REVIEW: The Last of Us Part II

Cause and Effect

The Last of Us Part II is the long-awaited follow up to Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece, and finds Ellie at the age of nineteen and starting down a path of revenge after someone she cares for is taken from her.

I’m not going to pussyfoot around this: The Last of Us Part II has been a very controversial game for the past few months after there were some pretty extensive leaks of cutscenes and plot details. I stayed away from these spoilers, both because I was excited to play the game and did not want my viewpoint in any way sullied, and because I wanted Naughty Dog to tell me this story themselves. Now that I have beaten the game, putting a ripe 21 hours into it, I’m here to give my thoughts. 

Let’s start with the controversial narrative. Without explicit spoilers, I’ll say that I wound up being okay with the big point of contention: THAT death. When it initially played out in front of me, I wasn’t sure I was okay with it. I was questioning the way it went down and the circumstances under which it took place. As the game played out and I lived with that event over the course of the 20+ hour-campaign, and the path of revenge got bloodier and bloodier, I started to really think about how far these characters had come, and how both of these games have affected all of them. I found that the choice really worked for me in the context of the themes of the story, and how that character had evolved. Those themes are ever-present in Ellie’s portion of the story: the cycle of violence, the cause and effect of an eye for an eye, revenge blinding you to the acts you commit, etc. This central story point plays into all of those themes so well. I get why it’s divisive, and  I understand why people are upset, but I just don’t agree at all. 

As for the plot beyond that, I was absolutely riveted for the first half of The Last of Us Part II. I found Ellie’s path of revenge to be quite powerful, even if it was emotionally draining. I can say with certainty that pretty much they only ray of sunshine in that first half of the game is the fantastic dynamic and relationship between Ellie and Dina, which I found consistently engaging and heartfelt. The performances of Ashley Johnson and Shannon Woodward are outstanding. When the story moves to Seattle, and the duo starts to tussle with the WLF (one of the hostile factions), things get progressively bleaker and heavier until a breaking point is reached. By that point, we are brought to the next controversial aspect of the game’s plot: Abby. Yes, Abby; the military gal built like a brick shithouse that has had everyone up in arms for a while. To be honest, I really like Abby as a character. I think she’s well drawn, and even though there are aspects of her story that didn’t connect with me, namely a love triangle and some of the story involving the Scars (the enemy of the WLF), I still came away from the story caring for her. She does terrible things, things that upset me greatly, but the writers take time to flesh out her motivations for doing these things and set her up as a fully formed character in her own right so that, even if I don’t condone her actions, I can see her point of view.

The Last of Us Part II

Abby’s part of the game, however, is where I started to feel some of the pacing issues of The Last of Us Part II arrive. We basically do the same three days over from another perspective, and while there is some added depth given to characters, I can’t say I was always invested in anyone outside of Abby. Once we enter the climax of the story, we also hit some Return of the King syndrome, where it feels like the game is ending and the story is wrapping up, and then there’s another two or three-hour section after that. That final section is great, to be fair, but it did feel a little tacked-on to prolong the confrontations. All of that said, it leads to a finale that had me very emotionally invested, nearly pleading with the game as button prompts appeared on screen to make Ellie do things I just did not want to do, in the best possible way. And it’s all wrapped up with a beautifully emotional coda that put a lump at the back of my throat for the rest of the day. The story in the previous game is tighter, and I prefer that smaller scale and intimacy, as I think Part II gets a bit big for its britches occasionally. But even with that caveat, I think the story is excellent, and one of the best told in a PlayStation exclusive. 

