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Last of Us 2 discussion


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I think as soon as someone starts comparing the story of The Last of Us 2 to big Hollywood movies, the likes of Quentin Tarantino, they're done. You can no longer take them serious. Some people even went as far as to compare the game to Schindler's List! Comparing a simple post apocalyptic zombie stealth game with a historical movie about WWII directed by one of the best directors of our time. Fortunately that was then massively mocked online, and rightly so. The dialogue of the game is good, the voice acting is good... but the story does not even come close to that of a big Hollywood movie. Certainly not a Tarantino movie, or Schindler's List! Honestly, I don't even think it is a good story to begin with:

Joel is beaten to death by Abby through a random meet up and Ellie then wants revenge. Then we play as Abby for a painfully long time and the game tries really hard to make you like her and feel guilty about killing her friends and her dog. Then the game moves towards a predictable ending where Ellie inevitably abandons her quest for revenge and lives happily ever after with Dina... and then there is an extra last act, where Ellie goes on a quest for revenge yet again, only to let Abby go.... again.

That is not a good story. That is poor writing, and poor pacing. Plus several of the established characters from the first game act in ways that do not seem in line with how they were presented in the original game. The game is mean spirited and unpleasant, with an unfulfilling ending and not much interesting to say other than "violence is bad"; a message kind of lost in all the neck-shanking and horrid death gurgles of the hundreds of people you slaughter.

I get why some fans are mad that Joel was killed. Its not just the fact that they killed off a beloved character, but how they did it, and how they try to manipulate your emotions about it to get you onboard with Ellie's quest for revenge. And with Joel gone, the game finds itself running painfully low on likeable characters. I disliked every character in this game.

For an alternate analysis of the game, check Jim Sterling's excellent video. He does a pretty good job:


Now, I'm not saying it is a bad game. But it does not deserve as much praise as the developers (and many fans) seem to think it does. I get that the violence is not for me, that is just my personal taste. But on an objective level, the story is just bare bones. There's hardly any story there. And the gameplay I also find lacking. The bugs are undeniable and full on display. And the gameplay feels repetitive and outstays its welcome. By the time I reached the last act, I wanted it to be over, and there were at least a few more hours of neck-shanking people and torture porn.
 
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Do you think that if you played as Abby from the start - just the stuff in Seattle, with occasional flashbacks - you would have enjoyed her storyline? You play through her losing her dad to Joel, don't see her kill Joel, but instead cut to her working to protect her faction in a city, and feeling embittered and unfulfilled until she meets a kid in trouble?

Because I think that's a great story.

The fact that you say, 'we play as Abby for a painfully long time' makes me think you just weren't enjoying her story as its own story.
 

Do you think that if you played as Abby from the start - just the stuff in Seattle, with occasional flashbacks - you would have enjoyed her storyline? You play through her losing her dad to Joel, don't see her kill Joel, but instead cut to her working to protect her faction in a city, and feeling embittered and unfulfilled until she meets a kid in trouble?

Because I think that's a great story.

The fact that you say, 'we play as Abby for a painfully long time' makes me think you just weren't enjoying her story as its own story.

You're right, I didn't. You play as Abby right after she kills a beloved character, and then the game tries for hours to make you like her. It feels manipulative, and I just didn't buy into it.

I think what this game lacked, is focus. I think I could have enjoyed this game if it was just about Abby, or just about Ellie. But the two protagonists don't work for me. It also feels as if Joel's death is abused by the writers to force Ellie into a role that doesn't fit her, and makes her into a different character from the one in the original game.

By the end of it all, you hate Ellie, and I don't think that's a good thing. Plus they even have you fight Ellie as Abby.... just awful.
 

Yeah, this Jim video has the same . . . hm, how to describe it?

Have you ever tried to explain some tech support thing to someone - click this, press that button, do this thing - and they just don't get it? And while not getting it, they get upset at the computer or TV or whatever, because they think it's badly designed? But really they're just failing to understand how it works?

