so half-hearted. I was expecting the game to embrace this idea a bit more, as in between story points you have a navigate through the same open city and explore more places, but it just ended up being the same linear progression after that
  • While the moment to moment stealth-action is done very well, the game just seems to recycle the same few scenarios: fight a bunch of humans, or fight a bunch of zombies. There's not a lot of variety on offer. Some of the levels are well done (like the bit in the skyscraper) but overall the game stops surprising you and starts to run out of steam towards the end
  • The RPG upgrade system seems a bit unnecessary. The problem is related to the previous point: the enemies don't improve that much, nor do the encounters change. It feels as if you as a player get stronger (more weapons and deadly tools) but the enemies don't to a significant degree. While I like the freedom of choice with which weapons I use, you could very easily go through the game without using half of the gear
  • I played on Moderate difficulty, which was probably a tad too easy once I got into the groove of the gameplay. Even so, it did feel that the game was getting easier rather than harder the further I progressed, think they could have done a better job with ramping up the difficulty within the difficulty setting itself. My worry about playing on a higher difficulty was that I'd end up spending way to long foraging to equipment etc and it would drag the pace of the game down (my experience with the first game was that there was too much stuff between the plot events) 
  • Quick time events needs to bugger off. I am so sick of hammering the square button to open a door to prevent a zombie from biting my face. Just a massive pet peeve of mine

I've gotten this far without talking about the story, so here goes...

Spoiler

Not sure if any of you will agree with me on any of this but here goes.

I thought they botched it to be honest. I think the idea was good but the execution wasn't there. The message was simple enough (people are shitty, revenge is shitty and hurts people around you, the bad guys are people too with their own motivations etc) but it wasn't exactly subtle about it and you as a player realise this quite early on during Ellie's part. It then just keeps hammering home the point as if we're too stupid to get it. We then spend an unnecessarily long time playing as Abby in what is effectively a B plot, the only point being that we sympathise with her as a character.

I guess Abby has somewhat of an arc, she starts out all shitty and regains some of her humanity by trying to help those kids. Its message is undermined though by all the murdering you do on the way. I'm not sure if this was supposed to be a redemption story but it really didn't feel like it. Abby is pretty unlikeable, which is fine as long as they're interesting, but I don't really find her very interesting. I'm not sure why her companions have put up with her shit for so long.

Ellie on the other hand is shitty from start to finish, there wasn't any arc. I was waiting for the moment where she realised how shitty she had become but it never happened. She also seems to have had a bit of a personality transplant from the first game - in that game she was the one who restored Joel's humanity and made him a better person. Going into this game I was already invested in Ellie as a character but by the end I found Ellie thoroughly dislikeable. Like I said earlier it's OK for a character to be unlikeable as long as they're interesting, but the resolution did nothing for Ellie's character. They either should have done the tragic downfall type arc (a la Michael Corleone in The Godfather) or a plot where she's realises that revenge is not worth it and gets real closure through a selfless act of some kind. They ended up doing some strange mix, and ultimately the resolution of the plot was not satisfying at all.

The ending was a real missed opportunity in this regard, I really didn't like it. They could have done something like:

  • Ellie rescues Abby
  • Ellie doesn't kill Abby but asks why she killed Joel
  • Abby says Joel killed her dad
  • Ellie understands because Joel was like a dad to her. Ellie tells Abby that Joel killed to save her
  • Ellie asks Abby if killing Joel gave her closure, Abby says no it didn't and regrets being taken over by revenge, but found closure taking care of those kids
  • They don't forgive each other but go their separate ways as better people

So it think the ideas were there but it just wasn't written very well.

It did have its moments though, I thought it started out strong. Joel getting offed at the beginning worked well and does a good job of setting up the plot. For all my criticisms, I did want to keep playing to see what happened next. The flashbacks were well done, the bit with Joel and Ellie was good. It's a shame though how most of the endearing character moments came through flashbacks. Best character was the dog.

After writing this, I feel like I'm being quite harsh on it. I am holding it to higher standards than I would with other games, but I feel that I need to be this harsh since a lot of people seem to tout this as the pinnacle of video game story telling, when I can think of other games that have far better executed stories.

So yeah, I'm quite conflicted really. I would still highly recommend it as the things it does well it does better than any other game out there.