From a gameplay perspective, The Last of Us Part II plays like a dream. The upgrades to the combat especially floored me because of how smooth it is. I never realized how much I needed a dodge button to truly flesh out the hand-to-hand combat in this series. The dodge adds greater viability to aggressive combat that just wasn’t there in the first game. The melee combat is also outstanding, taking the brutal and graphic combat from the first game and dialing it up to 11. The violence in Part II doesn’t hold back, and arguably goes too far in some circumstances, but that’s kind of the point. They make you feel bad for some of the actions you take, be it a grotesque animation or gory detail, or even with other enemies shouting out the names of the enemies you have taken down. Not only does it make the world feel more real, but your actions feel more sickening. This, again, really nails home the themes about the cycle of violence and makes you examine certain actions that you take. All of that said, the combat is super satisfying, and well-designed environments help with that. Ellie has a lot of options for how she can tackle different situations. She can go prone in the grass; she can use the verticality in some environments to her advantage and come in for an aerial kill; she can craft various tools to help her out during battles. The gunplay is also much improved, feeling a lot more confident, reminding me a lot of the jump from Uncharted to Uncharted 2. Exploration is another aspect that is much improved, due to not only better controls and a jump button but larger and more expansive environments that feel as if they’re begging you to take a peek inside buildings for useful gear, materials, and optional side conversations. The conversations between Dina and Ellie, in particular, always held my interest, as their dynamic is great.

The Last of Us Part II

The visuals… I mean, it’s a Naughty Dog game, so they’re a landmark for consoles. The Last of Us Part II is running at 30 FPS, like the first game, but that never bothered me. The environments are huge, dense with detail, and feel real in a way that a lot of games never achieve. Seeing this makes me hyped for what Naughty Dog can do with PS5. The foliage is stunning, the water effects look nearly photo-real, and character models are staggering in quality, be it the facial details, the facial capture, the detail in clothing. In-game, the facial capture is still being implemented, like when you do a stealth takedown, Ellie/Abby’s faces grimace in such a realistic way, and it’s impressive. It’s incredible considering how amazing Uncharted 4 and Lost Legacy looked, and this is even better. The transitions between cutscenes and gameplay are seamless too, and that adds to the sense of immersion and the feeling that you are playing the story out yourself. It’s definitely an improvement over the pre-rendered cutscenes symbolized by a cut to black. Is the game difficult? I played it on Normal for my first playthrough and found a solid and fair challenge throughout. I was consistently challenged by the impressive AI that very aggressively searches for you if spotted, and while aggressive combat is supported, it’s punished if you don’t plan ahead. The only technical issues I logged were a couple of ledges that I missed, which I definitely should have caught, and one game crash. But I had zero CONSISTENT issues at all.

We can’t discuss the sound of The Last of Us Part II without first talking about Gustavo Santaolalla and Mac Quayle’s incredible musical score, which takes the emotion and dials it way the hell up. There’s also a surprising amount of insanely good action tracks that really got my heart pumping. I cannot say I’m stunned, because the score for the first game is one of the greatest of all time, and this one ranks way up there with it. It’s a score I can picture myself putting on in the background while I write or something. Aside from that, the audio design is fantastic, with some of the meatiest and most brutal sound effects I have ever heard. That, coupled with the chilling noises uttered by the Clickers and other infected, had me creeping around corners in fear. The ambiance is also really well set, with the sounds of horse hooves clomping down broken roads, the crunching of snow underfoot, the crackling of fire, and many other fantastic environmental effects really putting you into a mindset where the world of The Last of Us Part II feels real and alive.

The Last of Us Part II

Overall, while I do understand some people’s reservations, I think The Last of Us Part II is a worthy follow-up to the masterpiece that is its predecessor. Its story is ambitious, sometimes to a fault. Its characters are well-drawn and consistently engaging, and I found the plot to be emotionally satisfying and beautifully told, for the most part. I recommend giving the game a chance, even if it’s just a Redbox rental for a day or two. Does it reach the heights of the first game, one of my favorites of all time? No, but I think it’s a great game, and I’ve already started a new game plus save to experience it again.

What did you think of The Last of Us Part II? Let me know in the comments below! Stay nerdy, everyone!

The Last of Us Part II

Gameplay - 9.2
Difficulty/Length - 8
Story - 8.1
Graphics - 9.5
Sound Design - 9.2

8.8

Great

The Last of Us Part II is an ambitious, emotionally compelling follow-up to a masterpiece. While it doesn't reach its predecessor's heights, it carves out its own little piece of excellence

Comments (45)

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July 6, 2020 at 10:41 pm

Everyone knows I hate Naughty Dog but to be clear, crystal clear – I 100% support Mike’s review. He’s a great guy and he genuinely believes what he says

Onwards and upwards!

