Spoiler Discussion for Those That Have Completed the Game

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JasonR86

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So, for those beat the game, what are you final thoughts? I'm curious because, without going too deep, it sounds like there are some strong feels about this game. Even though I say this thread is for spoilers in its name, I'm still going to spoiler block my spoilers. Please do the same in the comments, just to be safe.

I went in to the game thinking that the story might just be a revenge story but was hoping they'd do something more with that concept. Well, to me, the story is more than just a revenge story. It's a character study of two characters, one of them Ellie, and revenge is the motivator. The short, non-spoiler reaction to the story is that it is really well done, especially for video games, and stands up there with one of the most well written and well acted games I've played. It has problems that can be nitpicked and depending on who you are those problems can be big, I suppose. Also, they hit on social topics that might make people feel uncomfortable for a lot of reasons and they don't really do a good job justifying why those small character stories are told, but also they may not need to be justified either. It's complicated, I guess. But, ultimately it's a really good game with a very good story and well worth playing. Or watching, if you'd rather.

It seemed to me that the overriding point of the game was that no matter beliefs, values, which group you belong to, or anything else at the end of the day all of the people in that world are just trying to get by. That the humans in that world have more in common than not and that our humanity should bring us together, rather than anger and vengeance should tear us apart. Abby gets there sooner than Ellie, but Ellie eventually understands and lets it go. I think it's a beautiful sentiment, even if it is a bit of a tired one, that is really well realized in this game. I think Abby and Ellie's actions are well justified and ending their stories as they do makes a lot of sense and is a positive take, though a bit mired in sadness, within a world that is brutal and unforgiving.

I think where the game has some problems is that they don't do a good job exploring the religious group in the game. It felt a bit half-baked to put that group in. As if they needed another faction, and wanted to do something with that faction, but there wasn't enough time or rationale to flesh them out. So you end up knowing just enough about them to be informed but not enough to make it clear why they were important to the story as a whole. But that's not a huge gripe for me, personally. Likewise, I think the ftm trans character was an interesting choice that they handle well, but they don't really justify why that particular tension for that character in that group was relevant to Abby's story. The kid could have been persecuted for any reason and his reason for being in the game could have been just as relevant. But, I also don't personally have a big gripe about that either.

The biggest bummer for me was that one of the trailers showed Joel in a scene, implying that he was going to team up with older Ellie, but a different character is in that scene in place of Joel. It's kind of fucked up. But, other than that, I don't have too many complaints. I'm really impressed overall.

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bigsocrates

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#2  Edited By bigsocrates

Overall I think it's...fine. Above average. I thought it was not as good as the first game, mostly because none of the relationships were as strong as the core relationship in that game, which was the best thing about it. I think the game has a lot of pacing problems, both in terms of story and action, and the fact that you spend a huge amount of the game alone was a big bummer to me. Naughty Dog does the best companion dialog in the business but they chose to have you spend like 50% of the game solo, and I get that it's a horror game and that can ratchet up the tension and scares, but a lot of that stuff just felt like a slog to me.

To be more spoilerific...I didn't hate Abby as a character but I never really cared about her. I think it was a big mistake to hold off on her section (except for the brief bit at the beginning) until you were done with Ellie because at that point I was both fatigued by the game and reminded of why I liked Ellie so much, which made me much less enthused about Abby. I think alternating between them each day would have been a better structure, and I get that they didn't do that both to preserve the "surprise" (though I saw it coming based on that beginning section) and to force you to view her as the antagonist before you played as her, but that didn't really work for me.

The best parts of the story were the dialog and the writing in the notes, along with the environmental storytelling. There were some really funny and affecting moments. The overall arc didn't resonate with me, because I felt like the plot drove the characters rather than the characters driving the plot. None of the characters (including Ellie) felt fully realized to me.

I really hated the interlude back at the farm before Santa Barbara. I thought it was super boring and insufferable in an already overlong game. I also thought Santa Barbara was just flat out silly. After introducing two factions and not really explaining them in Seattle (we never got to understand the WLF or Isaac well, let alone the Seraphim, and I read the vast majority of the notes) they introduce a third evil faction of even worse people and don't bother explaining them at all. If the Fireflies pulled out of Santa Barbara because of the Rattlers then why didn't that Firefly warn Abby over the radio? It just felt rushed and cartoonish and like misery porn. Ellie's escape from the Rattlers' trap and subsequent insane injured assault on their base to get to Abby was also extremely cartoonish. It's all video game stuff but not compelling to me.

I think this game is less than the sum of its parts. It just feels long, self-indulgent, too confident of its own cultural relevance, and too focused on making a "point" that it can't carry through in. There's enough good stuff in it to make it a good game I'm glad I played, but not enough to make it a standout title like the previous game was. It lacks focus.

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bxt7280

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#3  Edited By bxt7280

@bigsocrates:

The slow pacing of the game gives me mixed feelings. It was around the hospital segment that I started to get pretty bored. However, once you control Ellie again at the final segment I realized that the length of the Abby campaign (and the game in general) was almost necessary in a way. It’s like you had to marinate in Abbys world to get a certain feeling of conflict right as Ellie begins her final mission to kill her. I understand that brute force method may of not of worked for many but it did for me.

The farm segment in my opinion kinda acted as a false epilogue to me. It really gave me a “are we really doing this” feeling that intensified the last part of the game.

Overall, I had a great time with the game. Not gonna call it a masterpiece story wise though.

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BoOzak

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There were some well done moments and great performances but the story lost all momentum for me about half way through and never regained it. (did we really need two love triangles with pregnant ladies?)

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JasonR86

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A bit of a side note, but what did you all think of...

Abby turning into Joel and Lev being Ellie? I mean it's not a direct one to one comparison, because Abby is less violent by the end than Joel and Lev is certainly less violent than Ellie. But it's a comparison all the same. I like it, but I could see an argument where a person could feel it's too on the nose to turn a revenge-focused murderer into the murdered. But I appreciated the sentiment all the same.