That's how I feel when I hear Jim's complaints, and many other peoples. They just don't get it. They are misunderstanding what the game is doing, and they're blaming it for doing that thing badly.

About 8:45, Jim's talking about how the game wants you to recognize that NPCs are real people, and he sort of goes, "Duh, that's obvious! I don't need you to tell me that!"

But the fact that he's irked at that, and then irked that he is being made to play as Abby, and that he's not enjoying Abby's story as much as Ellie's, that's showing that he still is angry at Abby. He complains about the game manipulating you to like Abby, with a dog and such. He says this like it's a bad thing, like in the first game you weren't just as manipulated to like Ellie and feel for Joel. The only reason he finds this manipulation a problem, is because he hates Abby, and doesn't want to like her.

If you played Abby's story standalone, it'd be a fun game that follows beats very similar to TLOU1, in a cool environment, with some great setpieces. Yet so many people are saying they don't like it . . . because they don't like Abby.

If I were an English teacher and Jim turned this essay into me and I was supposed to grade it, I'd give it a B, but not an A, because he makes valid points about how the gameplay isn't always conducive to you coming to empathize with Abby. I mean, he gets that he's supposed to empathize with Abby. But he doesn't. And if he doesn't empathize with her, but does with Ellie, that never indicates that he doesn't understand the story.

You're not simply watching a revenge story where the protagonist comes to a realization at the end that revenge is pointless. You are living through that. The game wants you to be angry at Abby, and then to stop being angry at Abby.

And you're not supposed to hate Ellie either. You're supposed to feel sorry for these people, and see that at the end they're on paths toward healing. That's why we loved the first game, because it was about Joel changing from being heartless to being able to love and care again. In that game, we were sort of going through what Joel felt. We fell in love with Ellie too, and that was easy, because she's adorable, and most of us didn't lose a daughter to a zombie apocalypse.

This is much harder. We're supposed to go through what Ellie feels, and forgive Abby, and most people are only getting part way through it.
 
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I'm strongly going to disagree with you there on The Last of Us part 1. It earned the love of the player for its characters, without it ever feeling manipulative. Part 2 is different, which is why so many players have a negative response to the game's story and characters.

I think you misunderstand the issue when you say that people who dislike the story "just don't get it". They absolutely get it. But the game failed to connect with a lot of people. That is the fault of the game, not its players. Many of the people who dislike this game, loved part 1.

I think it is undeniable that part 2 is more violent than part 1 as well. There's people getting shanked in the throat as you hear their death gurgles, people being hanged and disembowled, and one character having their arm broken with a hammer.

My question is: is all this grotesque violence needed to tell this story?
 
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No, the violence isn't necessary. That's my only real complaint about the game. There should have been more ways to deal with human enemies that weren't killing or stealthing. Like, even if you could shoot someone in the knee to immobilize but not kill them, then run past them, that would have helped.
 

There are a ton of different directions they could have taken this story in. They could have expanded on the bond of the characters we know and love, perhaps leaving Joel's death to the end. They could also have pushed the infected plot further. The infection could have gotten worse, or a new character who is immune could have been introduced. Most importantly, I think most players wanted to see more of Joel and Ellie, without the death of Joel being exploited, and established characters being twisted, to introduce and make us like a new main character. The reveal regarding Joel's lie could have been a good pay off to save for the end. But instead we got none of the loveable bond that made us like the first game.
 

But they didn't want to tell that story, and that story wouldn't have been novel or challenging to concepts of what video game storytelling could be the way the first game was.

Those story ideas you mention, they sound a lot like what the Uncharted franchise is. You like Coke, so they give you more Coke. Maybe with Vanilla or Cherry, but it's Coke. It's a commodity.

TLOU already did the story of Joel and Ellie bonding. There's no need to tell that story again.
 

Campbell

Legend
I pretty much agree with your analysis @Manbearcat .

