The Last of Us Part 2 - In defense of the writing

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Arcitee

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First off I want to say it's okay to not like the game, to not enjoy it or to not want to play it (especially not now) it is very bleak and depressing. I am also not even halfway through the game so no big spoilers.

I want to offer a defense of the "bad writing" though. The Last of Us 1 had a very typical protagonist that most gamers can understand: what if John Wick had a daughter. Many gamers liked him and understood him. When he did bad things or made bad choices they understood them, even cheered them on because it was coming from a place we have all seen in games and movies. Some players also did mental gymnastics to convince themselves he wasn't a villain or at least morally suspect in the end.

TLOU2 on the other hand is presenting protagonists that are far more alien to the average gamer: female trauma survivors grapling with their identity in a bleak hopeless world. They make bad or morally grey choices based on trying to navigate who they are and how they continue on from the trauma that has shaped (misshapen them)

While I dont know that I LIKE the story in the sense of enjoying it I am fascinated in how Naughty Dog is presenting a perspective I dont know that I have seen before in a game. I am not convinced the writing is as bad as recent Star Wars movies, it just might be harder to understand since it is the same bleak world of the first game seen through a different lense.

I think perhaps Hellbade might be a better parallel than Uncharted.

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Rejizzle

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@kyniro said:

It's not hard to understand, it's just bad writing. At least some of it is, but for many people that spoils the rest. I still can't find an answer as to why Abby, with how she and her motives are established up to that point where in she kills Joel, lets Tommy and Ellie live.

I mean, this one is easy. Abby and her group have a mission to kill Joel and they feel it is morally justified because he specifically killed the scientists and denied the world a zombie vaccine. If they kill Joels bystanders/accomplices they lose the moral high ground they believe they have.

That being said, the story seems pretty standard from the first 7-8 hours I've seen plus some spoilers I came across. None of the plot elements or themes that have arisen so far seem particularly difficult to grasp. Are people comparing it to Star Wars? Seems weird to me, but I've seen a lot of people fail to grasp the fairly obvious message in Last Jedi, so maybe I'm just out of touch on the cultural zeitgeist.

As an aside, I've seen a lot of people lately judge a story on how many nitpicks they can make as opposed to how well the plot and characters evoke an emotional response, convey a message, or reinforce a theme. It's really the cinemasins-ification of online critique and it bugs the hell out of me.

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Intradictus

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So far to me one of the most interesting things I've seen has been people criticizing Abby as being "evil and immoral" while making Joel out to be a pretty good dude. Not that Joel didn't do good things, but i thought the first game did a pretty good job depicting him as someone who has done a lot of bad things throughout his time in the post apocalypse.

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Haz_Kaj

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I just dont like the way they doneJoel in this. I dont care how its written. Its the structure and manner. Its piss poor and forceful. Druckmann clearly has this agenda against the world. Fuck that guy.

Nothing wrong with the characters like abby. Shes clearly well written

On a technical level Its great. I just didnt care for any of the story.

I wish they made a game with new characters.

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Deathstriker

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#7  Edited By Deathstriker

They poorly handled the execution (some pun intended lol). The golf club scene was distasteful, making us play as Abby was a VERY bad idea, and final confrontation was underwhelming. There are some pacing issues too, it took too long for human enemies to show up, the Seattle part dragged, and a few other things. I don't think gender has anything to do with this. I've always liked Ellie (still do), I hate Abby for what she did and how she did it.

Joel is no angel, but I never thought what he did at the end of the first game was evil. Really, they were going to kill/experiment on a little girl at the chance they might find a cure. Also, WTF is the point in a cure? Obviously it would help, but their problem seems to be killing the existing infected with the limited people and supplies that they have. If there was a vaccination so you couldn't turn infected they'd still have the problem of killing the already turned. To me, it seems like their world is beyond the point of needing a vaccination.

I agree with @haz_kaj, the graphics and gameplay are top-notch, but the story is not good. It has great spectacle moments, but that's different from a great story.