I also like that some of the gameplay elements associated with Joel, like the planks, using shivs, the flamethrower were saved for Abby, tying the gameplay into the narrative (though in an 'on the nose' sort of way if you were already bothered by that).

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DrBroel

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#7  Edited By DrBroel

It's a far more complicates story than the first game. Narratively and thematically. That's a good thing. It will just take people time to come to terms with story and what it does.

The parts that made me feel something:

  • Joel and Ellie in the space capsule.
  • Ellie and Dina in the weed farm
  • Abby "confronts" Owen on the boat
  • Abby not killing Dina because of Lev
  • Abby and Lev make radio contact with the Fireflies
  • Seeing what Abby looks like now on the pillar.
  • There actually are moments of cathartic violence, seeing the wolves and scars destroy each other.
  • Ellie strangling Abby; starts crying; sees Joel on the porch; lets Abby go. That's the big one. It's the first time she can picture Joel not as a bloody corpse.
  • The final flashback; Joel and Ellie on the porch, she decides to try to forgive Joel. This unlocks Ellie's psychological state for the whole game. She can't forgive herself for not letting him back in her life sooner. She can't confront those feelings and uses obsessive revenge as way to avoid them.

My favorite levels:

  • The Shortcut: crossing those rivers to get to the skyscraper to cross those crazy bridges.
  • The entire island section: infiltrating a death cults island, while it was under attack by wolves.
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I loved it, the whole ending sequence was really emotional. I thought the game had so many gorgeous moments like the subway, skybridge, and island. The story was captivating and I couldn't put it down.

The scene from the E3 trailer hit me really hard. Seeing Ellie and Dina so happy really hammered how much pain their Seattle journey caused. Then the scene where Ellie leaves the farm is heartbreaking.

I think the tonal shift from Ellie Day 3 to Abby Day 1 is what is causing all of the conflict. The cliffhanger leading in to a patrol for Abby is just too slow an introduction and too hard of a shift. I personally think the perspective change is really interesting as I don't remember the last game where you play 2 characters as opposing protagonists. ND underestimated how much people loved Joel and it made Abby unredeemable to the internet hivemind it seems but I thought the Abby section really fleshed her out.

The ending was satisfying to me but I think its almost not heavy-handed enough compared to the rest of the game. The game is really not subtle about it's themes and I think if Lev said the words that Ellie was saying as Abby was killing Joel would've really hammered it in to Ellie. If Lev was begging her to stop like she was begging Abby to stop in the beginning the decision to spare Abby makes more sense to the player.

It makes Ellie's choice to spare Abby more significant that she stops on her own but I think it's hard for the player to internalize why she stopped when you're forced to do all of the fighting and just before she drowns her she stops because of her internal struggle. Ellie just uses Lev as bait but I think Lev is really the crux of the story and could've been the turning point for Ellie too.

I loved the game but I don't think I can play it again because playing the beginning happy parts would be heartbreaking. I hope the DLC is Yara and Lev living on and then escaping the seraphite island. Or a happy ending for Ellie because I don't know if I can take more sadness.

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ShadyPingu

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#9  Edited By ShadyPingu

I enjoyed it, though not as much as the first game. It's too long for its own good, certainly. Pacing is probably the game's deepest flaw.

I think Naughty Dog is largely successful in their goal of nudging you to reconsider your moral position on both Abby and Ellie. I thought it was interesting that they are on basically inverse character arcs. We are introduced to Abby as she does the most awful thing she's ever done, then for the rest of our time with her, we see her acting with varying degrees of selflessness. By contrast, Ellie starts the game in a very reasonable place of anger and pain, but by the end she has become a thoroughly pathetic character whose actions are disgusting and indefensible. Thankfully she experiences some much-needed catharsis at the very end so maybe the future will look a bit brighter for Ellie.

So, well done on that, but all this does have an unfortunate knock-on effect: I found the Ellie section to be a slog because she is a fairly static character, while I was engrossed by Abby's section. No idea how one would resolve that, but it definitely colored my experience with the game.

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NeverGameOver

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#10  Edited By NeverGameOver

So I just did the Farm section after Day 3 and realized that I still have another section left. I'm completely dumbfounded that this is still going on. Exactly how much of this trash do I have left? If it's much more than a hour, I'm deleting this from my hard drive and never finishing it.

I wish Abbi had finished smashing Ellie's fucking face in because her character is irredeemable at this point.

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burbigo

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I really wish the same thing, she should've smash her face 'til the end

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TheIdleCritic

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I won't go in deep as I made another thread where I voiced a lot already but, did Ellie not find out that Joel killed Abby's father and not just that he stopped the fireflies making a vaccine, or did I miss something?

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#13  Edited By Milkman

The reason the Last of Us was great was because of Joel and Ellie. The fact that so much of this game isn't about them at all was a huge mark against it. I didn't care about Abby, I didn't care about the Wolves vs. the Scars, I didn't care about Owen or Lev or any of these other people. I get what the game was trying to tell me. Everyone's got a story, everyone's got a reason for what they do and without understanding each other, the cycle keeps repeating and kills us all. That's a fine message but it doesn't make me more interested in their story. I would have been fine with an hour or two as Abby, learning about her past and her dad. But half the damn game felt like a MGS 2 level bait and switch.

There's a scene at the very end with Joel and Ellie where Ellie tells him that she doesn't think she'll ever forgive him for taking her out of the hospital. It's an extremely effective scene and exactly the dynamic I wanted if Naughty Dog was insisting on making a Last of Us sequel. Instead we're forced to spend all this time with these facsimile characters that I could not have been less interested in.

