The Last of Us Part II is a story about pain.
It explores not just the theme of pain, but how far one would go to right a wrong, and at what cost. And at the center of it lies Ellie, the most badass girl the world has ever seen. While fans of The Last of Us have grown used to seeing Ellie as the sidekick to the brute force of Joel, in the upcoming game from developers Naughty Dog, Ellie is the main attraction.
Having watched both the PlayStation Showcase trailer as well as the behind-closed-doors demo of the same sequence, the developers are not afraid of pushing the limits once again with Part II, and showcase a gripping duality that rages within Ellie. She who has grown up in a world of despair, chaos, and madness who must now face the difficult task of actually being happy, and what happens if she could not? The stark contrast between the loving kiss in the church between Ellie and new character Dina portrays Ellie in a vulnerable light like never before, an Ellie that is happy, and then we witness the opposite.
Violent and desperate as she fights off the numerous Seraphites with her newfound bow and a melee system that is built with complexity and depth, yet remain accessible. There is no denying the world of The Last of Us Part II is grim and dirty, yet perhaps somehow, somewhere, players would be able to help Ellie find peace within the pain. It is an intriguing prospect, and one which we are sure Co-Writer Halley Gross will explore competently.
The theme runs true throughout what we have seen so far. Combat in The Last of Us Part II feels more personal and forceful, with every shot and slash echoing an uneasy impact, be it on an enemy or having an arrow stuck in Ellie. As Co-Game Director Anthony Newman shared, Naughty Dog has enhanced the melee combat, adding disarming kills and dodging into the mix, with smooth and context-specific animations for good measure. Whatever you have seen in the trailer that Ellie can do, so can you.
And it would not be The Last of Us without hard choices. Game Director Neil Druckmann wants players “to feel the tension, of making decisions under the pressure of time and danger,” this is “why healing takes time, and if you got an arrow in you, it requires time to remove as well.” The addition of the bow and arrow as a weapon and as an enemy armament changes the formula, as a well-struck arrow can disable the returning Listening Mode as well as affect your overall aim.
Crafting also returns, but with a slight twist as well. Now, items are crafted using the combination of one key ingredient and a variety of scraps, giving players flexibility and also force them to prioritize based on the situations they are facing, adding to the tension of combat scenarios. With the danger of the infected, the Clickers, and the human element, the stakes have never been higher each time you engage the enemy.
Speaking of the enemy, The Last of Us Part II boasts enhanced AI for the combatants when it comes to detection of the player. In the first game, once you were discovered, enemies tended to swarm towards your location as though they were driven by a hive mind. But now, the process has become organic, where groups of enemies will communicate with each other about the environment and Ellie, as the whistling showed in the trailer. Of course, enemies that are further away will likely remain unaware, especially if you manage to hide among the lush vegetation, whose height plays an important role in hiding Ellie.
This is augmented by Ellie’s expanded move set of going prone and jumping, as well as the ability to utilise smaller spaces as alternative routes. This plays out perfectly in encounters, where the design remains open, and the means of completion depends on the players and their choice of tools.
While we see Ellie by herself in the demo, she will not be alone for the entire game. A large cast of characters will be joining her in The Last of Us Part II, including Joel himself, who is confirmed to be the ‘old man’ referred to in the trailer and by Neil Druckmann himself in an interview at the E3 Coliseum.
Excitement has never been higher for Naughty Dog’s next masterpiece-in-the-making, however, the team are committed to making the best game possible and will not be rushing to announce a release date anytime soon. What we do know is that multiplayer is returning, and we will all just have to wait patiently for the next chapter of Ellie and Joel’s adventures.
Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and achievement gatherer on consoles, and part-time Steam Sale victim. He has a thing for Batman and awesome statues, and running out of space for both. Send help.