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Last of Us 2 discussion

Why would we talk about the balance of NPC positions in this game to suss out what the actual authors meta perspective was on this game?

How is that relevant.

Stop calling them NPC's and redshirts and maybe you'll understand the point of the second game better.

They're people. When you make a decision to murder a bunch of people and doom the world, you're going to piss a lot of people off!
 

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One last post!

@RangerWickett

Two things.

1) No one with any level of intellectual or emotional maturity would look at Joel as a hero...or a villain. If there is a hero in TLoU, its clearly Ellie. But even Ellie has problems being anointed with that status. One of the reasons TLoU was compelling because it forced privileged humans living unscathed in modernity to tangle with extraordinarily difficult and novel concepts like "who is Joel", "is this world redeemable", and "is it possible that a person could be right making that decision that Joel made."

Which bridges to 2...

2) With all due respect, "violence begets violence" is one of the most interrogated and unoriginal themes in human history. There is nothing novel about it and because it is so deeply interrogated (in both philosophy and in art), it has lost its compelling thrust.

And finally (and this is the other stuff I don't feel inclined to get into), "violence begets violence", regardless of its status as one of the most interrogated themes in human history, can be done and done well. But there are artifacts of this game (as an actual game) and pacing issues that deeply affect the thematic heft of this game. Everyone's mileage may vary on this one, but a sandbox game with side quest bloat (and bloat of the variety that pulled me out rather than drew me in) will struggle mightily with pacing and coherency issues (unless it is so carefully crafted). I definitely felt that in this game (where I didn't remotely feel that in the first game). And there are plenty of other gameplay artifacts that I have issues with, mostly centered around offscreen/expository dialogue/momentum.

As a standalone zombie apocalypse survival game though...I was mostly pleased (sans the metaplot).
 

My thoughts:

The Last of Us 2 was a bit disappointing. But lets talk about the positives first. Graphics and art direction are amazing, combat has improved a bit, the facial mocap is some of the best I've seen, and inclusivity is welcome to see.

But lets talk about the elephant in the room, the story. The story is bare bones and ends on an unsatisfying note. Its message about violence is completely lost in its indulgence and glorification of it. Plus it forces the player to kill certain people, leaving no choice, and then tries really hard to make you feel bad about that choice. It just doesn't work. It tries to pull every cheap trick in the book to make you feel bad, but it ends up feeling manipulative. I think an argument can even be made that it commits character assassination in order to move the plot where it needs to go. But most importantly, there is a huge ludo-narrative dissonance here between the gameplay and what the story wants you to feel.

For example, the game wants you to feel real bad about killing a pregnant woman, but this is a scripted event, so the player had no hand in it. More importantly, the hours leading up to that scene Ellie has shanked hundreds of people brutally in the throat. She is a brutal killer at that point, and NOW the game stops to feel bad about it.

I had no issues with Joel's death, other than it being predictable, and a bit clumsily written into the story. He stumbles upon his soon to be killer by accident.

I was also really put off by the violence in the game. It is unpleasant and cruel, and it made me dislike the game even more. Whatever the writers were trying to say about violence, was lost in their glorification of it.

Forcing the player to play as Abby was the wrong decission I feel. It feels cheap when the game makes you play with the dog twice, knowing Ellie kills it. The game has taught the player at this point that dogs are annoying enemies that should be killed. So why is this one dog any different? Also, you had no choice to spare the dog, so it really wasn't the players doing.

Gameplay wise, the controls seem less responsive than in part 1, there are more bugs, and ai partners behave much more irratically. The fact that monsters ignore your ai allies is blatantly on display when your buddy parcours through a room full of enemies, dancing around 5 feet in front of them, which completely breaks immersion. The ai also often gets in your way when you are trying to stealth. During combat it is very obvious that the ai waits to let the player do most of the fighting. I also feel Clickers are a lot less threatening than they used to be. Melee combat is clunky as hell and I hate it. And why do they make the player spam the same button for everything? There are also too many stealth and combat sections, and it starts to outstay its welcome quickly. Plus, I don't think this game's stealth system is particularly good.

It feels the game goes on for longer than it needed to. It builds up to an ending, and then has Ellie go on yet another quest for revenge, only to have her change her mind at the end. It feels unevenly paced. It also feels like with this game Naughty Dog has reached the breaking point of their scripted transition mechanic, where they become annoying, predictable, and you start to dread them. You can see them coming from miles away, and now they feel like an unwelcome interruption of your game. I started to resent them, as if someone constantly took away my controller, killed some characters, then handed it back to me and said: "Look what you just did!"
 
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2) With all due respect, "violence begets violence" is one of the most interrogated and unoriginal themes in human history. There is nothing novel about it and because it is so deeply interrogated (in both philosophy and in art), it has lost its compelling thrust.

But then when you read the critical reviews of this game, you can clearly see that this very theme was missed by most.

Seriously. Most negative reviews are bummed that the game didnt progress as a series of Abbys friends as mini-bosses on a kill list followed by Ellie killing Abby and riding off into the sunset.
 