I didn't hate the game or anything and I do think there are some great moments and set pieces but as someone who counts the original Last of Us among my favorite games of all-time, my feelings when the credits rolled were mostly just me wondering why this game even needed to be made. I wish the game just picked up right after the original and followed Ellie and Joel in Jackson. I know criticizing a game for what it isn't isn't really fair but that's how I felt.

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plan6

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#14  Edited By plan6  Online

@shadypingu: I felt the same and it was liberating when I got to the commando Ellie section where I was ending terrible people again.

But the juxtaposition has to be intentional, just like all the moments when Ellie finds a trading card or talks about comic con. It’s to remind you of the character that is literally being destroyed by this revenge quest.

I’m mixed on the game right now, but my biggest problem is length and their poor understanding of how attack dogs are not house pets. You don’t keep your killer pupper off leash. I won’t feel bad for killing the magical murder Air bud.

But I’ve enjoyed the big moments, including the Abby v Ellie fight. That might be Naughty Dogs finest work at a boss fight. It was so tight, readable and played to how the characters function. And a cool real twist that I was really pretty into beat Ellie down. Also enjoyed the Abby vs Mrs. Trunchbull, another point in the game where I was super into being this super jacked bad ass woman.

I want to wish lesbian farm simulator DLC into the world. Lavishly produced scenes of systematized crop growing and making out(Naughty dog need to open source their smooching tech). They grow crops and try to trade enough goods to get JJ his own drum set by Christmas. And finding good tweezers so Ellie can try to keep up with Dia’s powerful brows.

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DrBroel

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#15  Edited By DrBroel

@milkman: I think that's a pretty honest criticism, if not entirely fair to what this game is trying to say and accomplish.

Although I do keep seeing people say the game has the overly simple theme of cycles of violence. Which I think is far too reductive for a story this big and complex. It's also about moving on from one's past and finding something bigger than yourself to live for. Abby has found this by the end of the game but not Ellie.

What she tells Joel in the last flashback also applies to Ellie in the present. She might never be able to forgive herself for the terrible things she has done but she'd like to try. Which is what we see her going to do as she walks off in the game's last image.

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Nodima

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#16  Edited By Nodima

I guess I'll just put my entire post in a spoiler block, then?

First of all, I think the attempt here is beyond admirable. That said, it does borrow liberally from its peers and that ambition undermines what Naughty Dog shocked people by with the original Last of Us. We know they can do spectacle like the burning village at the end of the game or the tower sequence - I mean I'll be honest, Abby's section felt more like an Uncharted game than a Last of Us game to me. So it was spectacular and that's fine, but it was also exhausting because it was keeping me away from what I wanted from the game, which were character moments and refined, tightly designed stealth action set pieces.

Given the epilogue (and keep in mind I am typing as the credits roll) and its structure - or is it even an epilogue, really? - I think that it's more than fair to point to the structure of the game as a type of failing. Personally, I was all in on getting to control Abby at the point that we were handed the keys...until I realized she also had an upgrade tree, I was still collecting materials, and by the time I found my first training manual I admit I felt deflated. It's a hard feeling to articulate because so much of Abby's story is both well done and vital to the point they're making...but now, given everything, I can agree with anyone who'd make the argument this is not a point that needs to be elaborated on quite so extravagantly?

Aside from getting to know Abby and her crew members, what makes it hard to sustain that narrative once she starts running around with Lev and Yara is that we stop getting to know those other characters, and Lev/Yara convey pretty stereotypical children of religious zealots surrounded by some very typical video game religious zealot iconography - there's all kinds of Tomb Raider reboot and Red Dead Redemption 2 cannibal cult parallels there. The longer it drags on - even becoming Resident Evil 4 for an hour or so - it just feels like Naughty Dog wanted to be every goddamn game that was ever good, and forgot what makes The Last of Us singular. I suppose this was the worry from the very beginning, even if I was sure they wouldn't do that.

But even Uncharted 4 was all over this game in a way Uncharted only ever felt tangential to The Last of Us before.

Anyway, this is a lot of complaining about what boils down to what I believe would have made far more sense, especially given Druckmann found himself so fascinated with the idea of dueling fates: structure the entire game the way they did the "epilogue", drop all and I meanallof the Scars/Seraphites stuff including the entire island and tighten up the flashback structure just a tad. Perhaps switching between the two characters more frequently would have been a more traditional move, but it would have allowed the viewer to draw more parallels between what is happening in both timelines. As it is, like I said above, it feels like they glued a Last of Us game and an Uncharted game together, but you already spent 10-14 hours playing Last of Us so all you can think about for the following 10-14 hours is when you'll start playing Last of Us again.

Anyway, I suppose I still didn't get into that many specifics there. There is a lot to process. I found myself almost cleanly breaking the game between playing Ellie on Hard and Abby on Very Light, again due to the growing impatience I felt above. I disagree that there is any bad writing in this game, really, but its structure leaves a lot to be desired. The resolution to what I felt was perhaps the climactic scene on Ellie's side, her confrontation with Joel, is the final scene of the game nearly 20 hours later. It's incredibly bold to ask one scene so removed from another to bear that weight, and I think that's something you can say about The Last of Us 2 time and time again: it's incredibly bold to have Ellie make an off-hand comment about clues in the environment that don't truly pay off for 15-25 hours! But that's also fucking insane, and I can see how it would irritate less patient gamers.

Naughty Dog tried to make a novel here, not a film, and I think the grand consensus for a while now has been that novels are what narrative games like this should be chasing given their detail and breadth. I'm super impressed by what this team achieved here, and honestly unlike a lot of people now that I don't have the urgency of the story at my back...I kind of want to play it again just to really give the combat encounters an honest go? I loved what I got out of my Hard run with Ellie up until I started really wanting the story to get moving so I could talk about it all on the internet, and I saw so much potential in the Abby encounters it kind of hurt at times that I was taking advantage of Naughty Dog's truly open-ended design to just sprint past everyone on Very Light and trigger the escape / door lock sequence.