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July 6, 2020 at 10:52 pm

While I cannot bring myself to support Naughty Dog with my wallet, on principle, I hold your opinions typically in high regard even when we disagree. This is likely one of those moments, but your review was clearly well thought through (no shock to me) and there are key aspects such as the gameplay and score that I can level with you on. Excellent work as always, brother!

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July 6, 2020 at 11:00 pm

Like Jeremy I may not agree with Mike’s opinion but I’ll respect it. I would like to note that Redbox unfortunately no longer does game rentals. For most of the US the only real option for game rentals is GameFly .

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July 6, 2020 at 11:29 pm

The story was trash. Everything else was pretty standard. You very clearly explain why you came to the wrong conclusion. Very very well written sir.

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July 6, 2020 at 11:46 pm

I thumbs this up, to help prove a point. To be honest I did not even read the review. I was never interested in this game, I tried to play the first one and I didn’t get into it. I am not sure how good of the game is. It’s just never been my thing. I don’t like Zombies. Zombies personally bore me. Never liked Resident Evil either. But I would never say its not a good game, because it’s personally not what I am into. I don’t get upset a lot, but something about this game and things Naughty Dog has done, just kind of rubs me the wrong way.

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July 6, 2020 at 11:56 pm

Holla to the author. Good review, well thought out points. I personally do not quite agree with the scores.

To me, after gritting my teeth through the game (which was a hand me down), I’d summarize it with an old saying my Mom thought me, like some of the hot girls you’d see in life, “Good from far but far from good”

The “mechanical” aspects of the game is amazing. The mechanism to which the STORY is presented is at the top of the generation bar some minor glitches and AI limitations. But sadly, to ME at least, this game is and foremost a STORY and NOT a tech demo.

It’s like a sports car with pento class comfort and speed. Let us never forget that the story, it’s cohesiveness and it’s relevancy is paramount to the very core of such games. What is a game if not the mechanism in which to help facilitate in the telling of a immersive, relatable and striking story?

So, as to why the game is not selling at all in Asian countries….. Asians on a general knows how to tell great stories, and this repugnant game is not it. It’s a nice shiny empty shell of eye candy but no substance.

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July 7, 2020 at 12:20 am

I respectfully disagree with this review, specially the 8.1 story rating. But different people/gamers have different opinions, it’s okay. That said, I’ll be curious to see future reviews by Mike and then compare them to this one, specially the stories ratings, because I really can’t accept this 8.1 lol :D Cheers

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July 7, 2020 at 12:24 am

Well normal people can live together even if they disagree.. Anyways i felt the story didn’t match the gameplay, and the gameplay itself didn’t add anything new from the 1st one, its a 7 year old gameplay, and no replay availability, at least the original had a MP. The game is beautiful though.

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July 7, 2020 at 12:47 am

All the scores look good except that 8.1 story. More like a 2. I’d raise the game length score though. Recently finished Uncharted LL and it was a short game. Felt like no value. I don’t know that there is a story I want to play based off of that game and it is the same with this Part II. ND has ruined all the characters. I’m playing Beyond Two Souls at the moment and its characters are so much better than what ND has been putting out. The most memorable of the past year are probably from Days Gone. That game’s story crushes Part II. Still bitter this is what came out after 7 years of waiting. The first game is top 5, likely forever.

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    July 7, 2020 at 4:11 am

    The game being 20 hours is inherently cool, my issue comes into the length coupled with the pacing in part of the back half, that’s why the score is lower. Thanks for reading!

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      July 7, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the game and didn’t feel ripped off like others. I played the original Borderlands for 73 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. Never got bored. I’ve played numerous games over 40 hours in one play through and was more than satisfied. What you say about pacing in Part II makes total sense. Though, replace Abby’s game time with Joel and it would have remained interesting. But that’s a different story.

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July 7, 2020 at 1:26 am

Great review, the gameplay and details are great to be honest but the story not so much.
I have the platinum in TLoU (PS3 & PS4) but I don’t think I will play this game any time soon.
I hate forced politics in videogames and it is much worse for me if Anita “men hater” Sarkeesian is involved in this.

