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Was The Last of Us Part 2 held back by insistence that it be a direct continuation of the first game?

Gamingtodaynews1b - Was The Last of Us Part 2 held back by insistence that it be a direct continuation of the first game?
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First, I want to apologize for yet another Last of Us 2 post on this subreddit but I just finished the game last night and something about it was bothering me throughout the second half of the story.

I'll start out by saying I thought the story was fine and I'm certainly not upset with what happened in it. I wasn't someone upset with what happened with Joel nor was I upset with the idea of playing as Abby afterwards.

What got to me was how we spend spend the a good chunk of the beginning of the second part d the first part of the game going through one story before playing through the second part in an almost entirely unrelated story that doesn't connect to the first until the very end (excluding one point in the middle where a character shows up only seen from far away) before we go back to that overall story for the (incredibly short) third part of the game.

What this meant for me is that I spent the first few hours annoyed at the story because it leaves off on a massive cliffhanger with who knows how much unrelated filler left before it gets back to the "main" story and what I really wanted to see at the time. However, by the end of this part, I was completely wrapped up in the Scars/Wolves conflict and Lev and Yara's personal stories and didn't really care about what was going to happen with Ellie; this conflict was just so much more interesting than a standard revenge story and I was pretty let down knowing that the entire thing was going to be brushed aside just to get back to Ellie's frankly boring revenge story.

This made me wonder if this story was originally written to be the main focus of the game.

In 2013 before the release of the first game, Neil Druckmann said this in an interview with Playstation Blog:

I think the world is ripe for more stories, but as far as the journey Joel and Ellie goes on it ends with this game.

According to a former Naughty Dog "story animator", their games are heavily focus-tested and I find it easy to see how this could have lead to people complaining about the story not heavily featuring Joel and Ellie and Naughty Dog reworking the story to make them a major focus.

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Which, if true, feels like a huge mistake to me. Even if this isn't what happened, it certainly feels like Ellie is there just because someone felt like the game needed them, whether it be focus testing, marketing or just an attachment to the characters. And I think this was a mistake. When I first read that quote about future games featuring new characters in the world, I was all for it. I personally didn't feel I needed to see where Joel and Ellie ended up because their story was done and fine.

But I really feel like Abby's story deserved to be fleshed out more. Like I said, what was going on in Seattle was genuinely interesting and engaging. I would have loved for the characters to get more time to develop and grow rather than getting the rushed arcs they had. Being suddenly attacked by Wolves towards the end of the game would have been a great shocking turn if I hadn't just spent ten hours being hunted down by them. Every character death would have had more of an impact if I'd had more than a few minutes each to get to know them.

Even keeping the revenge angle would have been more interesting if the game was just from Abby's perspective. I couldn't help but imagine how shocking it would have been if I spent twenty hours getting to know and like Abby and her friends with small hints towards her brutally murdering her father's killer before a flashback sequence revealing that it was Joel. I would have felt more conflicted if there were more father/daughter bonding flashbacks sprinkled throughout the game letting me get attached to her father. I think this would be a vastly improved game without the narrative split.

Overall, I feel like this title was held back by its apparent need to be a direct continuation of the first title, something I've seen before with other titles and throughout other media. I wish creators would feel more comfortable continuing a franchise by telling more standalone stories set in the universe instead of feeling they need to focus on established characters.

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