So here is what I felt of the Last of Us Part 2. I have not played it but I saw playthroughs of it so MINOR SPOILERS HERE.
Also, this is a bit of a long post so do take your time to read it through.
Synopsis about the first game
Like I said in a previous post, the first game was revered for its design when it comes story-telling and themes.
The game brutally grounded right from the start – you were on your toes and made me feel as vulnerable and terrified as the character were which stayed consistent through the game – survive or die.
Joel suffered a terrible loss and he felt guilty for it and he was forced to do all sorts of shitty things in order to survive, things that you may not agree with but he had every reason to do it.
And Joel and the other characters were all on the same boat – either you die or them, and everyone had their hands dirty at some point.
The characters were humans and in-your-face as you would think living in a world where chaos is everywhere – frightened, angry, tired, frustrated, battle-hardened, alone and so on.
You felt these feelings throughout the game and it was eye-opening when you compare them to what Joel described to Ellie how the world was before the outbreak and made me feel a lot for the characters when they started to bond in a world where community and love and unity does not exist anymore.
I remember that Naughty Dog once said that the first game was about love and it showed with all sorts of twisted ways too. Even Joel's actions towards Ellie were done out of love but not the kind that you would agree with but left it up to the player open to a lot of questions – whether Joel did the right thing, whether him and Ellie did the right thing by killing those people, whether Ellie was aware that Joel lied and so on?
There are no heroes – only survivors.
There were plenty of moments that the player felt conflicted and was forced to do things that they were not sure whether they should do it or whether they had the stomach to watch it. But that was the reality that they had to see and it was as effective as I might think which made it so real.
So how is this compared to the second game?
I remember that Naughty Dog said that the second game is all about hate and there are concepts about this in both Ellie and Abby.
Both characters showed that they were putting a lot of force in their efforts. Abby was more about raw power, Ellie was more about pure savagery.
And same as the last game, the setting is just as shocking – stabs are brutal and savage, gunfights are chaotic and messy, stealth is tense and fidgety.
Setting-wise, this reinforced a lot on the theme of hate.
However, the theme felt weak and there was little room for reflection or depth.
Let me explain.
Themes and motives
Like I said earlier, the first game was pretty simple – you survive or die.
However, you were exposed to so many deep narratives that made aware and question about many things – the comparison between that world and ours and whether our priorities align, the questioning of whether being a brutal murderer for the sake of survival is justified, the fact that you had to steal, kill, cheat, lie, hide and run all the time when you could just end it all by being a part of the Fireflies, or whether the sacrifice of one person would justify the saving of many …..
So many questions and so many elaborate thoughts that have no clear answers but you sometimes have to do what you need to do to survive, whether you like or not.
In the second game, the exploration of the depth about the cycle of violence and hate was not as I had hoped. There were very few moments of either Ellie or Abby experiencing deep fear or regret or guilt or confusion or questioning their actions on whether killing all these people are justified for selfish revenge, and neither was it impactful on us trying to either vouch for Ellie or for Abby by trying to portray them as human.
The death of you-know-who-I-am-talking about did not feel as impactful as I hoped. Not only that this was because this is a world where you can be killed in an instance, but it felt too soon and the way it was presented did not feel impactful or hurtful or the same way as Ellie felt when she witnessed it or Abby. It is also questionable on how it happened too … instead of keeping their guard up against strangers, they were eager to invite them in their camp but they stabbed them in the back
There is one idea that I felt that Naughty Dog could have done that would have been more impactful.
One way that would have made the whole theme of hate and violence more impactful would have been the emphasis that now the world has managed to evolve and walk away from its primitive survivalist days and managed to slowly thrive into small communities with some secured protection involved.
That way, the players would have gotten the feeling that the characters are behaving more as human beings rather than savage animals to survive.
That way, once the characters do end up delving into the brutal killing, then it would have been impactful for the player on noticing contrasts and the conflicts that the characters had to come across – between choosing a peaceful and normal life with little to do with survivalism, or reject that opportunity and go mad crazy and hunting whatever person you see regardless of who they were.
Character development with Ellie
One way that could have been explored was during Ellie's flashbacks where we saw her bond with Joel. We could already tell that they bonded more like father and daughter and it is as though their perspective of the world was starting to change.
But maybe, if something happened between them, something fearful or dark or something that they witnessed, then we would have experienced the conflict first hand in the very beginning as though Ellie has been trying to come to terms with ever since like Joel going back to his old ways of brutal savagery for survival while Ellie trying to convince him that he has the opportunity to forget all that and live a life with Tommy and his community.
That would have made it more impactful about Ellie trying to come to terms with these very convincing differences and therefore, the choices that she made during the game would have been more emotional and heartbreaking even, whether when Ellie spontaneously chose to continue her mission for revenge; or in that one time where she decided to lay low and live a normal life.
This would have made the ending more impactful too when Ellie decided to do what she did and her final battle would have been a physical manifestation of her battling with her inner self and trying make sense out of what she has been going through throughout the entire game – whether she should get her revenge and continue the cycle of violence or whether it was better for her to chose to give up this quest and leave.
Character development with Abby
This would have been the same for the perspective of Abby too.
I get that Naughty Dog was trying hard for us to like Abby but I'm sorry, it did not feel like it was enough for me to either root for her or see her as another human being desperate for survival or desperate for revenge the same way as Ellie was.
Maybe if we were shown Abby's own conflict of interest within herself and the inner demons that grow inside her throughout the game, that would have us the players see more of her human side and experience us being forced to make a choice – who should we support, Ellie or Abby?
I think that one way that this could have been done was by making us play more with Abby, see a lot more of her human side BUT the reveal (the shocking part) comes after at the very end of the game.
That way, once we have learned to grow and bond with Abby as a human being, then the shocking would have been more impactful and we would have forced to either view Abby from a different perspective or continue to see her the way that we saw her before the incident.
The shocking parts
So how could Naughty Dog have hidden the fact that you-know-who-I-am-talking-about was in fact died throughout the entire game?
I remember that one of the popular theories back when the reveal trailer was released was that a certain character was in fact a ghost, or a voice in Ellie's mind while she was going around in her quest.
Maybe if Naughty Dog managed to cleverly make Ellie and this person walk and hunt and kill together throughout the game and cleverly avoid any interactions between them or the other characters that they came across, then the reveal that this person was dead all along would definitely have been shocking.
So the shock value would have been twofold – it was have been revealed that this detail that this character was dead throughout the entire game was hidden real under our noses all along, and that we would have been forced to view both Ellie and Abby in different ways, and would have also provoked us to think and question the whole reality of this situation – whether this whole cycle of murder and brutality was justified.
Ok, that is the end of my essay
Source: Original link
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