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July 7, 2020 at 1:45 am

Like everyone here I respect your opinion however I cannot agree with most of your opinion on this game.

I will give the game is graphically outstanding even for most console games of this generation gameplay wise it was very well done even the parts where you played as Abbey in combat was actually Surprisingly enjoyable unfortunately and this is where we get into the cons of this game, and as for me somebody who really enjoys good story telling this game suffers in both the story narrative and the characters narratives trying to be more of something they didn’t need to be with characters acting different from what they’ve originally shown themselves as 2 characters and events happening for no logical reason other than for forced plot if I really had to give this game a score I would probably give it a 5 and a 1/2 out of 10. This game has potential but unfortunately it does not act as though it wants to there is quite a bit of a political message and the part that bothers me the most is that they already have a strong female character that has been around since the beginning Ellie but for some reason they’ve decided to move away from her for this brand new character Abbey which makes me kind of confused on so many levels? Ellie a strong independent lesbian is being out shined by tall muscle straight white woman If there is supposed to be a political narrative here I’m having a hard time seeing it? It’s almost as if there is no political narrative but at the same time there is it’s almost a contradiction in of itself to me I feel like it has more to do with badd story writing than it does any sort of politics.

But like all of us that’s just my personal Opinion and I’m glad to have a place were we can all Express our opinions with out incurring the wrath of the same speech mob!

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July 7, 2020 at 1:52 am

Sorry I almost forgot 1 Crucial detail that I left out for the pros there is one part of the game that is narratively heart warming it’s the part where Joel takes Ellie to the natural history museum for her birthday and giving her an experience that she will never forget that narratively was the best part of the game to man my personal opinion And for the 1st time these characters actually acted like themselves they were narratively consistent with their previous appearance in the 1st game.

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July 7, 2020 at 2:19 am

I have a question. What evidence did Abby have to hunt down Joel in the first place? What I mean is; who, if anyone, knew what Joel look like? Did they have a photo or a witness? If they only had his name to go by then why did they think they have the right Joel? Plenty of people are named Joel.

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July 7, 2020 at 3:08 am

Nice to see honesty on this site, even if I don’t like this game, no one can call you a shill. Keep it up.

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July 7, 2020 at 5:52 am

Well done to Geeks+Gamers for publishing a review that does not agree with Jeremy’s position. That shows character, maturity and a respect for diversity of opinion. That is what I call “progressive.” Another way of putting it would be, “people behaving as adults”. Very refreshing. I can’t imagine the opposite happening, i.e. a website that is a cheerleader for the Naughty Dog agenda willingly publishing a dissenting viewpoint. Really makes me wonder who the real “progressives” are.

I did not buy the game and am unlikely to ever play it (I will only play it if I am sure that no money of mine will go to Naughty Dog). My reason is one that seems to have been glossed over in recent weeks: Naughty Dog’s unethical work practices. This has been well documented. They are operating a sweatshop, where the outrageous mistreatment of staff is commonplace. Well, my sympathy is entirely with those workers. There’s no getting around it: it is unethical to buy a Naughty Dog game – or a game from any company that abuses its staff. So I won’t do it and that’s that.

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July 7, 2020 at 7:05 am

This video game was horrible and pretty much unplayable. All it did was push subversive leftist talking points. It is indoctrination for the young into a sick leftist agenda.

I don’t care how good the gameplay was. If I want good gameplay and a good story, all I need to do is replay Grand Theft Auto.

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July 7, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Great review! I’m not a fan of this series myself as I don’t like how these kinds of games play (more of a Dark Souls/Bloodborne kinda guy these days), but I love that G+G isn’t the haven of haters that some of the SJW types occasionally proclaim. We needed a community like this! ;)

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July 7, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Dear Lord, story 8.1? Talk about generosity.