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JasonR86

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I’m about 10-ish hours from finishing the game myself. I think the writing has been good enough, but maybe lacks in what it is trying to do. I wish I were a better critic so I could clarify what I mean. I really appreciate what they are trying to do. Re-conceptualizing the first game and making all of the characters’ motivations justifiable while their actions maybe less so is a good story to tell, though it can at times mean that those stories can feel a bit pointless. Where the game falters is in how on the nose it can be in its messaging and, at times, how gratuitous it can be. Making Abby and Ellie so similar, even down to the whole ‘character I care about is impacted by a pregnancy’ thing and ‘grief over dad (or dad-figure)’, force feeds the message to the audience that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guys because deep down we’re all the same. Then some of the acts of violence just felt like attempts to shock and then, in turn, make you think. But really all I was left with was the violence.

But, overall, I’m really impressed by the game’s writing like I was with the first game. I personally think people are being unfair to the game and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s because the first game is so beloved? Or people just don’t like Naughty Dog anymore, I guess? Whatever the reason, the vitriol has been really gross to see and made me want to avoid fans like the fucking plague.

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Intradictus

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@jasonr86: I keep seeing people saying they don't want to play the game right now because of everything going on in the world right now, for me I can't really deal with how some of the "fans" are acting, you'd think someone killed their family, not made a game that disappointed them

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AlisterCat

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#10  Edited By AlisterCat

@deathstriker said:

They poorly handled the execution (some pun intended lol). The golf club scene was distasteful, making us play as Abby was a VERY bad idea, and final confrontation was underwhelming.

I don't get this specific criticism. I've seen the same thing with the same wording all over. It's distasteful to have a new unknown character execute a beloved character? What's wrong with playing an antagonist? It feels like people are sour over their hero protagonist being killed so easily.

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AlisterCat

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@jasonr86 said:

I personally think people are being unfair to the game and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s because the first game is so beloved? Or people just don’t like Naughty Dog anymore, I guess? Whatever the reason, the vitriol has been really gross to see and made me want to avoid fans like the fucking plague.

Read the Waypoint review. Rob takes issue with the routine of it all and tropey nature. I don't happen to agree but it's a point well made, and is a perfectly valid reason to not be interested or entertained.

The vitriol is pretty disgusting, almost everyone can agree.

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Shindig

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I'll say this, Naughty Dog's performance capture is top notch. Maybe that results in some of the dumber decisions sticking out.

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AV_Gamer

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People complaining about Joel don't want to accept his character. Joel is not a hero, he never was. He was a selfish, ruthless bastard, who killed anyone who got in his way of getting what he wanted to survive. You can make an argument that everyone in the world is this way to some degree, but Joel was no saint. So it amazes me how people think Joel can just go around messing people over and it not comeback on him at some point. Like in real life, you burn enough bridges and people will start looking for you. And the execution of his bad karma was fine, especially if you follow the ending moments of the first game. It was bond to happen. And I'm personally glad it did, because I didn't like what Joel did at the end of the first game.

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Teddie

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One might argue that a good writer can make people relate to their characters regardless of how alien the subject matter is. In my case though, the issue was that all the characters came across as if they were written to fit the story, not the other way around.

If I can make a comparison, we see Joel as a totally normal father in the beginning of the first game and then hard cut to him as a jaded, ruthless piece of shit, but he still feels like the same character. Might be because we saw what led to him becoming that way, might be because his mannerisms are still in there from when he was panicked and in "survival mode" trying to save his daughter, my point being the game gives us the information we need to understand that character "growth".

Contrast that with the prologue of Part 2, Joel is suddenly very trusting of complete strangers while out on patrol, giving his name, going back to their camp and willingly following them into a room in which he is outnumbered and surrounded by armed strangers. I've seen a lot of people argue that he let his guard down after so many years living in a safe community, but we never see any of that in the game beforehand (and later in flashbacks we see he hasn't cooled down at all, he gets hotheaded and picks a fight because someone was being a shit to Ellie and Dina, and complains to Jesse about Ellie's patrol routes being too rough). So to me he just seems like a different character in that moment, written to be stupider than he ever was because they needed him in that room with those people for the big shock moment and subsequent call to action (even worse is a character has a line of dialogue in that scene pointing out how this entire scenario was pure luck to begin with).

Also just as a side note for some extra funnin', here's an interview from 2013 with Druckmann talking about how Tess was going to be a villain in the first game, but they scrapped it because the idea of someone following a person cross-country for a year was thought to be too unrealistic and forced. It must have made more sense to have it happen twice in the sequel instead, I guess.