Forcing the player to play as Abby was the wrong decission I feel. It feels cheap when the game makes you play with the dog twice, knowing Ellie kills it. The game has taught the player at this point that dogs are annoying enemies that should be killed. So why is this one dog any different? Also, you had no choice to spare the dog, so it really wasn't the players doing.

But dogs are not annoying enemies that should be killed. Neither are people. They're more than that, which is what the game is trying to show you here. People are not just faceless redshirts and NPCs to be slaughtered.

If the player (as Ellie) fails to come to that conclusion, it shows how much they miss that central theme.

I actually found it interesting that a lot of people had a harder time killing the dogs (or found it more disturbing), than they did killing people.
 


But dogs are not annoying enemies that should be killed. Neither are people. They're more than that, which is what the game is trying to show you here. People are not just faceless redshirts and NPCs to be slaughtered.

The story perhaps wanted you to think that, but the gameplay said exactly the opposite. Plus the game is full of encounters where enemies just attack you, and you have little choice but to return fire.
 

It was missed by most because the game also glorifies violence, and so the gameplay contradicts the story. It didn't work.
The game doesnt glorify violence. It forces you into violence, but then it shows you the effects of that violence (humanises your victims).

You can be critical of it taking away your choice to commit that violence in the first place, but the whole theme of the game is 'violence only begets more violence' which isnt exactly glorifying it.
 

You can be critical of it taking away your choice to commit that violence in the first place, but the whole theme of the game is 'violence only begets more violence' which isnt exactly glorifying it.

No, the theme of the STORY is violence begets violence. But the theme of the GAMEPLAY is stealth-shank people in the throat. The gameplay relishes in violence, while the story wants you to feel really bad about it.
 

For example, the game wants you to feel real bad about killing a pregnant woman, but this is a scripted event, so the player had no hand in it.

I'll half agree with you on this one.

I think the writers wanted you to feel bad that Ellie killed a pregnant woman. Naughty Dog games have never really been big on player agency. You are watching a story, and occasionally playing a game to invest you in the character's journey in a way that wouldn't be achieved if you just watched a TV show. You feel a level of participation in their trials and successes . . . and the idea, I'm sure, is that even when the game takes away your choices in cut scenes, you'll still feel invested in the character's emotions as they take actions.

I mean, this is the whole point of the game, right? Ellie knows deep down she shouldn't be doing this, but she keeps on her path for revenge. That's how hate and trauma works; you lose control of yourself.
 

But do you also see how this feeling is ruined by our perception of Ellie as a player, who is by that time already a brutal murderer? She kills so many people in horrific ways before you reach that part in the story, that her killing a pregnant woman feels pretty irrelevant at that point. It is as if the writers want you to ignore all the killing you've already done. It makes the main characters irrideemable and unlikable.

This was already a bit of a problem in Uncharted, where our likeable protagonist murders his way through hundreds of goons. But at least Uncharted was not very serious in tone. It was a pulp adventure in the style of Indiana Jones. The Last of Us in contrast, takes itself super serious, and this makes the disconnect between gameplay and story more jarring.

I also feel that as a movie, it would have been laughed out of the theaters. The writing is better than in most games, but that's a pretty low bar. I think objectively, it's not that good a story when compared to other media. And the gameplay loops that it relies on are very repetitive and don't have very strong mechanics.
 
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I just simply disagree with your claim that the writing is weak. It strikes me as realistic dialogue, which did a pretty good job staying grounded despite you playing a game. And the acting is phenomenal.

However, I have agreed before that the game, frustratingly, does not provide enough means to avoid combat. You can stealth, but the options to distract people get a bit repetitive. But you don't have to kill those people; the game just makes it easier than being non-violent, which I can see as the point.

Even then, when she kills those people, they're out hunting for her, and it can be spun as self-defense.

Basically, as I went through the game, I saw a story where Ellie starts off just wanting revenge against the specific people who killed Joel, and occasionally kills to defend herself. Then Ellie and Dina kill the guy whose face Ellie cut, who was moments away from killing Dina. The first real morally unacceptable act is when Ellie tortures Nora, which shakes her. And then she tries to do that Joel thing to interrogate Owen and Mel, and screws it up, and kills a pregnant woman, which makes her nearly crumble until Tommy and Jesse show up. Clearly she's struggling with this, and I feel empathy for that.

But when it comes to Abby, Ellie - despite being shocked at herself for these other kills - insists on fighting Abby. It's arguably pretty justifiable there: Abby is attacking, and she's defending herself. But during the battle, there's time where Ellie could try to talk you down, and she doesn't. She's clearly pissed.

Where the tragedy comes in is that Ellie loses, and goes home, and then can't shake free of the trauma. It felt moving to me. The feeling was that almost like Ellie going to her death -- and I've had friends grapple with mental anguish, where I've felt powerless to stop them.

So I think the story is great, even if I kind of had to squint my eyes and ignore the gamist intrusions from time to time.
 