Edited by Zell
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20 hours ago, Zell said:

I've just completed the game, there's certainly a lot to unpack. Overall I enjoyed it, even if it did make me feel cold and miserable.

My spoiler-free disorganised thoughts.

What I liked:

  • The game is absolutely gorgeous, such a treat for the eyes. I played on PS5 and it looks stunning in HDR. Even at 30fps it is still one of the most visually impressive games I've played
  • The production values and attention to detail really are on another level. During my playthrough I noticed so many neat little touches that other games wouldn't even think about. Cut scenes, voice acting, character animations, direction, visual effects, gore, sound design, fluid controls... it all just adds up to a very immersive experience
  • Beyond the actual plot, they do a great job at world building, such as all the letters scattered about the city
  • I like the improvements to the core stealth-action gameplay. It feels way smoother than the original (I just remember it being kind stiff in places but it was a long time ago) but I love how they made all the "combat arenas" very open. In the first game you felt much more boxed in and the level design was pretty generic. Now you have multiple routes to take and a lot more freedom in how you approach each encounter. You can quietly shank everyone, or set mines everywhere, or bash people's stupid skulls in, or just ruin people with molotovs and a shotty. I would keep things refreshing by trying to change my loadout with each new encounter. Moment to moment gameplay felt satisfying and I never felt like I was fighting the controls
  • Like the first game it does a decent enough job of ramping the action up and down without being too predictable

What they could have done better:

  • The parts between the missions can be a bit of a slog, borderline padding at times. Finding the next bit of the environment to climb starts getting old. If they make a 3rd game they need to think of more creative things to do between the combat bits
  • There's this open world-ish section at the beginning which I thought was interesting but never occurs again in the rest of the game. Just seemed a bit pointless really since it was so half-hearted. I was expecting the game to embrace this idea a bit more, as in between story points you have a navigate through the same open city and explore more places, but it just ended up being the same linear progression after that
  • While the moment to moment stealth-action is done very well, the game just seems to recycle the same few scenarios: fight a bunch of humans, or fight a bunch of zombies. There's not a lot of variety on offer. Some of the levels are well done (like the bit in the skyscraper) but overall the game stops surprising you and starts to run out of steam towards the end
  • The RPG upgrade system seems a bit unnecessary. The problem is related to the previous point: the enemies don't improve that much, nor do the encounters change. It feels as if you as a player get stronger (more weapons and deadly tools) but the enemies don't to a significant degree. While I like the freedom of choice with which weapons I use, you could very easily go through the game without using half of the gear
  • I played on Moderate difficulty, which was probably a tad too easy once I got into the groove of the gameplay. Even so, it did feel that the game was getting easier rather than harder the further I progressed, think they could have done a better job with ramping up the difficulty within the difficulty setting itself. My worry about playing on a higher difficulty was that I'd end up spending way to long foraging to equipment etc and it would drag the pace of the game down (my experience with the first game was that there was too much stuff between the plot events) 
  • Quick time events needs to bugger off. I am so sick of hammering the square button to open a door to prevent a zombie from biting my face. Just a massive pet peeve of mine

I've gotten this far without talking about the story, so here goes...

  Story spoilers (Reveal hidden contents)

Not sure if any of you will agree with me on any of this but here goes.

I thought they botched it to be honest. I think the idea was good but the execution wasn't there. The message was simple enough (people are shitty, revenge is shitty and hurts people around you, the bad guys are people too with their own motivations etc) but it wasn't exactly subtle about it and you as a player realise this quite early on during Ellie's part. It then just keeps hammering home the point as if we're too stupid to get it. We then spend an unnecessarily long time playing as Abby in what is effectively a B plot, the only point being that we sympathise with her as a character.

I guess Abby has somewhat of an arc, she starts out all shitty and regains some of her humanity by trying to help those kids. Its message is undermined though by all the murdering you do on the way. I'm not sure if this was supposed to be a redemption story but it really didn't feel like it. Abby is pretty unlikeable, which is fine as long as they're interesting, but I don't really find her very interesting. I'm not sure why her companions have put up with her shit for so long.