Talking about The Last of Us 2 is difficult for me because while I am not a fan of the game many of the criticisms I see from people who are uncritical fans of Joel really turn me off. I view The Last of Us 2 much like I do latter day Game of Thrones. Time after time when the writers were at a crossroads they took the easy route for shock value. At times it feels like human misery porn. Bad people do bad things to other bad people for bad reasons.

On a storytelling level it still feels better than most video game faire, but it lacks the poignancy of the first game. The characters do not feel nearly as human to me.
 

But the fact that he's irked at that, and then irked that he is being made to play as Abby, and that he's not enjoying Abby's story as much as Ellie's, that's showing that he still is angry at Abby. He complains about the game manipulating you to like Abby, with a dog and such. He says this like it's a bad thing, like in the first game you weren't just as manipulated to like Ellie and feel for Joel. The only reason he finds this manipulation a problem, is because he hates Abby, and doesn't want to like her.

This.

Which is the point of the game.
 


Khelon Testudo

Cleric of Stronmaus
Abby is a bit hard to get on with. Mel is right to be concerned about her and Owen. But then, Ellie becomes more monstrous as her arc goes on. Neither of them are exemplary human beings - part of the whole vengeance obsession issue. But you don't have to like them to understand where they're coming from. I think it's a refreshing change from all those revenge stories where you never question the protagonist's obsession, or consider the aftermath.
 

I strongly feel that they deliberately assassinate Ellie's and Joel's character in order to make Abby look good. There is but a faint trace of the characters from part 1 left in part 2. But the end result of this is that I just end up hating every character and don't have anyone to root for. I think Lev is perhaps one of the least sympathetic characters in the game, because many deaths in the later chapters of the game are directly his fault. And I'm pretty sure the writers tried to make him the most sympathetic.

I think you do need to like some of the characters, in order to care for the story. Also, where the hell did that sex scene come from? And what was the point of inserting it so awkwardly into the story?
 

I strongly feel that they deliberately assassinate Ellie's and Joel's character in order to make Abby look good.

Joel was always an evil man. In DnD terms he is NE in the first game. Pre apocalypse he was Neutral (he loves his daughter dearly, and is not evil, but is totally OK with leaving a family to die on the side of the road - he serves his own interests without harming others, or going out of his way to help them).

Fast forward 20 years into the apocalypse and he is shown as being totally OK with brutal torture and murder. On multiple occasions. Even his brother Tommy (who is also down with murder and torture) outright states in the first game that Joel did things as a Hunter that even he found disturbing.

It is outright stated that Joel has 'few moral lines he has not yet crossed'.

Over the years, the pair survived by descending into a sinister way of life, hurting innocent people; going so far as killing them; all to survive. Joel tortured, deceived, and killed countless innocent people, becoming a hunter. He adopted tactics such as tricking passersby into thinking he was hurt so he, Tommy, and likely others could ambush them when they let their guard down.


Described as being in his late 40's in the first game, Joel knew what the world looked like before it was devastated. Over time, he had begun to become less bound by morality and more driven by doing whatever is necessary to survive. "What he wouldn't do in the past is almost a daily occurrence at this point," Bruce Straley, the game's director, notes.[47]

Joel has been described as a "violent thug, a brutal killer, and a torturer."[48] During the aftermath of the epidemic that struck the country, Joel had initially become a Hunter, stealing from and killing innocent people in order to get by. This continued for several years, before he resorted to working in black-market dealings and smuggling items or people of interest through quarantine zones or other designated areas.[49]


Joel Miller

He loves Ellie more than anything. But he is not a good man.

Abby on the other hand is clearly depicted as consistently showing mercy, compassion, altruism and kindness (barring her torture and murder of Joel) and she was fighting for arguably a just cause (the Fireflies, seeking to stop the zombie outbreak).

Abby then clearly mirrors Joels journey in the TLOU 1. She joins the morally nebulous Wolves after losing her Father (Joel instead becomes a Hunter and then a Smuggler and stand over man after losing his Daughter) before forming a bond with an outcast (Lev in her case, Ellie in Joels) and turning her back on her past life to protect that person.