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Shindig

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To add more on Joel's change of character:

When he talks about the lie at the start of the game, he's emotionless. Talking freely about saving Ellie whilst calmly messing with the guitar. He's cold as fuck and yet he's so trusting to people which gets him killed. I feel that's at odds.

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bxt7280

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Generally, I can understand why a huge fan of TLOU 1 would think the story to be underwhelming. At the end of the day it is a straightforward revenge tale. Watching a movie like Kill Bill would probably be more satisfying. However, I will give Naughty Dog its props where deserved. If there was one singular goal it is for the player to develop a “damn…I think that Abby might be a better person than Ellie” type of feeling. One forgets who’s side there on. I might just be an idiot but that totally worked on me. I personally did not feel that way until the very beginning of the last chapter. Also, I think a big reason it works is because it’s a 20-hour video game and not a movie. You spend a significant amount with the characters…makes a huge difference.

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Kyniro

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#17  Edited By Kyniro

@rejizzle: Moral high ground? You're talking about a group of people who spent years hunting someone down to brutally murder them, one of whom actually saves Abby's life minutes ago. That goes beyond "we're doing it for the people and world we lost" and into "you hurt me so I'm going to fuck you up so bad you son of a bitch". The game effectively establishes them as not giving a shit about moral high ground, that as a context-less theme it almost doesn't exist in the world of The Last of Us. That in the end they just wanted cold-blood revenge and any collateral damage would likely (undoubtedly) have been justified in their eyes.

Let's be honest, Abby and her group taking the moral high ground would have been defined as them just leaving Joel be and trying to move on, and living their lives (unless he just happened to fall into their lap), which is surprise surprise what Ellie should've done (not seeking revenge against Abby the first time or all the other times) if moral high ground meant a damned thing.

And I want to reiterate, these are not folks new to killing for the sake of self-preservation. Leaving witnesses is careless, too careless for people as ruthless and calculating as Abby and her group, people who'd acknowledged that this wasn't just a suicide mission. Some of them actually planned on being around after the deed was done.

Please, stop applying some romanticized sense of morality to this game as a defense as it does not work, not in the world of The Last of Us, not to characters who've done what Abby and her group have. "Oh look this world and the characters are dark and mature and make choices that we wouldn't except when they do and act like dumb movie villains when the plot demands it".

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Arcitee

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#18  Edited By Arcitee

I also hate when characters are more following the plot than their established characterization, that's everyone's problem with the last season of Game of Thrones, so far I felt that the characters have been inline with bleak world, but I might feel differently a year from now.

Also its true not being able to invest in a character could be a sign of bad writing, though I guess I find that take harder to believe since so many that claim that use the mere presence of trans themes to be evidence of the bad writing.

I look forward to reading up more on people's opinions when I finish the game, then I will click all the spoiler tags people post.

Again, I think it is okay to not like the game, but man the online reception for the game is steeped in transphobia and misogyny on end of the spectrum and intense shallow praise on the other end.

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LikeaSsur

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Joel is no angel, but I never thought what he did at the end of the first game was evil.

Yeah, killing one of the last few doctors in the world was definitely not an evil act. Nor was any of the other evil things he did to get there.

You completely missed the point of the first game if you think Joel is anything but a villain.

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Kyniro

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#20  Edited By Kyniro

There's an extremely obvious argument to be made that in the world of The Last of Us, morality as a theme is almost meaningless because in such a fucked up place, PEOPLE are all we have. Those connections that make life worth enduring even in the face of near hopelessness. That's why Joel did what he did at the end of the first game, to him Ellie's life and his connection to her mattered more than respecting Tess' dying wish or even a chance at saving humanity itself. Remember all the shit that he went through just to get Ellie to the Firefly hospital? And it's why Abby and Ellie go on their dangerous and self-destructive revenge missions.

No Caption Provided

And it's also why TLOU2 END GAME SPOILERS YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: The cost of that revenge is Abby and Ellie losing most of their loved ones and their respective futures together, the only tangible things they had in this messed up world.