Ellie on the other hand is shitty from start to finish, there wasn't any arc. I was waiting for the moment where she realised how shitty she had become but it never happened. She also seems to have had a bit of a personality transplant from the first game - in that game she was the one who restored Joel's humanity and made him a better person. Going into this game I was already invested in Ellie as a character but by the end I found Ellie thoroughly dislikeable. Like I said earlier it's OK for a character to be unlikeable as long as they're interesting, but the resolution did nothing for Ellie's character. They either should have done the tragic downfall type arc (a la Michael Corleone in The Godfather) or a plot where she's realises that revenge is not worth it and gets real closure through a selfless act of some kind. They ended up doing some strange mix, and ultimately the resolution of the plot was not satisfying at all.

The ending was a real missed opportunity in this regard, I really didn't like it. They could have done something like:

  • Ellie rescues Abby
  • Ellie doesn't kill Abby but asks why she killed Joel
  • Abby says Joel killed her dad
  • Ellie understands because Joel was like a dad to her. Ellie tells Abby that Joel killed to save her
  • Ellie asks Abby if killing Joel gave her closure, Abby says no it didn't and regrets being taken over by revenge, but found closure taking care of those kids
  • They don't forgive each other but go their separate ways as better people

So it think the ideas were there but it just wasn't written very well.

It did have its moments though, I thought it started out strong. Joel getting offed at the beginning worked well and does a good job of setting up the plot. For all my criticisms, I did want to keep playing to see what happened next. The flashbacks were well done, the bit with Joel and Ellie was good. It's a shame though how most of the endearing character moments came through flashbacks. Best character was the dog.

After writing this, I feel like I'm being quite harsh on it. I am holding it to higher standards than I would with other games, but I feel that I need to be this harsh since a lot of people seem to tout this as the pinnacle of video game story telling, when I can think of other games that have far better executed stories.

So yeah, I'm quite conflicted really. I would still highly recommend it as the things it does well it does better than any other game out there.

I kinda agree with the point that @Shorty was making off-forum when he said that the criticisms that are levelled at this game in a storytelling sense can only really be made in the first place because the game elevates itself to that level in the first place. 

Spoiler

To me, the decisions that the characters make were hugely flawed, but I think the purpose of this is to represent how humans/people make stupid decisions at numerous points in their lives or even do things that don't always make sense. From a storytelling perspective, it worked for me. I understood why Abby wanted her revenge and I even questioned Joel's decision in the first game at the time over whether or not he should have been seeking to rescue Ellie, along with the violence that went on in that hospital. I remember that this split a lot of people, who were questioning whether or not there would/should be repercussions from that moment, which this whole game serves as.

I found that the narrative beats resonated with me and I did my best to roll with the game and the let the story play out from beginning to end before making final judgements. The take that I have with Ellie is that she made numerous stupid/bad decisions that could have been avoided. Going after Abby at the end was needless, despite that she ended up saving her life (in a roundabout way) by cutting her down from the pillars in the final portion. To me, the ending worked but the more poignant ending was the one back at the house where she can't play the guitar anymore, therefore severing one of her bonds/final connections that she made with Joel and the person she used to be. I think it's totally ok for characters to change like this over the course of a single game or over games themselves, as that shows development.

I never once played Abby's part and thought of it as a B-plot or sidestory, but rather the story from another character's point of view. Throughout the first game, I did wonder what it would be like to see it from the Fireflies' perspective, and we are even told at points that Joel isn't the all-out good guy/hero that we think he is, as he has done some shady stuff in the past. So, for me, Abby's story worked. I do agree that Ellie becomes very dislikeable in this game, but that's the angle that they were trying to push and for me it paid off. There were little snippets here and there that shows that Ellie is redeemable, which I imagine is what the first game will focus on. If this is a story of revenge, I expect Part 3 to be a story of redemption. 

Overall, I think there's so much to discuss with this game and the story isn't going to be one that pleases everyone. It's going to make people feel "something", which ultimately I think is fantastic. Art should do that, and imo this game is a masterpiece. I imagine that opinions will change on this and it will become more and more "accepted" as time passes. 

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44 minutes ago, Fierce_LiNk said:

I kinda agree with the point that @Shorty was making off-forum when he said that the criticisms that are levelled at this game in a storytelling sense can only really be made in the first place because the game elevates itself to that level in the first place. 