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July 7, 2020 at 4:06 pm

As being a longtime fan of Geeks+Gamers, I love Jeremy lets people like Mike on who disagrees with him on things. It makes me feel optimistic for things. Thank you Jeremy for letting people like Mike on and others. Thats what I love the most about Geeks+Gamers. That there is individual thinking and not same minded

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July 7, 2020 at 4:18 pm

I am almost afraid to ask what kind of story deserves below 5 in this case, haha. I mean when in a game there is like 8-9 months pregnant woman running around (if I am not mistaken) like its nothing and is considered a great story telling, then yikes. Also, the game set in like 25 years after the “apocalypse”. There is so much wrong in this game…
Well, I guess it’s indeed great if you don’t think about it… too much.
But seriously, the review is fine if you count it as very subjective. Not the kind I would rely as to buy game or not, to be honest. If you could align text justified and put images into borders or something it would be better for the eyes I think.

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July 7, 2020 at 10:25 pm

Gameplay and graphics look amazing but what fell flat for me was the story. It was okay to a degree but they really force you to like Abby. I think if they showed us all the Abby stuff before killing Joel, then maybe she wouldn’t be so hated (granted she would’ve been hated regardless but I think the story had potential for greatness and was close but missed the mark for me. Overall I liked this review and I want to say that I have been a Geeks+Gamers fan for a while. I respect how you all have different opinions and yet you are cool with it.

The Last of us 2 for me rating wise would be overall a 4.7. I tend to care a lot more of the story rather than gameplay.

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July 8, 2020 at 7:51 pm

I mean, it’s your opinion. I would hold the story closer to a 5 since I though it was ridiculously bad. But to each their own.

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July 9, 2020 at 3:34 am

How do everyone value one review over the others? well, most of reviewer is not player. In a way they belive they are move value than other people that why there are food critic or there such a thing call game reviewer. In general, the only person can value a game is the player themselves. Technically, this review doesn’t value at all. Well, how does he consider a player, game reviewer or a fan of TLOU. If he is the second one, this review is not worth at all and could answer the question why most of game reviewer give 10 out of 10. They either don’t understand or consider player or fan point of view. Well, there must be reason Jeremy hire you instead of other place. I don’t mean to disrepect but from my point of view your review not worth to be consider a valid review at all.

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July 9, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Nice review, man! To anyone that IS going to buy it and give it a chance, PLEASE BUY IT USED. Buying it used will not directly support Naughty Dog versus buying it new.

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July 9, 2020 at 3:05 pm

A fair and honest review. While I hate the direction they took the story and personally have no interest in ever playing this, I respect this review and the score.

The shill made that showered this game with 10’s though? They lost credibility.

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    July 9, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    EDIT: *shill media :)

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    August 4, 2020 at 9:44 am

    despite actually liking the game, I cannot see how this hits a 10/10 lol. It’s probably one of the more flawed games Naughty Dog has put out.

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July 10, 2020 at 3:40 pm

I know I’m in the minority but I love this game.

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July 11, 2020 at 7:36 am

I’ve watched Angry Joe play the entire game and I agree with your graphics and sound design scores but the gameplay is meh and the story is straight trash imo. Many combat sequences drag on for far way too long. The story is so convoluted and forced it’s downright laughable. I hate to be “that guy” but the forced political agenda is ridiculous.

A pair of lesbian lovers, a transgender and and an androgynous body builder set sail for a tale of cringe revenge with no real payoff in the end. Politics and female tropes take precedence over solid story telling. Fans of the previous game are trolled by Neil Druckmann within the first hour of gameplay all for “shock value” and to anger the player. You spend over half the game forced to sympathize with new characters who have no remorse or guilt for their actions. Any likable character is either killed or humiliated in some form or fashion. All the other characters, Ellie included, all turn out to be unlikable pieces of shit.

It’s amazing how much the media is defending this game when many LGTBQ gamers themselves do not like the forced representation of their lives being shoved in player’s faces. The drama and controversy surrounding this game has been more entertaining than the game itself. Such a shame Neil Druckmann purposely created a divisive story that no one asked for. Such is the unfortunate fate of many universally praised franchises.

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July 13, 2020 at 1:38 am

I have no dog in this fight. (Pun intended) Because I don’t own a PS4. But I’m not a fan of Neil Druckmann and his constant virtue signaling after drinking the Anita Sarkeesian kool-aid or Sony and Naughty Dogs abusing the copyright system on some of my favorite Youtubers. But I will trust you opinion on this game, mainly because I don’t think Sony bought you off. I hope to see your review of Cyberpunk 2077 because that is the game I want to win game of the year.