I'll put this last sentence in all bold, I guess, because unfortunately it's my true main takeaway right now as the waves roll onto the beach of the true Press Any Button screen: the fact that anybody things thissucked, or was in any way not an achievement to be lauded and discussed adnauseam, is flat out wild to me.

Edit: I also want to add that in the spoiler section of this post I point out that I found all of the Scars stuff, and by extension Lev and Yara, superfluous to the game. I do not specifically mean the gender identity subplot, as I think Abby's immediate understanding of that issue speaks to her own misgivings. We see in flashbacks that she wasn't always a Chyna-esque figure, but she's very intentionally become one, and I'm sure she gets all kinds of side eyes and comments about it in her world, let alone the real world. I just found all of that stuff to be where the game truly became a little too big for the franchise it's a part of, and allowed the team to shoehorn a bunch of gameplay that would have felt more appropriate in their other franchise. The characters are fine, though combined with Jesse draw a pretty broad stroke of Asian Americans as stoic, undertone-speaking agents of philosophy and understanding which is a bit weird considering the near-universal subversive nature of so many of the other new characters.

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dsjwetrwete

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#17  Edited By dsjwetrwete

I feel it's a poorly written tale of revenge that can't shake its popcorn media inspirations and is afraid to offend its intended audience. An audience who for the most part has probably only experienced the sort of violence and pain that the game hints at from... consuming popcorn media. Just that idea of what fucked up, partially damaged people in that kind of fucked up world would actually reasonably think and behave.

TLoU2's depictions of violence, brutality, and suffering are almost all window dressing. The game attempts to create and develop complex characters only to have them make the decisions (I want to stress decisions and not mistakes) of simpler ones in service of moving the plot forward. I mean, the very scene that sparks the plot is glaringly nonsensical and contradicts the details that exist so far (details that were intentional). I've posted about this scene about fifty times or so here, but:

-Abby and her friends spend a prolonged period hunting down Joel.

-Abby and her friends have likely spent a significant amount of effort and experienced many hardships in the process of hunting down Joel.

-Abby and her friends (Owen) have a brief conversation in which the latter expresses hesitation in going after Joel because he's a protected by a large settlement with lots of people. He/they clearly have some fear of losing their own lives. Abby isn't particularly phased because she still wants Joel dead.

-Although they've spent at least one night at the lodge, they are still wearing clothes that identifies their group.

-Abby is saved by Joel.

-Deus ex machina effectively places Joel in front of her without any strings, meaning all the concerns she and her friends had about having to take Joel from the settlement and risking their own lives has become null and void.

-Abby smashes Joel's skull in with a golf club while her friends watch.

Why this scene shits the bed:

- Abby and her friends are narratively established as a relatively intelligent collective of human beings. They never would have made it this far in their revenge trip, especially in the hard, demanding world established by the first TLoU, otherwise. They show a clear drive to hunt down Joel, follow through in it, while expressing reservations about their hunt beforehand because of a desire for self-preservation. (Very human)

But still, against all overwhelming sense and logic, they:

1) Wear clothing that identifies their group. If I were a relatively intelligent collective of human beings, bent on committing a violent act of revenge, I would have gone incognito appearance-wise the moment I embarked on the murderous endeavor so I wouldn't be identified by the wrong people. If I were a brave man I might keep the identifying clothing on hand or in some form just in case I needed that identification. (Oh you're WLF/Fireflies? So are we, here's my cub scout patch please don't eat my face)

2) Leave fucking witnesses. One of whom is the brother of my sworn enemy and was once a part of/related to my group in some way, so I/we'd have some idea as to what someone like him is capable of doing to us (the intel in his head alone) if I leave him alive. The other of whom being a person who has promised to tear off my dick with their bare teeth as revenge.

Oh and that sworn enemy? The one I invested probably years of my precious, fleeting life hunting down and killing? He'd just saved my life and it wasn't enough to save him from a golf club to the skull. Not for a fucking second. This singular mindset for graphic payback is once again, something the narrative intentionally establishes.

Hell these two people that are close to him, not only do I have zero reasons to leave them alive, I have multiple ones to do them right here and how - they identified us, promised to fuck us up, saw our crime and can alert an entire settlement, and are obviously close with that bastard Joel. For fuck's sake, Tommy is already half way to corpse-land and one of my friends wants to shoot Ellie just for kicking him in the nuts. With all three dead, there's almost no chance that anyone from the settlement could tie us to the crime, no possible targets on our back from here on. Joel and Tommy have made so many enemies and I doubt Joel went around letting everyone know he massacred a hospital full of Fireflies years back.

BUT the story needs a reason to exist so Tommy and Ellie live. So these seemingly complex characters (Abby and her friends) need to become simple, dumb movie villains for this one moment (and arguably many others later on). How many popcorn revenge flicks have you watched that start off with the villain not killing everyone involved when they clearly should, or at least not confirm those kills? If TloU2 doesn't give a shit about the consistency, the sanctity of its own narrative, why should I? Everyone's a dipshit.

Now, as for Abby being as brutal as she is in this scene (a brutality that IS mostly defensible, warning long-winded repost incoming):

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.

The slow, brutal death inflicted upon Joel 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.

People and our connections to them are why Abby and Ellie go on their dangerous and self-destructive revenge missions. And it's also why 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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Nodima

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Also, going back to how I'm weirdly kind of into the idea of replaying the game somewhat soon here where most say they wouldn't want to...I think back to something Tim Rogers said in his truly excellent re-review of The Last of Us I've already referenced and shared elsewhere on these boards, that replaying The Last of Us is ultimately just as important as playing it the first time, because a lot of the gameplay is equivalent to a cutscene. What he means is, the more comfortable you get in the role of Joel and where he's taking Ellie and when, more than almost any game it begins to feel like you're an actor on a stage.