  Story spoilers (Hide contents)

To me, the decisions that the characters make were hugely flawed, but I think the purpose of this is to represent how humans/people make stupid decisions at numerous points in their lives or even do things that don't always make sense. From a storytelling perspective, it worked for me. I understood why Abby wanted her revenge and I even questioned Joel's decision in the first game at the time over whether or not he should have been seeking to rescue Ellie, along with the violence that went on in that hospital. I remember that this split a lot of people, who were questioning whether or not there would/should be repercussions from that moment, which this whole game serves as.

I found that the narrative beats resonated with me and I did my best to roll with the game and the let the story play out from beginning to end before making final judgements. The take that I have with Ellie is that she made numerous stupid/bad decisions that could have been avoided. Going after Abby at the end was needless, despite that she ended up saving her life (in a roundabout way) by cutting her down from the pillars in the final portion. To me, the ending worked but the more poignant ending was the one back at the house where she can't play the guitar anymore, therefore severing one of her bonds/final connections that she made with Joel and the person she used to be. I think it's totally ok for characters to change like this over the course of a single game or over games themselves, as that shows development.

I never once played Abby's part and thought of it as a B-plot or sidestory, but rather the story from another character's point of view. Throughout the first game, I did wonder what it would be like to see it from the Fireflies' perspective, and we are even told at points that Joel isn't the all-out good guy/hero that we think he is, as he has done some shady stuff in the past. So, for me, Abby's story worked. I do agree that Ellie becomes very dislikeable in this game, but that's the angle that they were trying to push and for me it paid off. There were little snippets here and there that shows that Ellie is redeemable, which I imagine is what the first game will focus on. If this is a story of revenge, I expect Part 3 to be a story of redemption. 

Overall, I think there's so much to discuss with this game and the story isn't going to be one that pleases everyone. It's going to make people feel "something", which ultimately I think is fantastic. Art should do that, and imo this game is a masterpiece. I imagine that opinions will change on this and it will become more and more "accepted" as time passes. 

Yeah, I'm only really criticising it in a way I wouldn't with other games because of what it attempts to achieve and because it is a heavily narrative driven experience. I completed the Resident Evil 2 remake before this and although it is a very good game it has a very silly story and makes The Last of Us 2's story look like There Will Be Blood, but it's a completely unfair comparison.

I'm also being critical because I believe with a stronger narrative this game could have been truly great, but in the end it falls short. But I understand my experience will differ from someone else's. I've seen quite a few reviews/analysis etc now and its remarkable the range of opinions from a lot of reviewers I have respect for, and even for ones I personally disagree with it's very hard for me to say "you're wrong" when ultimately we are discussing the story like we would a novel or TV show. My opinion is that there's some good ideas that were just not executed particularly well.

Spoiler

I have heard the complaint from somewhere that the plot is essentially hate-filled people make irrational decisions, but I agree with with that it makes sense from a story telling perspective because they are flawed characters. E.g. it makes sense for Ellie to keep with her mission, even when it becomes increasingly irrational, violent and morally questionable, and that she start's prioritising that over her friends' wellbeing.

The reason I said Abby's story was a B plot was because Ellie is still the main protagonist and her story is the one that needs closure. Ellie's story is the one we are invested in, not Abby's. Abby's story is ultimately giving the "villain" a backstory and I don't see it as the same story from a different perspective. We didn't need hours of backstory to explain why Abby wanted to kill Joel, it was pretty clear from the start. I was expecting the Abby's path to intersect with Ellie's a lot more but it doesn't at all until right at the end, it is mostly focused on Lev and Yara and the conflict between the 2 factions - this is all a side plot in the grand scheme of things. The only point of it in relation to Ellie's story is to humanise Abby, and they could have done this without spending hours upon hours of gameplay dedicated to her. Abby want's to avenge her father's death, got it. I did think that Lev and Yara were probably the 2 most developed and interesting side characters in the game though.