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    July 15, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    If the shill check could clear, that would be nice, I could use the money. haha. Joking of course, thanks for reading and being respectful!

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July 17, 2020 at 6:28 am

Bro, you have made an awesome review, analyzing these points of the game so well. Thank you for this review, and I hope you review more games in the future, like maybe, visual novels because you’ve done a complete breakdown of the story here. You’re awesome!

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    August 4, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Thank you so much! I have a couple game reviews up on the site already, so if you like this, check those out!!

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July 26, 2020 at 11:38 pm

Maybe one day they will patch the game so you could skip the part where you have to play as Abbey, i think that would help.

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August 3, 2020 at 4:56 am

Hey, good review with great points. Awesome that you liked it, at least you money was well spend then :)

For me personally on the other hand the game as a whole just doesn´t work.

The gameplay is fine, a little bit outdated in 2020, but still good on its own. My main problem with it is more that it actively clashes with the themes that ND are trying to convey here to an almost comical level that I have a hard time to take the story itself really serious because of it, which makes this game more edgy than dark for me.

The story itself reminds of a too long going HBO series, where TLOU would be Game of Thrones 1-4, while TLOU2 would be GoT 5-8. Especially the amount of plot convenience and plot armor is astonishing and even rivels the one of GoT season 8. I can´t count the amount of times Ellie should have died if it weren´t for her plot armor, or the plot would have just stopped if it weren´t for plot conveniences like Ellies team forgetting to pick up the map WHERE THEY CLEARLY marked were their hideout is, or else Abby wouldn´t even have found them.

I also can´t grasp how the team managed to get all the way back to Jackson with the severe injuries they had. Especially Tommy who had part of his face around the eye completely blown off, but also Ellie with a broken nose AND a broken arm and Dina with a serious head trauma.

I don´t really see the message of revenge is bad, especially in how they portay it here, only that if you want to take revenge, don´t leave any loose ends that could come after you and that showing mercy isn´t good seen by Ellie going after Abby TWICE, which is why I don´t buy that Ellie would not kill Abby at the end. These two women don´t have enough interactions with each other to come to this conclusion.
They only meet three times in the game. First time when Abby kills Joels, second time when Abby kills Jessie, almost kills Tommy and is about to kill Ellie and Dina, only stopped by Lev, and third time at the end of the game, where Ellie even just before she finds Abby is still fixated on revenge.

Everything that happens between these moments is only fully known by the player, not the characters. So Ellie either has already learned her lessen after Abby let her go a second time (which would be a natural narrative consequence) or she didn´t, which seem to be the case mostly because PLOT because she decides to leave her good live behind to go after Abby AGAIN so ND can have their unnecessary ending and then have Ellie suddenly learn that revenge is bad.

This game also has a serious issue of characters not seeing or doing anything if they or other characters are off screen for the player. The worst examples are of course Joels shot in the knee (which we know ended the career of many upcoming adventurers) and the theatre scene. I mean Abby stood right behind Joel with a fucking shotgun and Tommy who stood on the side didn´t see that coming?! Or what was Ellie doing in the theatre while Tommy was fighting with Abby? We know she has a shit ton more weapons than the gun she threw away (which btw is a different gun in both scenes …) so why didn´t she grab one and shoots at Abby?

So yeah, for me the game is a 6/10, and that´s mostly for it´s technical feats, because storywise it handles really old themes that I have seen handled better in older games. I mean the receant Ghost of Tsushima shows way better what the thirst for revenge can do to people in the Lady Masako and Norio character quest lines in a fraction of the time TLOU2 used and there it was just one of many themes and only really tackled in these “sidequests”.
Hell, Violet from Tales of Berseria was a better portrayal of how the thirst for revenge can mess with people.

But still, awesome that you liked it ;)

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August 12, 2020 at 2:26 pm

I would not call this game in terms of the story as great. The only time I seen a revenge story work in a great game would be Mad Max. F&%$ neutered dog. I mean Naughty Dog.

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