I find it insane you can critcise Abby and not also Joel. Their paths are mirrored, with Abby being far more morally upstanding than Joel ever was.

The reason you hate Abby so much is because the game made you. You hated her when she killed Joel (who you cared about, and were invested in from the first game) in such a senseless manner, so you couldnt empathise with her when you were forced to play her, even when it became apparent she was (unlike Ellie and Joel) largely a morally Good person.

I think Lev is perhaps one of the least sympathetic characters in the game, because many deaths in the later chapters of the game are directly his fault.

All the deaths in the game are Joels fault actually. If Joel hadnt have murdered Abbys dad, she never would have come looking for him for revenge. Ellie never would have embarked on her killing spree, and the whole events of the game never would have happened.
 

The reason you hate Abby so much is because the game made you. You hated her when she killed Joel (who you cared about, and were invested in from the first game) in such a senseless manner, so you couldnt empathise with her when you were forced to play her, even when it became apparent she was (unlike Ellie and Joel) largely a morally Good person.

I hated Abby, because the scene in which she kills Joel, deliberately portrays her as a villain. Also, her friends were eager to kill Ellie, making her a villain by association. There were countless moments in the plot, where characters could have told each other why they did what they did, which could have avoided a lot of the death and misery, but they never do. Even when characters are about to die, they refuse to tell their motives, and that is lazy writing.

After the game has shown the player that both Abby and her friends are villains, the game goes to great lengths to try and make them look sympathetic, but never quite succeeds. Despite having to play as Abby for a large portion of the game, they never quite succeed in making Abby likeable.

Another thing that bothers me by the way, is the amount of plot armor written into the story. There are countless moments in the game where a villain could kill Ellie or Dina, but doesn't. One of the villains even conveniently leaves a knife near Ellie, so she can escape. This sort of stuff is found all over the game.

And yes, Joel was always a bad person... but he was also likeable. I'm not saying his death is undeserved, it was a long time coming. But it is bad writing to have a mere coincidence be the reason for his death. And it feels kind of abusive towards the player. The way they just kill off a beloved character in the most brutal way possible, (conveniently in full view of Ellie), feels manipulative and contrived, and merely in service to mangle her character and make her the baddie. It is as if a completely different writer, who hates Ellie as a character, decided to completely rewrite her in service of making a new other character (Abby) seem cool. And notice how Abby also gets all the cool items, weapons and upgrades? It feels as if the writers want the player to hate a beloved character, by completely rewriting her in a contrived way, in order to introduce someone new. It is unsurprising that this has caused a bit of an uproar among fans of the game. I don't consider myself a fan of the series, but I too dislike how this was written. I can clearly see the decline in writing quality between part 1 and part 2.

All the deaths in the game are Joels fault actually. If Joel hadnt have murdered Abbys dad, she never would have come looking for him for revenge. Ellie never would have embarked on her killing spree, and the whole events of the game never would have happened.

This is not entirely true. There are several deaths in the game that are unrelated to Abby's revenge quest, but are the direct result of Lev's actions, such as him deciding to go off on his own, despite being warned not to do so.
 
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I hated Abby, because the scene in which she kills Joel, deliberately portrays her as a villain.

No, you're the one casting her as the villain in that scene.

From her perspective, Joel is the villain. He's a hunter and smuggler, who murdered her Doctor father, and most of her friends and people she cared about, and doomed all of of humanity to the Zombie apocalypse.

It doesnt get much more villainous than that.

And this is the exact point the reviews above were trying to make. You hated Abby because (to you) she was the villain. She killed someone you cared about (Joel).

The irony is she only killed Joel, because he killed someone she cared about (a lot of people she cared about) and doomed humanity to hell on earth.

So tell me again; who is the villain?