One of other things I've seen discussed is the lack of player agency. I thought this game could have really benefited with giving the player some choice as to how they proceed and what actions to take, having multiple endings could have made the game very powerful. Instead we are essentially forced down the route of the story Naughty Dog wants to tell us. Often it felt I was not participating in the story, merely acting it out. Shorty mentioned there were times when he didn't press square to not die at certain points, I think I had some of those moments too. The one that stands out for me is when you play as Abby and fight Ellie. I did not like this part at all and it should have just been a cutscene. I have been playing as Ellie for most of the game, with the main goal ostensibly to kill Abby. So when I died as Abby fighting Ellie, my first thought was "well I guess I just beat the game then". It was just absurd really. If the player's actions have no impact on the story, then why is it a game at all and not a film or TV show. The Last of Us 1 didn't have a lot of player agency either, but in that game it at least felt like I was Joel and my actions were driving the plot: the aim of the game was to get to the Firefly base and the gameplay was part of that narrative (i.e. when I progressed through a hostile area, I was one step closer to my goal). In The Last of Us 2, the gameplay is usually getting the characters from point A to point B to get to the next plot event, at which point it acts out itself. It wasn't my choice to torture that woman in the hospital, so how can I as a player feel guilt or regret. 

I think there could have been opportunities for your actions influencing story outcomes. For example you can stealth by each encounter without killing anyone. I couldn't help but think of Undertale here (what a game). What if you set out with the goal of just killing Abby and not anyone else (similar to how Abby and co only set out to kill Joel and no-one else), and the ending would have been different? Maybe a happy ending where both Ellie & Dina and Abby & Lev all live happily ever after. That could be contrasted with a sad ending (like the one we got) where choosing to be murderous and carrying out revenge would result in the death or alienation of the ones Ellie/Abby cared about. It would certainly make the message more powerful if it was specifically targeting us as a player.

 

 

 

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I finally sat down and started playing this properly today. I tried the other week but just couldn't stick with it for whatever reason. 

Spoiler

What the hell!?!? They killed Joel off! I was absolutely gutted by this turn of events and was raging at the manner of which it happened. Here's a character who we got to know and love in the first game get brutally murdered. :( 

Seeing this horrific event was the motivation I needed to continue to keep playing. I want revenge but also want to know why I'm the hell these people killed him.

I'm not a fan at all of the open world segment that I'm currently trawling through. They done the same thing in Uncharted and I hated it in that as well. It really slows down the story and it can be a hassle traveling around the large area.

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Well, my Christmas day mostly consisted of sitting playing this. That being the case, the credits have just rolled.

EqH5YBuXEAE-X-1?format=jpg&name=large

 

Spoiler

I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. 

The game is depressing. Like REALLY depressing. The original game was dark and moody but the relationship that developed between Joel and Ellie gave the game a lot of heart. Sure, there are moments here and there in this game, such as flashback scenes, but the majority of it is far too dark.

I hated that they killed off Joel. I really did. Whats worse is that you have to play through the second half of the game as his killer, AKA Brock Lesnar. I appreciate they tried to show her side of the story and redeem her with the whole Scars plot line but it just didn't work for me. She killed a character I loved in a awful and brutal way and I didn't really want to play as her at all.

I found the ending VERY unsatisfying. It was bad enough that Brock originally got away but then Ellie letting her go after everything was infuriating. I suppose the moral of the story was that revenge doesn't solve anything. Both characters pretty much lost everything and everyone they loved because they couldn't let things go and the circle of death just on going.

On the plus side, the acting and animation on show here is second to none. I don't think anyone in the industry is even close to how realistic everything is in terms of performance and visuals. The bar was already high with Uncharted 4 but they've gone above and beyond here. 

A few of my favorite scenes in the game were thanks to the performances and facial animations that were on show. Ellie singing Take On Me, Owen explaining why he left the old Scar soldier alive and Ellie returning from interrogating Nora were all so well done that you were think you were watching a movie. Amazing stuff.

As someone who likes trophy hunting, a niggle I did have was the way collectibles and checkpoints worked. There were so many times where I was simply exporing only to find that I could no longer go back to an area due to a door closing or a ledge breaking. Another play through is needed for the platinum anyway but getting cut off from areas without warning was a little annoying.

I'm still amazed I got to play the game months after release and manage to avoid spoilers. I can now read other people's thoughts on the game without fear of spoiling anything. 

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It is done.

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I figured I would play through the game again today while everything was still fresh in my mind. You can make very quick progress if you know where you are going and skip the cutscenes. It's crazy how long the load times are if you do this though. They do a good job of masking this the first time through the game.

Spoiler

I like how certain events in the game are hinted at early on. The flashback scene with Tommy sniping, Ellie killing the dog that was actually Alice and the conversation in the open world area about wanting to own a farm. These didn't register for me during my first play through.

