I loved The Last of Us. Hands down, it was one of the best – if not the best game on PlayStation 3.
I loved it again when the remastered version came out on PlayStation 4. And even though it’s been a while since I’ve played it, or even really thought about playing it, I still love The Last of Us. It’ll be one of those great games that will be exalted through the passage of time; the Pac-Man of 2013. It’s not going anywhere – it’s probably the most important title in video game history of its generation.
And yet, even with all that said, I can’t seem to get excited about its sequel. Is The Last of Us Part 2 really necessary?
The Last of Us felt complete. It felt written in a bubble; an entire story with a beginning, middle and an end told in a vacuum. Naughty Dog eked a bit more life out of it with the addition of the Left Behind DLC, but as a side story of sorts to The Last of Us, it worked. But a sequel? Yes, Joel and Ellie are still alive, they’re still surviving and doing their thing – but is there a real story that needs to be told there?
I feel like the closing moments of The Last of Us gave us everything we need to know about Joel and Ellie’s future. Joel chooses to save Ellie’s life over the possibility of saving the entirety of mankind, and in an effort to protect her, lies to her about what happened. Ellie would have willingly sacrificed herself, but Joel couldn’t bear to to lose the one person he’s grown to care about. Although it’s left fairly ambiguous, I’ve always felt like Ellie knew the truth. But she doesn’t kick up a fuss about it; she accepts Joel’s protection and love. They’re a family. And together they go off into the great unknown.
It’s not a traditional Disney happily-ever-after ending. We know, in the world that Ellie and Joel live in, there are no true happy endings, but they’re both alive, and together, which is as happy as we could ever have hoped for. Many more troubles and dangers await them, wherever they end up going, but they’re not troubles that need to be told or played out in the form of a sequel. I feel like The Last of Us Part 2 is going to be treading old ground; siphoning any last morsel of unique storytelling simply for the sake of a sequel. We’ve experienced the pair’s tumultuous journey of coming together and forming a bond. Let’s not push that bond to the limits. Their life carries on, but we don’t need to bear witness to it.
The Last of Us was brilliant because of its storytelling, and its storytelling alone. Sure, its gameplay wasn’t terrible – it was fully serviceable – but it was the story and its characters that kept us hooked, not the repetitive cover shooting sections, or the tedious stealth levels where we sneaked past Clickers. In terms of gameplay, it didn’t really do anything that dozens of other games hadn’t already done. We went through the motions of playing just so we could see the relationship of Joel and Ellie unfold; so we could watch through gritted teeth as they survived ordeal after ordeal.
A sequel though, needs to be much more than that. We’ve already experienced Joel and Ellie’s relationship fully. As an established family, having been together for several years now, there’s no bond to see blossoming over time. Trust is already there, and these characters are already fully-formed individuals whom we know well. Thanks to the passage of time we’ll of course have to reacquaint ourselves with them; learn what’s changed over the last few years since we last saw them – but is that enough to make a foundation of a game?
I feel like Naughty Dog never had any intention of continuing the story of The Last of Us; the sequel is very likely to be nothing but a response to the overwhelming love the game has received. I don’t doubt the company’s ability to craft a worthwhile game – hell, its got quite the track record – but I can’t help but think The Last of Us Part 2 is going to be disappointing compared to its predecessor.
Maybe I’ll be proved wrong. I hope I am proved wrong. But Ellie and Joel’s story should have ended where the first game left them.