If anyone's ever played The Last of Us for a significant other that does not, absolutely does not play video games, you might be familiar with the strange feeling that they were deeply invested in watching you play, and you became sort of weirdly transfixed on performing Joel rather than just playing the game the way you might normally play it. There were scenarios with Abby specifically where I started thinking about how I might do things differently now that I knew the sequence of events and which points of interest were truly interesting.

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DrBroel

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#19  Edited By DrBroel

@kyniro: I think Owen's character arc explains your plot holes. The rest of the group wants to kill Ellie but Owen stops them. He and Abby are their leaders but Owen is the least invested in this mission (he's only doing it for Abby). You take Owen out of the group and they would leave no survivors. They don't realize he is on the verge of deserting to find the Fireflys. Owen doesn't want these deaths on his conscience and has one foot out of the door in Seattle.

Owen is a very well developed character and its completely believable that he would leave them alive even though it's dangerous.

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dsjwetrwete

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#20  Edited By dsjwetrwete

@drbroel: Owen being responsible makes the least sense since isn't he the one who brings up the group's hesitation in going after Joel early on? He'd be the first to think of his pregnant girlfriend (after Joel's execution) and step in to say, "You know we've already gone this far, we can't leave witnesses or it'll put us all at risk".

You may sympathize with someone and not want to kill them because you consider them a relative innocent, but in the case of self-preservation particularly in the world of TLoU, the latter always wins out. There's just no rational justification for Owen or any the group to leave witnesses when they've already expressed worry about jeopardizing their own livelihoods. They're very mission is a revenge mission after all, and at this point, Owen has already participated in the brutal execution of Joel, someone he doesn't have a specific enough grudge against.

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Intradictus

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@drbroel: Pretty much this, plus their grabbing of Joel and Tommy is pretty spontaneous owing to the fact that Abby stumbled across their patrol route after Owen tries to stop Abby from going through with her plan. No one was expecting to get Joel back to their camp so soon so they wouldn't have really been planning for needing to remove their patches

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NeverGameOver

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#22  Edited By NeverGameOver

Just finished. Okay, so this game is basically just a character assassination of Ellie. Cool. There’s really no moral ambiguity at all. She’s just an abhorrent human. I will be actively recommending that people do not play this game as it was a miserable experience.

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#23  Edited By dsjwetrwete

@intradictus: I've already covered this in my post, but that's also shaky because they would've been intelligent enough to have not been wearing identifiable clothing to begin with. Going back to the media - how many movies have you watched where someone gets wronged, starts a revenge crusade, and one of the first things they do is NOT change their hair, face, and/or remove any clothing that could identify them? Not most.

Why, because they don't want the perpetrators they're hunting to know that (the person who they'd originally fucked up) is alive and coming for them. ("Who are you? Why are you doing this?" - how many times have you heard such lines?) Abby and her group spent a decent period of time planning and executing their revenge mission. They are not simpletons. Hell just wearing their WLF clothing would bring heat from anyone who hates the WLF.

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Nodima

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#24  Edited By Nodima

@kyniro said:

@drbroel: Owen being responsible makes the least sense since isn't he the one who brings up the group's hesitation in going after Joel early on? He'd be the first to think of his pregnant girlfriend (after Joel's execution) and step in to say, "You know we've already gone this far, we can't leave witnesses or it'll put us all at risk".

You may sympathize with someone and not want to kill them because you consider then a relative innocent, but in the case of self-preservation particularly in the world of TLoU, the latter always wins out. There's just no rational justification for Owen or any the group to leave witnesses when they KNOW it jeopardize their own lives. They're very mission is a revenge mission after all.

This is actually completely out of line with Owen's character, though. Recall that in the weeks following the mission to Jackson, Owen was already in hiding from the WLF because he killed his own partner, Danny, rather than kill who he was supposed to kill, some anonymous Seraphite that just looked up at him with old, weary eyes and broke him. Other characters in that group mention something to the effect of still being able to hear Joel's screams and see his face; it didn't sit well with any of them in the moment, but Owen was the only one who then goes on to spend most of his time talking about how cool sea otters are, how much potential he and Abby might have had if her father hadn't died, how fatigued he was by the wartime scenario they were creating for themselves due to Isaac's dogmatic stances...

With both Ellie and Abby's groups, we get the impression that neither of their friend groups have compartmentalized pain and loss the way those two girls have. When you see the golf club scene from Abby's perspective, her group all seem to be play acting and really trying to be these bad ass tough guys, but it is always Abby that initiates the truly violent acts and Owen who slows things down.

Owen doesn't often act like a typical character from these games in most of our interactions with him. He's rarely in the field and rarely fully approves of Abby's plans without his coming along to protect her. It's pretty easy to rationalize a character like that thinking, "okay, we've avenged this woman I care about's death, and I really don't care at all about this young girl on the ground other than she didn't make Joel's choice, besides I've got an entire army behind me back home." Which is the last piece that's easy to over look - Jackson was a tidy little mountain town not all that different than it is today. You did your patrols and had your dances but mostly it was just a quiet nothing of a living situation. Seattle was a goddamn warzone and the WLF was clearly a military force.

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#25  Edited By dsjwetrwete

@nodima: It doesn't sit right with me. A complex character can make bad choices in the moment, but even as a collective group of slightly disparate individuals, someone should've made the decision of killing both the witnesses for their own sake. Self-preservation is one of the prevailing themes of TLoU and just can't be brushed on a off whim, especially not in that scene where the concept itself is brought up shortly beforehand. I mean that guy that Ellie smacked around when she entered the room WANTED to shoot her then and there just for slighting him. And Tommy was already beaten half to death and by hands belonging to the group. It's plot armor. There's an argument to be made that you can't have genuine complexity without some level of consistency.

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DrBroel

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@kyniro: Just because character acts dumbly or irrationally doesn't mean there's a plot hole. Smart people can make dumb decisions. Composed people can act irrationally.