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stise

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#21  Edited By stise

I'll echo others' sentiments that it's not that the game is too violent in an absolute sense, it's that the level and fidelity of brutality is dissonant with the contrived nature of the plot. Characters' pragmatic sensibilities and senses of justice are arbitratily manipulated to perpetuate a cycle of violence that the game doesn't effectively justify. The cycle could be broken at many points, either with a voluntary abstinence from violent revenge OR the selective application of more violence to a particular situation, both of which the characters should be capable of at least meaningfully considering. The fact that they don't makes them feel more like toys in a toy chest than real people. Meanwhile, the in-game violence is presented with the aim of making victim and perpetrator feel "real" in the eyes of the player, which causes friction when the game refuses to treat them that way in its own plot.

It's true that in real life, shockingly traumatic events can come seemingly out of nowhere. But it's also true that people respond with a wide array of variably-effective coping strategies, and manage to find and create moments of joy, beauty, and serenity even within a framework of constant trauma. To depict one without the other is fantasy.

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MonkeyKing1969

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Meh, I don't like characters who are all about vengeance. Naughty Dog writing their character like vigilantes who torture people, is unpalatable to me. I'll skip this game, and I woudl have slipped those even if we lived in a better world.

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MeierTheRed

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@deathstriker said:

Joel is no angel, but I never thought what he did at the end of the first game was evil.

Yeah, killing one of the last few doctors in the world was definitely not an evil act. Nor was any of the other evil things he did to get there.

You completely missed the point of the first game if you think Joel is anything but a villain.

Jesus Christ, calm down. He literally said "I never thought" it's his takeaway from the game. Not yours.

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Efesell

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I think there are a lot of a good specific points being made here but I feel I am most frustrated by a more general premise in that.. this seems to be a world where people can only possibly make decisions that are in their absolute worst interests. Humans can only ever be the worst versions of themselves in any situation.

Which seems.. exhausting.

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OurSin_360

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I will wait until the cultural hyperbole dies down to actually figure out what are legit critiques of the game. I didn't enjoy the last game, mainly because the gameplay was not fun. I am also one of the few who thought the writing in uncharted 4 was pretty bad though, especially compared to the first 3 games, but that type of writing definitely fits a slow paced game like TLOU better.

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Deathstriker

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#26  Edited By Deathstriker

@likeassur: The ending of the first game is gray, what he did was understandable and not good or evil IMO. Kinda like Inception or Pan's Labyrinth people can make up their own minds. I do believe people who think it was purely bad are missing key details.

1. Who says if Joel let them kill her that they'd be able to find a cure? I believe the first game said or hinted that she wasn't the first immune person they would've experimented on. We see in our own world that cures take a lot of time and resources. Odds are Ellie woild've possibly been a step in the right direction, but not some holy key that unlocks everything.

2. In my earlier post I question how helpful a cure would be at this stage in their world. If experimenting on Ellie led to some biological weapon that only killed the infected I'd be a bit more down with their plan, but they're too screwed already to worry about a cure.

3. A doctor's creed is "Do no harm", so if they're going to kill a little kid I'm fine with whatever happens to them.

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Efesell

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I mean Joel murders and tortures a ton of people, I don't know why there needs to be any further case being made for him. We have a rather clear view of what he is throughout.

Why does anyone have to be like.. "..Okay but you gotta understand.." about it.

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tatsuyarr

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@av_gamer:Very well said, I can't agree more with your post.

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Shindig

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#29  Edited By Shindig

I can't really defend how it deals with vocal opposition to the revenge. There's usually one character with them who is like, "Hey, don't do that. It's not going to solve anything." but they seem to be dismissed or become willingly complicit. In one character's case, they flip from one scene to the next. From, "It's hard, don't revenge." to "BRB, off for revenge."

Infuriating.

Also:

The character of Tess was originally intended to be featured as the main antagonist of The Last of Us, pursuing Joel for a year before a final confrontation in which she is killed by Ellie. However, the team found it difficult to believe that Tess would dispute with Joel and pursue him for a year; this was solved by significantly adjusting the story

BRAVO!

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trulyalive

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#30  Edited By trulyalive

So I just finished the game and overall: I like the story quite a lot. I'll not go over everything but I'll address some of my thoughts on issues people seem to be having with the game:

"The vengeance angle doesn't work"

For me, the vengeance angle did work. I understand people seem to be wanting the characters to act pragmatically or rationally but grief isn't rational and I think that Naughty Dog's use of motion capture goes a remarkably long way to illustrating the moments when characters lose themselves over to that grief. I've seen people become totally overwhelmed when losing people they love in real life and it's not hard for me to imagine seemingly good people becoming consumed by vengeance in the way these characters do in a world as heightened by brutality as The Last of Us.