 

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On 23/12/2020 at 3:09 PM, Zell said:

Yeah, I'm only really criticising it in a way I wouldn't with other games because of what it attempts to achieve and because it is a heavily narrative driven experience. I completed the Resident Evil 2 remake before this and although it is a very good game it has a very silly story and makes The Last of Us 2's story look like There Will Be Blood, but it's a completely unfair comparison.

I'm also being critical because I believe with a stronger narrative this game could have been truly great, but in the end it falls short. But I understand my experience will differ from someone else's. I've seen quite a few reviews/analysis etc now and its remarkable the range of opinions from a lot of reviewers I have respect for, and even for ones I personally disagree with it's very hard for me to say "you're wrong" when ultimately we are discussing the story like we would a novel or TV show. My opinion is that there's some good ideas that were just not executed particularly well.

  Story spoilers (Reveal hidden contents)

I have heard the complaint from somewhere that the plot is essentially hate-filled people make irrational decisions, but I agree with with that it makes sense from a story telling perspective because they are flawed characters. E.g. it makes sense for Ellie to keep with her mission, even when it becomes increasingly irrational, violent and morally questionable, and that she start's prioritising that over her friends' wellbeing.

The reason I said Abby's story was a B plot was because Ellie is still the main protagonist and her story is the one that needs closure. Ellie's story is the one we are invested in, not Abby's. Abby's story is ultimately giving the "villain" a backstory and I don't see it as the same story from a different perspective. We didn't need hours of backstory to explain why Abby wanted to kill Joel, it was pretty clear from the start. I was expecting the Abby's path to intersect with Ellie's a lot more but it doesn't at all until right at the end, it is mostly focused on Lev and Yara and the conflict between the 2 factions - this is all a side plot in the grand scheme of things. The only point of it in relation to Ellie's story is to humanise Abby, and they could have done this without spending hours upon hours of gameplay dedicated to her. Abby want's to avenge her father's death, got it. I did think that Lev and Yara were probably the 2 most developed and interesting side characters in the game though.

One of other things I've seen discussed is the lack of player agency. I thought this game could have really benefited with giving the player some choice as to how they proceed and what actions to take, having multiple endings could have made the game very powerful. Instead we are essentially forced down the route of the story Naughty Dog wants to tell us. Often it felt I was not participating in the story, merely acting it out. Shorty mentioned there were times when he didn't press square to not die at certain points, I think I had some of those moments too. The one that stands out for me is when you play as Abby and fight Ellie. I did not like this part at all and it should have just been a cutscene. I have been playing as Ellie for most of the game, with the main goal ostensibly to kill Abby. So when I died as Abby fighting Ellie, my first thought was "well I guess I just beat the game then". It was just absurd really. If the player's actions have no impact on the story, then why is it a game at all and not a film or TV show. The Last of Us 1 didn't have a lot of player agency either, but in that game it at least felt like I was Joel and my actions were driving the plot: the aim of the game was to get to the Firefly base and the gameplay was part of that narrative (i.e. when I progressed through a hostile area, I was one step closer to my goal). In The Last of Us 2, the gameplay is usually getting the characters from point A to point B to get to the next plot event, at which point it acts out itself. It wasn't my choice to torture that woman in the hospital, so how can I as a player feel guilt or regret. 

I think there could have been opportunities for your actions influencing story outcomes. For example you can stealth by each encounter without killing anyone. I couldn't help but think of Undertale here (what a game). What if you set out with the goal of just killing Abby and not anyone else (similar to how Abby and co only set out to kill Joel and no-one else), and the ending would have been different? Maybe a happy ending where both Ellie & Dina and Abby & Lev all live happily ever after. That could be contrasted with a sad ending (like the one we got) where choosing to be murderous and carrying out revenge would result in the death or alienation of the ones Ellie/Abby cared about. It would certainly make the message more powerful if it was specifically targeting us as a player.

 

 

 

On a random note, I can't stand There Will Be Blood! I think I tried to watch it twice and I just didn't take to it. A bit odd for me to have such a strong negative reaction to films because I'd like to think that I will accept films for what they are, but I didn't enjoy it either time.