The game shows many times that Owen is not a "my survival at any cost" kind of character.

Is Owen smart? Yes. But there are other factors at play.

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DrBroel

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Maybe they thought wearing badges scare people from messing them. Like they aren't some randos walking around. Plenty of soldiers in history have done this.

Also, they just completely underestimated Ellie. Which is believable.

This game may have plot hole. But THIS isn't one of them.

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#28  Edited By dsjwetrwete

@drbroel: Once again, don't ignore context and what the narrative establishes leading up to that scene alone. Abby brutalizes Joel while the group helps, even after he'd just saved her life, after having spent serious time and effort hunting Joel down for the sole purpose of ending his life horribly. One of the group wants to put a bullet in Ellie just for smacking him around. And Tommy is on the floor covered in his own shit. Owen even relays worries before then that going after Joel might not be worth it because it'll put them at risk of an entire settlement.

These are not people, not in TLoU's world, that the narrative itself attempts to establish as those who'd leave witnesses behind if they can help it or at least openly consider not leaving them knowing they've condemned themselves. They are not people who aren't constantly thinking about their own self-preservation to some level. Because they do, in the narrative itself.

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#29  Edited By dsjwetrwete

@drbroel: I don't want to sound like a butt, but think you're just grasping at straws. Technically anything can happen in any sort of world in fiction. What if a giant unicorn came from the sky and rescued Joel from Abby? Who's to say it couldn't happen? Has it been established that magical unicorns don't exist? Shit there could be a scientific reason for it, I mean infected exist.

But yeah, it wouldn't. You don't try to craft a world, attempt a context of rules and behaviors like Naughty Dog has and then just go, "well whatever". At least not without someone being critical of it. (And c'mon, the WLF have enemies don't they, the kind who'd start fighting with them just because they're part of that group? I remember the Fireflies being a target in the original game. Anyone else want to argue that tribalism isn't also a prevailing theme in this series?)

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@kyniro said:

@drbroel: I don't want to sound like a butt, but think you're just grasping at straws. Technically anything can happen in any sort of world in fiction. What if a giant unicorn came from the sky and rescued Joel from Abby? Who's to say it couldn't happen? Has it been established that magical unicorns don't exist? Shit there could be a scientific reason for it, I mean infected exist.

A giant unicorn showing up isn't a character decision. Which is what we are attempting to (civilly) talk about.

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#31  Edited By dsjwetrwete

EDIT: Screw it, I'm just coming off looking like a total ass. I'm wrong. About everything, probably. I've said my piece and I'm just gonna go back to my hole, apologies everyone.

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Nodima

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#32  Edited By Nodima

Well, on this you'll just have to agree to disagree with people. I happen to think that a "plot hole" is not the same as an "inconsistent character" regardless of whether I think Owen is or isn't consistent in his characterization anyway.

I agree that it felt like plot armor in the early parts of the game, but by the time I'd seen the other side play out with all of the dialogue it became pretty clear to me that that was an uncomfortable situation not everyone wanted to escalate. It was no longer plot armor, it was certain characters appealing to other characters' humanity during their least humane moments. I mean I suppose we don't even need to talk around this here. Here's what everyone says in that scene pertinent to this discussion.

Owen: We're here for him, that's it.

Manny: It's too risky to leave them alive.

Owen: Too fucking bad!

Abby: He's right. We can't have loose ends.

Owen: We kill them, we're no better than he was. They didn't do anything wrong [and she wouldn't even be here if you were guarding the perimeter like I'd ask, other guys in the group.]

[fighting between Owen and Danny(?)]

Mel: Back up, calm the fuck down!

Abby: Stop, we're done.

And then we get Abby, Seattle, Day 1, and 10 hours of her being essentially the coolest demeanor'd girl on the planet whom everyone in her camp clearly loves and respects, who also goes back on Day 2 to risk her life for sworn members of the group she's sworn to kill on sight that live right in her back door just because they saved her own life the night before. These characters clearly are not the characters you want them to be just because they inhabit the world of The Last of Us, and I think that's a trick Joel played on a lot of people. He was an alcoholic drug runner who did whatever it took to get his rations and survive before the Ellie job; that's what made him perfect for the Ellie job. It didn't mean he was the only type of survivor in this world.

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#33  Edited By plan6  Online

It was Mel who said they couldn’t leave lose ends, not Abby. Abby is the one who makes the final call to spare Ellie. That line was the one that made me think Mel might be a bad match for Owen.

Also that entire group was ex-fire flies, which means Joel killed a lot of people they were close to.

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@plan6: Thanks, it's a little hard to transcribe from an MKIceandFire Youtube video littered with ads when the dialogue is also so rapid fire and not clearly marked who's speaking in the subs. Sounded like Abby to me but they do have similar performances.

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#35  Edited By plan6  Online

You should watch the scene from Abby’s view, she doesn’t say anything after killing Joel, until she says “we’re done.” The camera is on her for the entire debate.

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#36  Edited By Nodima

@plan6: That's the scene I was quoting from (and obviously I watched it with full attention while playing the game), but again I was pausing to type after each sentence so the screen (I was also doing this with my TV while I typed on my desktop) was covered in ads and other HUD information and greyed out thanks to how Youtube works on a PS4, I was purely focused on the voices and subtitles and Abby's mouth was obscured by the Play button the entire time. Like I said, thanks for jogging my memory that Abby was fully silent during that scene.

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#37  Edited By DrBroel

Does anyone else feel this way? With the pre-release talk about how this was an incredibly brutal and depressing story. Did that make you think it was going to end up much worse than it actually did?

All these characters survived.

  • Ellie
  • Abby
  • Dina ( thought for sure, she would die.)
  • Lev
  • Tommy

This is why I want to play it a second time. So I can actually let myself get attached to some of these characters.