On the flip side, I also have no problem with the conceit of a 'revenge-drama' as a genre, so some people just might not dig it on a fundamental level.

"The event that kickstarts the whole game doesn't work"

A number of people have already expressed it here but Joel was never a good guy and I don't think losing him was a particularly unjust element of either the world or the story nor did I think it was a detriment to the game. I was genuinely surprised by his death and I was sold on the way the grief affected Ellie from the beginning. Then as every flashback introduced another facet of their relationship, I believed in her grief more.

"That thing that happens in the middle of the game doesn't work"

I was right there with you when I started playing as Abby, but maybe not for the reasons a lot of people didn't like it. I have no problem playing as characters in a game with opposing goals so I actually found the idea of playing as the 'antagonist' quite refreshing. My main issue was that it felt like when we returned to Seattle Day 1 and we had to start a whole new set of skill trees and find a whole new host of weapons, it felt like some momentum was lost. I wondered if the game was originally two separate campaigns that were smashed together at some point and I started daydreaming about what the game would look like if the Ellie and Abby campaigns alternated with each mission rather than in two large blocks. I still think there might be a case for examining the game like that to see if it would be less jarring.

Overall, though, before long I found myself enjoying the Abby campaign far more than I'd enjoyed the Ellie campaign. The story felt like there was a real sense of escalation that I think was helped by knowing the fates of certain characters. And generally speaking, it felt like the scope grew larger than the fairly rote revenge story that Ellie's game had followed up to that point. In the end I think it's fair to say that although the introduction of the Abby campaign felt...clumsy, to say the least, in the end I saw her and most of the WLF as real characters rather than boogeymen and it did a pretty good job of eliciting some emotions I would best describe as 'adjacent to guilt'. I don't necessarily think I actually felt guilty but it left a suitably sour taste in my mouth when I realised that these people weren't evil incarnate.

"What's all this SJW crap doing in my game?"

Yeah, I dug all that SJW crap. I'm a cis-straight-white-working class-twenty something but I've got family across the LGBT spectrum and seeing characters represented with LGBT traits but not defined by them was super cool and I'd be down to see more of it.

For those who feel uncomfortable seeing violence against LGBT people, I can entirely understand an aversion to this game but it's a world where everybody is violent to everybody and that would still be the case if every character was a cis-straight-white-working class-twenty something.

"So you think everything worked?"

Nope! Overall the broad picture worked pretty well for me and I'm willing to overlook a lot of tiny plot-hole-picking that some people are doing because I'm capable of suspending my disbelief when experiencing a work of fiction. But a few things felt rough to me:

  • The aforementioned shift to the Abby campaign, as effective as it was eventually, felt very clumsy.
  • Isaac felt utterly wasted. In a tighter script, he and the WLF would have taken the place of the Rattlers in the games final hours but instead he was killed off in a particularly hurried fashion. Wasting Jeffrey Wright like that should automatically land you in casting jail.
  • The Seraphites skirt the line of 'cultist video game boogeymen' far too closely for my liking.
  • What the fuck was with that reject Resident Evil boss that Abby fought in the hospital?
  • I do not care for Dinah. I think the performance is fine but she comes across as a weirdly nothing character that feels very tropeish.
  • The parallel pregnancies felt forced. I thought there was going to be something more with Mel's pregnancy but it seems like it's mostly there to make Ellie vomit. Probably should have had more impact on Owen in...I don't know, some way. Any way whatsoever.
  • Stalkers can fuck off forever.

So, that's my initial take, half an hour after finishing.

Curious to see what others who have finished the game think, even if they completely disagree with me. Unless some people just don't like seeing progressive attitudes surrounding sexuality represented in video-games, those people can go choke.

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Boss_Zsiga

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@trulyalive: What a thoughtful take, I love it. I agree with basically everything you said. I respect a majority of the choices the writers made, even if they weren’t what I hoped for or expected of a sequel. And I can not echo your sentiment on Jeffrey Wright’s character enough. High crimes.

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Brackstone

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#32  Edited By Brackstone

I think the problem is all the how and not the what. I'll look at just the main issue, Abby.