I just simply disagree with your claim that the writing is weak. It strikes me as realistic dialogue, which did a pretty good job staying grounded despite you playing a game. And the acting is phenomenal.

I agree that the writing of the dialogue is pretty solid (for the most part), but the writing of the story is pretty disappointing. As far as game-acting, I would also agree there are some solid performances here.

But since so much of this game is focused on telling a lineair story, I can't help but be underwhelmed by the story that is there.
 

But do you also see how this feeling is ruined by our perception of Ellie as a player, who is by that time already a brutal murderer? She kills so many people in horrific ways before you reach that part in the story, that her killing a pregnant woman feels pretty irrelevant at that point. It is as if the writers want you to ignore all the killing you've already done. It makes the main characters irrideemable and unlikable.

This was already a bit of a problem in Uncharted, where our likeable protagonist murders his way through hundreds of goons. But at least Uncharted was not very serious in tone. It was a pulp adventure in the style of Indiana Jones. The Last of Us in contrast, takes itself super serious, and this makes the disconnect between gameplay and story more jarring.

I also feel that as a movie, it would have been laughed out of the theaters. The writing is better than in most games, but that's a pretty low bar. I think objectively, it's not that good a story when compared to other media. And the gameplay loops that it relies on are very repetitive and don't have very strong mechanics.

I wholly agree with the disconnect in Uncharted [likeable, rascally swashbuckling Good aligned protagonist] engages in [murder of hundreds of people]. Gunplay in a game that didnt need it.

I dont see it in TLOU2. I mean, Ellies character sheet clearly has an 'E' in the alignment section. She's completely fine with murder, she literally only leaves her hometown to engage in murder (of Abby and her gang), and then... engages in murder (as she said she would do).

While those two killings were sort of in self defence (although I doubt Owen would have killed her had he successfully disarmed her, he seemed to be a Good man) they were two names on her kill list.

Remember; she had just brutally tortured and murdered the female doctor (after intentionally contaminating her with spores) by beating her to death with an iron bar mere hours earlier. She was setting them up for the 'dual interrogation' trick Joel used in the first game (involving brutal murder and torture) and she approvingly commented on this very tactic when she found 2 victims Tommy used it on the day before.

Ellie is well past the point of return by the time she encounters those two.
 

I agree that the writing of the dialogue is pretty solid (for the most part), but the writing of the story is pretty disappointing. As far as game-acting, I would also agree there are some solid performances here.

The look Joel gives at the start of the game in response to Tommys question of 'What did you do?' with reference to his mass murder at the hospital.

At 1:30


Pure evil.

For CGI man, that was amazing.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
But dogs are not annoying enemies that should be killed. Neither are people. They're more than that, which is what the game is trying to show you here. People are not just faceless redshirts and NPCs to be slaughtered.

If the player (as Ellie) fails to come to that conclusion, it shows how much they miss that central theme.

I actually found it interesting that a lot of people had a harder time killing the dogs (or found it more disturbing), than they did killing people.

Apparently there's a reason.

Dogs trigger the same responses in humans brain as a baby. Cats I think can trigger it as well.

Furry little things are our babies.

Adult humans not so much. Throw in a lot of games involve killing humans it's not hard.
 

I played the first one and was enthralled by it. It was fun, morally ambiguous, yes, but it made you think.
The second installment is just about revenge and how bad it is. This is not what a sequel should've been about. Not for The last of us.
It is just a bad game for the fans. Sure the critics loved it. I and a lot of others did not. I am glad that I haven't bought this game. I would've cut the disk in half after Joel's death. I watched the game on twitch. I felt so disapointed and empty at Joel's meaningless death that the rest of the twitch was like a bad dream.

Being forced to play his killer in a futile attempt to make us "feel" her distress is simply not working. It fails miserably at any attempts to feel sympathy or understanding (or at least accept). It would have worked out better IF we would have played her from the begining and IF it had given us the choice of either killing Joel or let him live. For me, the game, story wise, is just a piece of BS.
 

Surprisingly, Joel's death is one of the few things in the game that I have no issue with. But the poor lead up to his death, the character assassination of established characters, the oddly placed second act, the grotesque violence and failed message about said violence, THAT bothers me. Also the bugs and poor gameplay. This game is inferior to part 1 in almost every respect, except gunplay and looks.
 

Man, some of y'all just confuse me. The game didn't fail at all to make me empathize with Abby.

I think a lot of folks just fucking loved Joel from the first game, and they see this game as killing someone they loved. Whereas I came out of the first game really fascinated by Joel as a character, and repulsed by his decision, but in love with the story.

So for me, the sequel is a continuation of what I loved: a story about flawed people doing bad things in a world that steers them toward violence, and the struggle to keep your humanity amid that. I in no way felt any of the characters acted out of character, and from an interview I watched yesterday with the director and the two actors who play Ellie and Joel, it seems like they all love the characters and felt the story was very true to who those characters were.
 


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