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#38 plan6  Online

That is the exact reason why I spoiled myself on the game, because I wanted stop fearing who would die. It was getting in the way of enjoying other aspects of the game.

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I'm also curious about what people thought the boat on the title screen signified. I knew it was going to play into the end of the game in some way.

I thought Ellie was going to commit suicide by drowning herself.

Which goes to show just how bleak I was expecting this game to be.

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#40  Edited By ragnar_mike

@drbroel: After everything I've seen and heard, I wouldn't be surprised if it's just a very straightforward analogy that interpersonal connections are what keep us grounded and that cutting those ties leaves us adrift and lost in a sea of nothingness. Which is, I dunno, fine I guess.

Film school ruined most movies for me. Seeing how the sausage got made makes you realize that film people love looking clever (I condemn myself in this statement as well) And Neil Druckmann is a hella film person. Which is tricky because it's a very fine line between clever and needlessly convoluted.

Nothing is technically wrong with anything in this game except for perhaps stale mechanics/AI at this point. I don't think any of the deaths or decisions couldn't be explained away with properly structured cutscenes and dialog and plot structure. It just sorta feels like there were big tentpole narrative things they wanted to say and then they had to construct a story from the top down based off of throwaway story elements. Rogue One has similar issues to me. Things in previous works (many Bothans vs a nameless firefly surgeon) that were probably never meant to act as the catalyst for a story. They can for sure, but the setup is paramount. I see so many people saying they don't care about these new characters. That's Naughty Dog's fault, not the person playing it. And it's not like they didn't solve this exact problem before.

Playing as Sarah in the first game makes you identify with her and care about her and Joel's relationship before you see him in the current world's setting. It gives you context. You understand his grief and walling off through the rest of the game without ever having to have expository dialog, and that allows for more meaningful dialog or subtle acting cues to take its place. They do this for Abby but not as smoothly. You could just as easily have had a prologue showing Abby's experience of those events early so that when things get gnarly, its a much more grey area. I feel like it would have had a better impact than this execution. The symmetry of that (Joel/Abby/Ellie being broken by a death and having it derail their future) is one of those narrative rhyming things that feels dumb when you type it out, but the repetition works in telling a story without having to beat anybody over the head with it. (too soon =P) You both feel for Abby and like Joel even though he sucks and would be forced to contemplate that as the story progresses. The way they did it, your nostalgia overrides their narrative purpose and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. At least it did for me.

Abby is a fine character. They all are, really. Its just how they are given motives and when we as the audience are exposed to it that feels off. The pacing and plot of a narrative driven game like this is crucial and this just didn't land for me. It's like when I see a film and go "oh man, if they just edited out this scene and rearranged the timing of these events it would land so much harder." That's up the individual director and editor to decide, but there are well worn tropes for a reason and I feel like some were skipped for whatever reason they saw fit.

Loss of innocence is a huge part of these games and yet that arc feels so much more realized in the first game because you can't tell people to feel a certain way in media. At its best, media uses its smoke and mirrors to make you think like you discovered the hidden meaning of a tale by yourself, when in actuality the entire thing was on rails. The fact that everybody knows and sees the "murder bad. people shouldn't be bad. its a vicious cycle" theme is because the track isn't hidden here. The narrative is obvious and no amount of gorgeous art and great acting and new and interesting characters can overcome that feeling. Nobody claims the first game was a wholly original idea, but the execution of those key concepts was better, in my mind.

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#41  Edited By DrBroel
@ragnar_mike said:

@drbroel: After everything I've seen and heard, I wouldn't be surprised if it's just a very straightforward analogy that interpersonal connections are what keep us grounded and that cutting those ties leaves us adrift and lost in a sea of nothingness. Which is, I dunno, fine I guess.

It's not just that. If it was only about interpersonal connections, then Abby's arc wouldn't put such an emphasis on finding the Fireflys. Or the emphasis given to Lev's faith.

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#42  Edited By ragnar_mike

@drbroel: True, I'm kinda leaning more on Abbie's arc here since its the more explored one. I think what I was trying to say is that choosing to disregard or ignore what keeps you grounded and human (be it for revenge or fear of commitment after trauma, etc) unmoors you from society leading to all sorts of treacherous paths.

Its much easier to show that shift from A>B rather than try and explain it through flashbacks.

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The way they did it, your nostalgia overrides their narrative purpose and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. At least it did for me.

Abby is a fine character. They all are, really. Its just how they are given motives and when we as the audience are exposed to it that feels off. The pacing and plot of a narrative driven game like this is crucial and this just didn't land for me. It's like when I see a film and go "oh man, if they just edited out this scene and rearranged the timing of these events it would land so much harder." That's up the individual director and editor to decide, but there are well worn tropes for a reason and I feel like some were skipped for whatever reason they saw fit.

I agree, especially considering they very easily (seriously, impressive load times) swapped between characters both early and late in the game, it's a strange choice to back away from that for such a large chunk of the game. Like I said above, at some point during Abby's storyline (for some it's the moment you move her forward with the joystick; for me, it was somewhere near the end of Day 2) anyone who loved the first game and found themselves enthralled with where Ellie's journey through Seattle was taking her physically and emotionally is going to start resenting that period of the game simply from keeping them away from something they were already invested in.

It's probably a hard thing to see when you're in the weeds with something like this, especially because like you said Abby and most of her cohorts are worth spending time with and getting to know. It's easy to imagine a moment in the creative process where Halley Gross, Neil Druckmann and the rest just got really excited seeing what they could explore with these new characters, to the point they forgot they already had new characters for Ellie and Ellie herself was becoming a new character as the game goes by.

I think an even more hyperlinked narrative (think Steven Soderbergh's Traffic) might have done a lot for how the bigger detractors of this game's narrative interpreted it. I know I wouldn't have hurried the game's last...seven hours or so if I hadn't started seriously wondering what the hell Abby was going to do with that gun in that theater and whether that was the final scene for Ellie or not. We could step away from that scene for 10 or 20 minutes in a film, or 1 or 2 hours in a game, but in my actual life I had to wait almost two days to see Ellie again and over 15 hours. That is a lot.