Abby killing Joel? Sure. The moment this game was revealed everyone was expecting Joel to die, this doesn't surprise anyone. Abby torturing Joel to death and forcing his loved ones to watch? That's really, really off the deep end, further than anything the already morally bankrupt Joel did. Say what you will about Joel being a bad guy, but operating off the context of the first game, the people he killed were unanimously terrible people except for the fireflies at the end, who are just about as bad as Joel.

Yes, Joel tortured people, yes that's bad. It was also due to an urgent need to find his missing loved one who he had learned would be either killed or sexually abused, it wasn't the culmination of a years long revenge plot. To then try to make Abby sympathetic after that, primarily through appropriating the suffering of a trans character (who suffers entirely because he's trans) is some of the most manipulative writing possible, while also not doing the trans character justice at all.

If they want to bring Abby back around, they can't go so far over the top with Joel's death. It's so over the top, purely in order to shock and disgust, that it becomes dissonant with the goals of the story.

That's the basic problem, it's all cheap emotional manipulation and punches to the gut, all edge and grit with without a deft touch and that goes for most of the writing, not just this one part. This basic story could work, but every detail is so exaggerated in order to elicit a response that it completely ruins many people's ability to take any of it seriously.

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Kyniro

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#33  Edited By Kyniro

@boss_zsiga: The slow, brutal death was meant to establish what sort of person Abby is at this point in her journey. She's not killing Joel out of survival but deep-seeded hatred, and a justified hatred in her eyes. This is doubly emphasized with how she still chooses to show him no mercy (meaning a quick death) even though he'd saved her life just moments earlier. I've mentioned this before but ascribing a blanket sense of morality to TLoU doesn't work. Abby fucks Joel up because Joel killed people close to her. It doesn't matter if those people were good or evil or none of the above. She cared for them and regardless of his reasons, he took them away from her.

In the world of TLoU, your loved ones are all you really have. It's why you get up, it's why you fight to survive. This theme is cemented at the end of the previous game when Joel says fuck you to the Fireflies and the rest of humanity by saving Ellie, the only person he gave a shit about. It didn't matter who those people were or what they'd done, other than that it was going to result in Ellie's death.

Now Joel didn't go around taking pleasure in killing the Fireflies, but there was no revenge aspect to what he did. Abby endured both physical and emotional hardship for years because of Joel's actions and that shows in the brutality of what she does to him - she needs him to suffer to achieve any sort of catharsis.

What is dumb and inconsistent is Abby and her group letting Ellie and Tommy live, as they're both witnesses and are both close to Joel. I'd written about that ad nauseum, it's an indefensible decision from a characterization perspective.

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yagami

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#34  Edited By yagami

The game (as you will see by the end) is pointless to play. The story quickly turns to one about revenge. Then into re-revenge... And then re-re-revenge. It is dumb and lazy writing. At the end, it feels like nothing has been achieved. The characters aren't memorable in the least, and the story makes sure to nail that to the forehead.

I hate, hate hate hate how the characters are flip-flopped to and from. Hate.

While the graphics are stunning, the gameplay feels a bit rough. The story is absolute garbage (again), and the conclusion just shows that it all was for nothing. I really really hated the story. I however do not have anything at all against the LGBTQIA+ characters. I'm a part of LGBTQIA+ myself. - Just... fuck Neil Druckmann.

4/10 from me. Played on Survivor, NOT on "I'm a journalist who can't play games" difficulty - being the easiest setting.

It is a fucking shame that such a beautiful game becomes such a torture to finish. The game is at least 3 hours too long.

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trulyalive

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@yagami: I started the game on Hard and finished it on Normal. I don't think there's any shame in not playing the game on the hardest difficulty setting. I wasn't particularly enjoying it on a higher difficulty so I bumped it down. If you enjoyed it at that difficulty, good for you.

Also, it's fine for you to not like how the story plays out but if it feels like nothing has been achieved by the end, it's because that's totally the point. There is nothing to achieve, nothing that will make these characters (or by extension, us as the players) feel better. The characters just lose more people that are close to them.
I really thought that although the 'violence begets violence' angle was hammered quite explicitly, the final metaphor of Ellie losing her ability to play guitar (probably the one good thing that Joel ever introduced to her life) was pretty powerful.

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plan6

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#36  Edited By plan6

It’s weird that people say nothing was accomplished in the game when that was the ending of LoU1. Like on purpose the status quo stays the same. Also, this is a revenge story and not much is “accomplished” in those stories. Many of them focus on how vengeance destroys everyone involved.