Also, her friends were eager to kill Ellie,

No, they were not. A few wanted to (the dude Ellie cuts on the face, and the Latin American dude) but the Doctor (who Ellie later tortures and murders) and Abbys boyfriend Owen both opposed killing her, with Owen actually stopping the former two from killing her.

Abby herself was not eager to kill Ellie (or Tommy) either and ordered the others to let them both go.

After the game has shown the player that both Abby and her friends are villains, the game goes to great lengths to try and make them look sympathetic, but never quite succeeds.

No, you're missing the point!

Abby and her friends were always sympathetic!

Imagine playing a game where you start as Abby, with your loving goodly Zebra hugging father, and you're seeking to end the zombie apocalypse and save humanity. Then, suddenly, your father (and most of your friends) are brutally murdered by a hunter and smuggler, thwarting that goal and dooming all of humanity in the process.

Years later, you finally track the man down, and kill him (like in the game), but spare his brother and a young girl.

You then return home, and those two people come after you (even though you spared them) and brutally torture and murder your friends one by one.

Your problem is you're missing the point the game is making. There are no heroes or villains. There is just violence begetting more violence.

This is not entirely true. There are several deaths in the game that are unrelated to Abby's revenge quest, but are the direct result of Lev's actions, such as him deciding to go off on his own, despite being warned not to do so.

None of which would have happened if Joel hadnt have murdered Abbys dad, dooming Lev and the rest of humanity to the Zombie Apocalypse. The Wolves wouldnt even exist (they'd still be the Fireflies!) and Abby and her friends would never have joined them!
 

No, you're the one casting her as the villain in that scene.

No. The scene was directed and written specifically to cast Abby as a villain. This is done by deliberately not having the characters share their motivations with Ellie (and the player), brutally killing Joel in front of Ellie (and the player), zooming in on Ellie's horrified reaction to the murder, and not showing any remorse or sympathy on the part of Abby. That scene is deliberately written so Abby is a villain and Ellie's revenge is justified.

It is only in hindsight that we learn about Abby's motivations. But in that scene, she absolutely is the villain. She is but a hair away from twirling her mustache and tying Joel to the train tracks.

So this is the core problem with the game's story: After deliberately making Abby into a villain (which is in my view without question), the game spends its entirely trying to redeem Abby, but never quite pulls it off. It succeeds in making Ellie unlikeable, sure, but this only leaves many players with no one to root for.

This is is why you are seeing such strong negative reactions to the game's plot.

None of which would have happened if Joel hadnt have murdered Abbys dad, dooming Lev and the rest of humanity to the Zombie Apocalypse. The Wolves wouldnt even exist (they'd still be the Fireflies!) and Abby and her friends would never have joined them!

This is a bit of a stretch. Even in part 1 it is not guaranteed that Ellie's operation will result in a cure. Lev's choices are her own, and her choices doom several characters. Those deaths are not of Joel's making. One of the most important plot points in The Last of Us part 1, is that it is uncertain if a cure is even possible. Even if Joel had not intervened, it is entirely possible (and likely) that the zombie apocalypse continued. Ellie's operation was a longshot, it always was.

Many people seem to forget the nuance that was in the first game.
 

But in that scene, she absolutely is the villain.

No, there is no villain.

Or more correctly, everyone is the villain and everyone is the hero. And no-one is.

So this is the core problem with the game's story: After deliberately making Abby into a villain (which is in my view without question), the game spends its entirely trying to redeem Abby, but never quite pulls it off.

No, that's that what the game is trying to do at all. The game is not trying to set up a 'villain redemption' arc with Abby as she was never the villain at all.

In fact she was pretty consistently a morally good person, altruistic, kind, self sacrificing, charitable and loving (with the notable exception of murdering Joel).

You're looking at this from a simplistic position; the kind of unthinking tacit approval of an audience cheering on the action hero as he brutally murders hundreds of faceless mooks 'because they killed a member of his family' and seeing the action hero as the hero, and the mooks as the villains.

You justify the hero's mass murder, while condemning the murder undertaken by the villain.

