Much of The Last of Us Part II’s exploration-centric sections expand upon the wide-linear structure of Uncharted 4. Thus, while players follow a linear path, a number of wider levels allow for a free form of exploration. The Downtown Seattle segment interestingly feels like an open-world all its own. Had Naughty Dog followed through with its original plans, the whole game would’ve been fully open.
Beware: Spoilers for The Last of Us Part II ahead.
In a spoiler-filled interview on IGN’s Podcast Beyond, Creative Director Neil Druckmann and Narrative Lead Halley Gross spoke in depth about early ideas for the sequel’s story. While addressing how the narrative structure evolved over time, Druckmann revealed Part II originally began as an “open-world with several different hubs.” Players would’ve first assumed the role of Abby, who, along with her friends, get attacked.
Once saved by Joel and Tommy, the group would then be invited to Jackson, where players spend a considerable period of time doing missions. Upon hitting a critical story point, Abby was to reveal her identity, all while struggling with how to proceed. Ultimately, she would’ve killed Joel, resulting in players taking on Ellie as she travels to Seattle–the second hub. Ellie’s goal, like that which features in the final product, would center on tracking every member of the group, leading to a final confrontation with Abby.
However, the story Naughty Dog was trying to tell didn’t fit an open-world structure. “Those aspects felt like they were too much in conflict,” Druckmann explained. Gross joined the studio around this time and helped determine the “high level” goals. Not too long thereafter, Part II adopted its wide-linear format. As the story continued to evolve, Naughty Dog thought it best to get to the “inciting incident, [Joel’s death], much more quickly.”
Talk of the title’s initial open-world structure begins at the 2:11 mark:
There were other ideas scrapped early on, too. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, for instance, Druckmann and Gross divulged players could visit Joel’s girlfriend in a bit of cut content. Moreover, the dance sequence with Ellie and Dina was once playable as well.
Within days of its launch last month, TLoU Part II proved quite the success story in terms of sales. In its first three days on the market, the game sold an incredible four million copies worldwide, making it the fastest-selling PS4 exclusive to date. And with only Ghost of Tsushima left to challenge its reign, there’s a good chance it could hold onto that title.