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Topcyclist

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#37  Edited By Topcyclist

@trulyalive: I think its basically that. People don't like revenge stories taken so seriously. People like john wick and the violence but when you're supposed to take it serious people point fingers at it being another one of those and how violence is bad is a dumb trope somehow. Like the meme...real treasure is the friends along the way or chosen one, tropes that people overall just got tired of and need everyone who likes them still, to know how wrong they are. Also, people spew that its agenda-driven and hate any mention of what you said even if they use coded wording to cover it up. That said other than that...people can still just not like it for reasons of it just not working. Hard to tell with all the 0 scores trying to offset the good.

I still stand by the idea that the game wasn't meant for everyone and tons playing it or commenting on it after watching lets plays would be put off no matter what. It's like a COD and sports game player being told Tetris is good and just not getting it since its not something thed play normally. No matter what the best rpg isnt going to appeal to someone who never likes RPGs at the core unless you change the RPG so much original fans cant enjoy it.

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I just want to say that in The Last Of Us Part II the true horror is not the infected or man's inhumanity to man, it's a video game director who doesn't have an editor reining in his most self-indulgent tendencies.

Whatever you want to say about the other elements of the game it is way too long and repetitive, and especially features way too many sequences when you're traveling alone through samey environments doing the same thing over and over and over.

A lot of movie directors who have a hit get a lot of creative control and then go kind of nuts in their next project with self-indulgence and including every single thought they had, but it doesn't really happen in video games because they're so expensive to make, and every scene of dialog has to be animated and have assets built etc... Not the case here.

So many segments where you follow a companion character to see something "cool." So. Much. Time. spent at the aquarium. So many dilapidated buildings or concrete storage rooms. It even reuses the same boring environments in several places, which is wild because the game is already too long but it's like "did you enjoy going through this shipping yard the first time when it was full of infected? No? Well you get to go through it again but this time it's got dudes with guns."

That sequence before the Santa Barbara section was so incredibly boring and accomplished absolutely nothing for me. I did not care at all about anything that was happening and it took forever. Also once you get to Santa Barbara the whole Rattlers thing comes out of left field and is just dumb and weird and basically repeats the beats of the two other factions in the game. I understand that Ellie and Abby are supposed to be parallel (it's impossible to miss with how heavyhanded it is) but did we need to repeat all the mechanical and story beats for both characters? Apparently.

Even if you like the writing (and most of the dialog is fine, even if the story is cliche and silly) this game needed like 5-10 hours removed from it.

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Shindig

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@topcyclist: One of my favourite films is Dead Man's Shoes. That takes itself very seriously. Same goes for Point Blank. They reach the same conclusions of the The Last of Us 2 but they're a lot more grounded in scope and character.

There's a convenience to The Last Of Us 2 that winds me up. In the first game, Joel had a plan and he had steps to take. Ellie has one clue and the game decides to skip to the destination rather than the journey. That's where the character building was in the first game.

It's a shame to me that I can see a better narrative, better themes and better execution but, for whatever reason, we get something that simply isn't as crafted as the first story.

For example, Tommy goes off in search of Joel's killers. Ellie gets sent to find him. That's an opportunity to explore grief. Maybe they talk each other out of it. And don't send Dina with her unless Dina's there to specifically keep Ellie on a leash. All Maria wants is her husband back before he does something stupid.

Or what about when Abby meets up with Joel. There's an opportunity for Abby to turn. The man she's been hunting has now saved her life. Then the game's about revenge and forgiveness and it's done better than, "Well, it's been 30 hours and Ellie's too tired to fight now. The end."

Why not let Abby make her little speech before battering Joel. Ellie's in the room, she knows he's crossed people. Why not keep everyone else out of the room like Abby instructed? Would've made Ellie getting in there a whole lot harder.

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BoOzak

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@bigsocrates: I didnt read the spoiler tag because I havent finished the game but I agree with everything else you've said.

I'm about 20 hours in and I just dont care at this point. It's not the things that happen or even the characters being dislikable it's the pacing, it's fucking awful. It doesnt help that the structure of the plot is even worse. (i'm in flashback hell at the moment)

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Big_Denim

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#42  Edited By Big_Denim

My only major gripe with the story is how they handle/portray pregnancy.