Spoiler

I like your idea a lot of multiple endings and the player having some control over the ending. I can agree with what you were saying in the way that you play as Ellie for half of the game and the rational is for you to be playing with the sole intention of eventually killing Abby. I don't think we were ever going to get a fluid game with multiple endings because Naughty Dog have a such a specific way of storytelling that it doesn't allow for that. In the same sense that in the first game, the player doesn't have a choice about killing those surgeons, you have to do it or else you don't progress. It takes the choice away from the gamer, which in a videogaming sense isn't great...but I think that with the way that Naughty Dog want all of their gamers to experience the same story, it's the only real way it can be done and effectively. The ending resonated for me and I like the sense that there's a definitiveness about it, like this is the ending that they wanted you to experience. There's always a sense with games that have multiple endings that maybe you never got the real or true one and I think that maybe this would muddy the waters too much and confuse things, especially if there is to be a third game.

I completely agree with you about that first Ellie vs Abby fight. It didn't really work for me either and I can understand what the game was trying to do, but I didn't enjoy that section and it felt too out of place. It did look silly when you died as a player for the reasons that you say. I do think that the final fight between the two of them was much better and seemed to fit the storytelling better, even if the ending was somewhat controversial. Personally, I thought that it worked, but I can see why others would have thought the true ending would be for either there not to a fight in the first place, or for Ellie to kill Abby. The first fight would've maybe been better as a cutscene with maybe a smaller amount of gameplay in there somewhere, but it was one of two bits that personally didn't work for me. The other was that fucking Rat King boss...which I loathed. Too Resident Evil. 

I've seen the Abby B-plot story mentioned a lot and I initially started off with that mindset of "just let me play as Ellie again, please". In the end, I enjoyed Abby's story and it worked for me. I probably enjoyed that maybe slightly more than Ellie's, although I'd need to play the whole thing again to definitively say that. It's one of those things that for me could have fallen flat, but I think it worked out just right. The only thing I will say though is that it did make the game almost twice as long as the first and perhaps that affects the pacing of the game. It's loooooong. In one sense, I enjoyed that because yaaaay more Last of Us, but also when you're on Day 1 and you know there's a Day 2 and 3, it does seem somewhat artificially enlarging the game. Maybe the second playthrough will be much quicker? But I'm slightly against doing a second one so soon due to how long it felt.

 

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On 26/12/2020 at 12:30 AM, Hero-of-Time said:

Well, my Christmas day mostly consisted of sitting playing this. That being the case, the credits have just rolled.

EqH5YBuXEAE-X-1?format=jpg&name=large

 

  Thoughts on the game (Hide contents)

I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. 

The game is depressing. Like REALLY depressing. The original game was dark and moody but the relationship that developed between Joel and Ellie gave the game a lot of heart. Sure, there are moments here and there in this game, such as flashback scenes, but the majority of it is far too dark.

I hated that they killed off Joel. I really did. Whats worse is that you have to play through the second half of the game as his killer, AKA Brock Lesnar. I appreciate they tried to show her side of the story and redeem her with the whole Scars plot line but it just didn't work for me. She killed a character I loved in a awful and brutal way and I didn't really want to play as her at all.

I found the ending VERY unsatisfying. It was bad enough that Brock originally got away but then Ellie letting her go after everything was infuriating. I suppose the moral of the story was that revenge doesn't solve anything. Both characters pretty much lost everything and everyone they loved because they couldn't let things go and the circle of death just on going.

On the plus side, the acting and animation on show here is second to none. I don't think anyone in the industry is even close to how realistic everything is in terms of performance and visuals. The bar was already high with Uncharted 4 but they've gone above and beyond here. 

A few of my favorite scenes in the game were thanks to the performances and facial animations that were on show. Ellie singing Take On Me, Owen explaining why he left the old Scar soldier alive and Ellie returning from interrogating Nora were all so well done that you were think you were watching a movie. Amazing stuff.

As someone who likes trophy hunting, a niggle I did have was the way collectibles and checkpoints worked. There were so many times where I was simply exporing only to find that I could no longer go back to an area due to a door closing or a ledge breaking. Another play through is needed for the platinum anyway but getting cut off from areas without warning was a little annoying.

I'm still amazed I got to play the game months after release and manage to avoid spoilers. I can now read other people's thoughts on the game without fear of spoiling anything. 

