The Last of Us was the first game I played properly, and the first game I reviewed on my blog! The Last of Us II was the first game I bought right after it released (I think I held out about 3 days before deciding to cave and drop far too much money on it). I was a bit tentative going into it, because people had talked about how harrowing it is, but I don’t feel as though it entirely lived up to that (thankfully!).
The Last of Us II picks up a few years after the first game left off. Ellie is a young woman now, instead of a teenager, and she’s been living in a safe compound since the first game ended. At the start of the game, we meet a couple of Ellie’s friends, and Ellie being sapphic is confirmed by the game pretty much immediately, which I love. Much like the first game, it does break you in gently, introducing the world and mechanics. We are also introduced, in the early game, to Abby, a new character. Abby is by far the most controversial character in the game, and there is a strong chance that you will despise her, and guess what? You have to spend half the game playing as her.
The game keeps it fresh from the first by introducing some new types of enemies. There are Shamblers, which are kind of halfway between Clickers and Bloaters, which are encountered semi-regularly from the mid-game. Also introduced are Stalkers, which sneak around in the dark, and are incredibly frustrating. There’s also a new boss, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so that’s all I will say on that. The human enemies are also expanded: there’s two factions, the WLF and the Rattlers. By adding these different enemies and factions, along with backstories and politics, the game feels fresh, despite taking so much from the first game. Much of the storyline is deciphered through picking up items, which is one of my favourite ways to introduce backstory into a game world, because it feels much more natural than other approaches. Always search areas properly to make sure you’re not missing any little nuggets of information, because while they may not help you to advance in the game, it’s always interesting to build up your knowledge of the world. And, you never know, reading a sheet of notepaper you find lying around might give you a combination to a nearby safe…
The world in The Last of Us II is expanded from the first game, but it is still linear, and the player is still forced through fairly narrow areas. In II you are more likely to find houses and such to explore, and there is one area that is particularly open but, for the most part, the game drives the player rather than the other way round. I do feel like the cut scenes were a bit stripped down compared to the first game, which did in parts feel more like an interactive movie. Even though the cut scenes definitely took up a smaller percentage of the overall game than they did in the first game, the characters are really well-developed, and nothing is morally black or white here. The game definitely forces you to question who your allegiances lie with, and has all of the characters doing things that could at best be described as morally questionable.
The brutality of the game was somewhat exaggerated by the early reviews. It is mostly comparable to the original game, with the main change being the more realistic graphics. There are some elements that were more brutal than the original game, however. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are scenes that force the player to commit acts of violence in extreme closeup, and the callousness of the humans in this game is upped from the first. Especially at the end, there are some events that are just pure cruelty from the surviving humans. I don’t feel like this was overdone, though there were moments that I definitely wish weren’t included (though that says more about me than about the game overall).
One thing I will say against this game is that it is long. Pretty much everything that happens you play through twice, as you follow the different storylines throughout the game. The storyline is incredibly well-crafted, but the game does start to get to a point where you’re just awaiting the climax. Unlike in an open world game where you can complete a questline in a few hours and receive that feeling of achievement, The Last of Us II really makes you work for a sense of accomplishment, and just when you think you might’ve got somewhere, surprise! There’s more!
Overall, this is an impressive game. The delays are understandable given the size of the game, but I do feel as though they tried to do a little bit too much here. I still really enjoyed playing, however, and if you were a fan of the first game I definitely recommend giving this one a go. If you’re new to the series, start with the first one, because it is an incredible game and doesn’t deserve to be skipped.