Both Dina and Mel act as if they aren't even pregnant. My wife was watching as I played the game, and she was constantly rolling her eyes and laughing at it. Did the writers not consult with any female that wasn't a 20 year old California hipster?

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vaporwaveaf

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#43  Edited By vaporwaveaf

I think they accomplish this game’s ultimate goal of portraying the endless cycle of violence and how it can get ugly for everyone so quickly. It’s a simple message but they make good on it. When Abby reaches Haven and the whole town is literally on fucking fire, everyone bloodied and mercilessly murdering each other, not to mention seeing Abby fistfight the dude who literally had a gaping wound in his fucking face, it felt like everything coalesced in that moment and the game successfully illustrated its point.

However in trying to convey its message, I think it asks a lot of the player. I’m not gonna lie, when I started playing as Abby and saw that there were brand new skill trees and new weapons that could be upgraded, I let out a huge ass sigh. Like I just already felt so exhausted by this point. In order to develop relatability and sympathy for this character we barely know, we have to go through all three days of Seattle, PLUS additional flashbacks. But by the end of it I felt Abby’s pain and her sense of loss, to the point where I sympathized with her more than Ellie. The writing was superb, it’s technically a masterpiece and looks fantastic and I enjoyed the experience this game offered, but I honestly never want to play this game ever again.

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Deathstriker

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#44  Edited By Deathstriker

@big_denim: I noticed how it was inconsistent, one day she survives an exploding horse and crashes through the ceiling like Rambo, then the next day she can barely pickup a chair or walk without throwing up. Much like Tommy and Joel being too friendly, the story has characters do what's needed in order to move things, even if it doesn't make sense or it's uncharacteristic for them to do.

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Sweep

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#45 Sweep  Moderator

I kinda feel like the opposite about it. I generally preferred playing as Abby, as she seemed a much more interesting character than Ellie and with a much more conflicted set of objectives which led to a much more interesting sense of character development. I also wasn't really surprised that other characters felt the need to murder Joel as both the first and second games allude to him doing some pretty gnarly shit to survive. I mostly feel like the game did a great job at humanising enemies that would have been, in any other game, interchangeable. People that I hated as Ellie I'd come to like and respect as Abby, which is a tricky feat to pull off - even the scars, with Lev and Yara. Honestly, I was mostly frustrated with Ellie by the end of the game, as her one-track "we need to kill these motherfuckers" John Wick-esque mentality made her seem extremely obtuse and was the largest roadblock in the intended "it's not as binary as you think" message. I also think Druckmann is heavy handed with his "he who seeks revenge should dig two graves" narrative.

But generally, I liked it.

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Big_Denim

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@sweep: Well said. I think Abby was my favorite character by the end of the game.

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#47  Edited By Kyniro

The "cycle of revenge" theme gets heavily undermined by

Abby just not killing Tommy and Ellie at the beginning. They were the only witnesses to what happened and it would've been highly unlikely for anyone else to have tied the murders to Abby, because Joel didn't exactly tell everyone that he massacred a Firefly hospital four years back. And it would've fit in more so with Abby's compulsive need for revenge, the sheer coincidence that the only two people too see her kill Joel are his blood brother and (as far as they knew) this woman who really cared for him, enough so to threaten revenge in his wake. She owed them nothing and them living was pure plot armor. Their deaths would've ended this particular cycle of revenge.

And even if she didn't want to kill them for conscientious reasons, the self-preservation of her and her friends should've 100% outweighed that. Remember that Owen (?) is hesitant to go after Joel in the settlement because his girlfriend was pregnant, and the others were just really worried for their lives. And also recall that none of them were new to having to kill others to survive, hell that one guy wanted to shoot Ellie for just knocking him around a bit moments before.

The actual theme of the game is that the cycle of revenge only exists because seemingly smart people are in actuality beyond stupid and comically contradictory.

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Shindig

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I also don't think Druckmann did himself any favours with the self-inserts. It reminded me of when people suspected Kojima was going to sabotage MGS V.

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Joel reminded me that he was a complete piece of shit to everyone but Ellie when he said “just say whatever speech you practiced and get this over with.” This girl is clearly a loved one of someone he murdered and he just doesn’t care. He would rather die than emotionally confront the things he has done.