Spoiler

This game is very depressing and it's one of those where you can dwell on it for quite a long time afterwards because there is a lot to think about and take in. I personally didn't have a problem at all with the tone of it and for me it fitted in well with the world that they had created in both the first and second games. It's bleak, but there are splatterings of hope here and there. I can appreciate that it may be a bit too much for some in the sense that something like Breaking Bad or the Walking Dead (comics more so) can be too tonally bleak.

I'm not surprised at all with the killing of Joel and, I think if we're being realistic, there had to be some sort of retribution for what happened at the end of the first game. It was the most obvious thing in the world to me and I remember playing the first game at the time and torching those surgeons, thinking to myself that there surely has to be payback for this. I love the way that the second game tied in with the first and I did feel sympathy for Abby in the way that she was aiming to avenge her father, but obviously we as gamers see her as the villain because we've spent the first game siding with Ellie. I feel that the killing of Joel could have felt really cheap, but thankfully I think Naughty Dog handled this well.

It's going to be controversial whether gamers agree with what Abby did but it's very ballsy of Naughty Dog to force us to play half of the game as her. I really like that and I think it's genius from a design perspective. Most other games or tv would have shown this with a cheap, throwaway cutscene or exposition and it wouldn't have felt anywhere near as powerful. But, I appreciate the way Naughty Dog drew parallels with Abby and Lev with the journey of Ellie and Joel in the first game. There are definite parallels there and for me that made the ending resonate and work. I think on more subsequent playthrough the parallels between Abby and Ellie will grow stronger.

On a sidenote, I think it's hilarious and rather sad how the gaming community have reacted to Abby's physical appearance. I had no idea during my playthrough that this was an issue until I looked online. My interpretation was that...she's a soldier. Plus, it's clear that she's been training for years and preparing to avenge her father, so her physical appearance made a lot of sense to me. I thought of the character of Vasquez in Aliens as a comparison in the sense that you've got someone who is trying to fit in with a male-dominated and masculine environment, but also someone who is a warrior. 

The Take On Me scene was beautiful, but the ending where she can't play the guitar anymore broke me, as it severed one of her last connections to Joel. That hit quite hard, but I think also worked storytelling-wise because she didn't need to go after Abby at the end. She could have just left it and I think a theme that runs throughout this game is "resolution", because there has to come a point where you let things go. It's a brilliant revenge story and the ending was incredibly bittersweet. I'm hoping that the third game features some sort of redemption for Ellie because her character needs it, and I think Naughty Dog will find a way to bring this story to a satisfying conclusion. 

On the whole, I fucking loved the game. It's a masterpiece, imo and I love how it's got people feeling "something", whether they liked it or not. Art has the power to do that and this game, imo, is art. 

 

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Finished over the weekend, might have taken me 6 months.  But, that's my habit.  Start playing games, put them down and come back months later

Spoiler

The ending, yeah i don't quite get it.  The game was building towards Ellie getting revenge for Abbie killing Joel, but didn't happen as expected.  The game should have ended around the farm, instead of Ellie going off for revenge.  She had a decent life sorted, but threw it all away.

The Abbie sections were ok, but can see why people believed these to be filler content.  Sort of Naughty Dogs way of saying "you believe she's evil, but we want to show you a more humane side of her".  Did prefer using the crossbow over the bow and arrow, so there's that.   Even though Abbie's story was more flashbacks than anything, they were decent to learn more about her.  But they were drawn out too much in places, especially going into a flashback within flashback moments.  The Rat King boss, knew it was coming as i saw a Halloween lets play on PlayStation Access.  Felt too much like a Resi boss, and was tough when it would chase (instilling panic into you).

Can see a 3rd game coming, if anything a finale to Ellies story.

 

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Posted (edited)

!

PS5 free upgrade lands TODAY

Quote

Download the free* PS5 Enhanced Performance Patch today. 

Once patch 1.08 for The Last of Us Part II is installed on your PS5, you will find a toggle in the Display options that allows you to choose between a Framerate Target of 30 FPS or 60 FPS. This allows you to choose your preferred framerate to complement the rest of the enhancements that are part of the PS5 backward compatibility with PS4 games, such as enhanced resolution, faster load times, and more. 

Days of Play sales tie-in I guess, which is pretty cool? Because otherwise at this point you could have also saved it until the next State of Play, or the anniversary of release next month. 

Edited by Julius
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