The Last of Us is one of my favorite games of all time, so you can bet that I’m incredibly excited for The Last of Us Part II. To this day, Joel and Ellie’s journey remains to be one of the most iconic video games narratives of all time, so I’m itching to see what’s next for two of my favorite characters ever.
The Last of Us Part II has been the subject of much controversy since the initial details of it leaked. Particularly, the second trailer showcased non-established characters partaking in extreme violence. To some, this was too much. I can see why, too—it really was quite grim. However, The Last of Us never shied away from difficult scenes. This is a post-apocalyptic world in which some people no longer have the ability to feel hope.
The Last of Us was largely centered on the relationship between Ellie and Joel. Ellie changed Joel for the better, and Joel protected Ellie on countless occasions. The development of a paternal bond between the player and Ellie was the fulcrum of the entire narrative, which truly is a fantastic example of video game storytelling. It’s often heralded as proof that the infamously problematic term “ludonarrative dissonance” is the exception as opposed to the rule.
What will The Last of Us Part II be about, though? If the first game was about the central relationship of the protagonistic duo, then it’s only fair to assume that the sequel will carry on from that infamous last scene, which I won’t go into now. Spoiling the end of The Last of Us for people who have yet to play it would be criminal, so I’ll leave it at this: the sequel will emphasize revenge.
This is exemplified in the first trailer that came out for The Last of Us Part II. Sitting alone in a derelict building filled with dead bodies, Ellie sings a rendition of Shawn James’ “Through the Valley.” The last line of her cover is “but I can’t walk on the path of the right, because I’m wrong.” Not the last line of the song, this line is followed by Ellie silently looking down into nothingness. Joel walks in and asks, “Whatcha doing, kiddo?” to which Ellie responds: “I’m going to kill every last one of them.”
The “them” here is ambiguous. The infected? Surely not, as that would be an impossible task. It is likely that the viscerally violent second trailer showcases the game’s antagonistic body, which will be pitted against Joel, Ellie, and their companions in a game filled with love, loss, and destruction. This is a new Ellie, no longer a child, who will take the reins as the protagonist in the upcoming iteration of Naughty Dog’s infamous The Last of Us. Fueled by vengeance, Ellie will be thrown into the depths of despair, meaning that the player will be forced to strive to emerge victorious. The Last of Us doesn’t abide by the Hollywood rules of saving the good guys, though. This game will break the hearts of many. It’s likely that not everybody will come out of it alive.
In that case, fans of The Last of Us should be aware before going into Part II that this isn’t the kind of game that promises a happy ending. It isn’t the kind of game that will offer a redeeming factor for every tragic moment. This is a game that will make you feel emotions that nothing else has ever made you feel. This is a game that will smash your heart into a million piece and, if you’re lucky, offer you a small amount of duct tape to attempt to repair it with.
The Last of Us is one of my all-time favorite games. I’ve played it five times, with each time becoming more difficult than the last. None of the heartbreak ever gets easier. Honestly, in my last two playthroughs I had to skip certain cutscenes, as I didn’t have it in me to watch what I knew was coming. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable game, but that enjoyment is juxtaposed with pain. It features brief moments of respite, which revel in the beauty of their transience. Although these are accentuated due to their sparseness, they only clean the wounds; they don’t close them.
The game I’m most excited for in 2019 is The Last of Us Part II. I’ll buy it day one and likely play through start to finish, if I can. I’m aware, though, that this won’t be something I’ll enjoy, per se. I’ll enjoy the gameplay, I’ll appreciate the narrative, but ultimately, I’ll be broken by the events. If you’re brave enough, you should definitely attempt to enact Ellie’s revenge. If not, it’s best to steer clear of something that’s guaranteed to bring you trauma and woe. Although this is cathartic in its own right, it’s difficult to consume—the way some stories should be.