Hastily written by Mason Manuel
PSX is gone and behind us but it left some stunning bombshells in its wake, mostly through developer Naughty Dog products. We got a look at a remastered Crash Bandicoot (being remastered by a different developer but the IP is still with ND) and an interesting look at an expansion of the Uncharted universe following fan favorite character Chloe and certified badass/asshat Nadine with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Then the big one; The Last of Us numero dos. After being such a successful product of the developer’s, and having so many demand for a continuation of the heartbreaking tale it logically only makes sense that Naughty Dog should further explore that universe. But should they though?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love The Last of Us. I thought it was a highly creative and unique experience with a fantastic story, solid gameplay, and a highly underrated multiplayer that deserves more love. It connected with me in such a way that I had not felt with a piece of art in years. The tale of Joel and Ellie surviving in a world that was frankly not worth surviving in was a tale of heart and loss, hate and love, condemnation and forgiveness. Before the game was released I was already trying to figure out which one of them would die by the end credits. Would it be the older gruff everyman who would pass on his knowledge and skills to the younger protégé? Or would it be the younger, pushing a more emotional beat on an already broken man but convincing him to live on and not give up on the world? Well surprisingly, despite all of the death in the game, neither character bites the bullet. Or gets bitten by the infected humanoid version of bullets. Rather both survive and have to live with the difficult decisions they made to make it to that point, contemplating whether or not they were better than the people they had spent their entire journey trying to defeat. It was absolutely perfect. It left gamers thinking, feeling, and theorizing what it all meant. It was wrapped so neatly in a bow that it would be insane to try and capture lighting in a bottle twice. That being said…
Naughty Dog is easily one of the most accomplished game developers in history. Whether it be the undeniably fun Jak and Daxter or the Indiana Jones type, totally-not-male-Lara-Croft Uncharted series, every game they have made has been an undeniable blast. Even their B material like Uncharted 3 and Crash 2 still hold better over almost all of their competition. They are basically the Pixar of gaming. ND definitely has the technical and creative know how to make more astounding experiences for gamers but that’s not what I am arguing against. The story of The Last of Us is preciously rare; being able to open and close itself with finality with true heart and effect. I would not even be against what they are doing with Uncharted in The Last of Us universe with maybe a prequel of Joel’s journey to Boston. But the tale of Joel and Ellie should be left as it was. Morally grey, open ended, rife for interpretation, and yet whole. We have come to know and love these characters with all of their innate flaws and the cruel world in which they inhabit. Expanding on that more has the potential to completely ruin that oddly satisfying ambiguity by leaving nothing to the gamers to dwell on as to what choices the future characters would have made in their situation. Yes, ND has the potential to make some great into something even better but the chances of that are incredibly slim because of how high the bar was set the first time. It’s the same reason I am worried I won’t love Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, because after the great surprise the first one was, there is no way it can surpass the originals greatness, especially with all the hype built up around it. But baby Groot though… daww.
There is no reason to believe The Last of Us: Part Two will not be a good game, however I am worried that it will tarnish the incredible feelings that the first one gave. I hope that they can continue the great character moments meshed with heartbreaking choices but I fear that it will begin to feel forced or even worse, milked as torture porn via Walking Dead style. But that’s just me.