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#44  Edited By ragnar_mike

@nodima: Yep. It's one of those weird things about telling any kind of story. How, when, and why you reveal information is just as important (if not more than) as who and what.

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DrBroel

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#45  Edited By DrBroel

The thing that makes this game so impressive is it actually has something to say.

So did TLOU1, but the message was much more straight forward. Which helped it resonate with so many people (me, included. Maybe my favorite game of the decade).

The TLOU2 is dealing with more complex themes. And maybe it doesn't nail those as thoroughly as the first game but it's aiming much higher.

This brings to my mind Adam Nayman's fantastic review of PTA's The Master and how it compares to it's predecessor There Will Be Blood.

http://www.reverseshot.org/reviews/entry/1710/master

"The byproduct of that quality is of course unresolved tension of the kind that frustrates audiences and moves critics alike, and which was absent in the rigorously planned out “masterpiece” structure of There Will Be Blood, a film that Michael Sicinski once wrote operated on a sort of “one-to-one ratio,” and did so spectacularly. True enough. The Master does not feel similarly immediate, nor so immediately of a piece. But unlike Freddie, who is all elbows physically and all thumbs emotionally, and whose fight-or-flight instincts are uncontrollable, its maker absolutely knows where he’s going, and how to get there."

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ragnar_mike

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@drbroel: I dunno if I'd say revenge, self destructive behaviors, and forgiveness are any more complex than grief, abandonment issues, and selfishness. Both games have weighty, dramatic themes that play out over the course an extended period of time. But yes, I think the execution plan of the second game was much more loftier. I just don't believe it nailed what it needed to. I can certainly appreciate the risk, doesn't make it a better experience for taking it. But mileage varies on that, for sure.

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@nodima: okay. I hear you. I did not want to be taken away from Ellie at that moment either. The game wants you to feel that way too.

But the game is also being structurally experimental here, too. And not just formality for formality's sake. In that moment that Abby attacks, you don't just identify with Ellie, you are her as the player.

The game then pulls away and asks you to play not just a little as Abby but a full game. I think they tried to ease this by putting the best set pieces and combat encounters in Abby's game.

Point is you plan a full game as Abby, so that when you get back to the scene in question you are different person, figuratively and literally.

Then the game pulls the rug out from under you again by forcing you to play as Ellie as she leaves the farm to further seek revenge. Which at that point you as the player should be pretty freaking uncomfortable with. You get what you wanted, you just don't want it anymore. That's the developer playing with the medium of games. The structure is very unconventional and yet essential to gut punch you in this way.

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Nodima

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#48  Edited By Nodima

@drbroel: Another Adam Nayman fan, cheers! I still have a ton of backlog to go through but I've thoroughly enjoyed his presence at The Ringer and wish he could be a guest on The Big Picture more. I love his approach to film criticism in that no shot is beholden solely to itself and how he can "smarten up" certain movies that may have never seemed to be asking for it, like Jaws. It's similar to what I always enjoyed about Tom Bissell's brief foray into video game criticism before he learned how the sauce was made and transitioned to film.

Which reminds me, take a look at this paragraph from back in the day!

Video games give their players a prescribed number of actions, a rule set, and obstacles that can be overcome only by expressing those actions within that rule set. No narrative can function within such artificial constraints without bumps and tears and weirdnesses, particularly if the game’s rule set involves fighting or shooting people. If it’s incredibly hard to depict believable reactions to experiences few human beings have ever faced, it’s probably impossible to depict believable reactions to experiences no human being has ever faced being repeated once every few minutes for 15 hours.

I was posting this while you posted the other, so I'll respond briefly. I agree that it is a really intriguing twist of the form, and its long con does ultimately pay off. I just also think that the payoff comes way too far down the road, after hammering many of the same points as the prior game (in this context, I mean Ellie's three days in Seattle, not TLoU) and long after you've figured out what the game's saying about all of this...removing the third person, by the time Abby's adventure became more Uncharted than The Last of Us in scope, I was only groaning a bit because I'd gotten it, and I didn't need Abby on horseback thundering through a blazing village to take me there while bombs went off everywhere and the world collapsed in on itself. It was good, greateven, but necessary? Again, maybe with a more hyperlink style text I'd feel that way, but I'd figured out who Abby was and I was eager for Ellie to learn that lesson as well...or for Abby to prove me wrong in that moment, which she clearly would have without Tommy and later Lev's interference.

But I'm learning I clearly have an issue with the Seraphite subplots specifically that not everyone does. I found it all pretty superfluous if well intentioned.

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@ragnar_mike: surely you must see that it is a more thematically complex game.

I'm not knocking the first game. The first game executes its theme TRULY perfectly.

But this game is so much more complicated, with its characters and their psychology, and its thematic goals.

With these ambitions, I don't think anything could feel perfect like the first game. It's too loaded. But I do think it's very successful at what it has done.

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#50  Edited By ragnar_mike

@drbroel: That is definitely a fair point. Expectations play a huge role in all of this. I've never been much for the truly experimental genre works beyond just an appreciation for the rule breaking as a means of expression. And perhaps that's all this truly is, a team playing in the sandbox they created. Good for them for taking the risk. And maybe its more impressive that it's one of the more important IP's in the industry to take that risk in, but there is absolutely less wiggle room for experimentation when you're also trying to appeal to a mass audience, which I assume Naughty Dog and Sony presumably wanted.

I may very well be stuck on the forest rather than the trees in that regard. And I don't disagree that there's absolutely many more complex and interesting ideas within these characters. I just think that the ways in which they tie into the overarching theme of the game hinders both parts rather then elevates them. The pieces are all there, I just feel they are in the wrong order.