If Abby is the villain, what the heck does that make Joel?

This is is why you are seeing such strong negative reactions to the game's plot.

No, Im seeing such strong reactions to the games plot because people thought they were getting a 'murder hordes of mooks and a series of mini-bosses before killing the BBEG at the end' storyline, like you see in literally every action movie ever.

Even in part 1 it is not guaranteed that Ellie's operation will result in a cure.

Abbys dad was very confident it would result in a cure, and he's a specialist and a doctor and all that, and in a the best position to know those kinds of things. He's basically portrayed as Lawful Good - he doesn't seem like the sort of man that would take the decision to murder a defenceless child on the operating table, and violate the Hippocratic oath, lightly.

That's the moral gravitas of the end scene of part 1; Joel is effectively dooming humanity (and committing mass murder) to save Ellie.
 

No, there is no villain.
Or more correctly, everyone is the villain and everyone is the hero. And no-one is.

Ultimately yes, but I'm speaking from scene to scene. At the start of the game, the game VERY MUCH sets up a revenge arc for Ellie, with Abby as the villain. I'm kind of stunned why you are disagreeing on that fact. Thats literally what they do.

No, that's that what the game is trying to do at all. The game is not trying to set up a 'villain redemption' arc with Abby as she was never the villain at all.

In fact she was pretty consistently a morally good person, altruistic, kind, self sacrificing, charitable and loving (with the notable exception of murdering Joel).

If Abby is the villain, what the heck does that make Joel?

Abby is not a villain for the entirety of the game, but she is for the start of the game. The positive attributes of Abby that you refer to, are not revealed to the player until much later in the game. Until they are revealed, Abby absolutely is the villain. And the way Joel's death is edited is all done in service of making Abby look worse than she ultimately ends up being. But it is a rather cheap bit of manipulation that a lot of players caught onto. Its very transparent, and that may have pissed a lot of players off.

In regards to Joel, he is a sacrifice by the writers to shock the players and rewrite Ellie's character in service of a plot that reads like it was written by an edgy blogger from tumblr. That again is a large reason why the game receives a lot of backlash. Its not that the entire game is bad, and in fact, I'd argue apart from the weak gameplay the game is pretty solid overall. But people are used to better writing from Naughty Dog.

No, Im seeing such strong reactions to the games plot because people thought they were getting a 'murder hordes of mooks and a series of mini-bosses before killing the BBEG at the end' storyline, like you see in literally every action movie ever.

This sounds more like you are frustrated that not everyone has the same emotional response to the game as you, rather than you honestly trying to hear and understand their criticism. Do you not recognize at least some of the criticism to the story?

That being:
-The disconnect between gameplay and story
-The overreliance on shock violence
-The constant unnecessary swearing
-The rewriting of established characters
-Unlikeable characters
-The reliance on plot convenience
-Characters refusing to share motives with each other
-The plot armor of certain characters
-The absence of any levity and fun in the plot
-The lackluster unfulfilling ending
-The pacing issues
-The unnecessary last act
-and the fact that the story is predictable?


You'll notice that when you watch any of the negative reviews of this game, they all mention the things I just listed. This game relies heavily on its story, and its story unfortunately is a bit lacking. Plus, there are a lot of bugs.

Abbys dad was very confident it would result in a cure, and he's a specialist and a doctor and all that, and in a the best position to know those kinds of things. He's basically portrayed as Lawful Good - he doesn't seem like the sort of man that would take the decision to murder a defenceless child on the operating table, and violate the Hippocratic oath, lightly.

That's the moral gravitas of the end scene of part 1; Joel is effectively dooming humanity (and committing mass murder) to save Ellie.

But it is never 100% guaranteed that Ellie could save all humanity. There was always some doubt. I'm not saying Joel is justified in his act, but there was nuance in regards to the chances of making a cure.


Angry Joe gave the game a pretty fair review I think. Willing to praise what is good about the game, but also giving a fair critique of the story.
 
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