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The Last of Us Part 2


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I'd be ok with this if it wasnt Ellie and Joel.

 

i'm honestly feeling this way too - TLOU + Ellie's DLC campaign felt so perfect, i'm nervous about revisiting them. i was hopeful this would be about another group of fireflies...but i can't act like i'm not gonna be all over this.

 

i mean, i get it: TLOU was like this pinnacle of sales + critical reception/love, and it was one of the few times i didn't mind seeing a game sweep GOTY awards...fuck, that thing killed my launch PS3 and i still couldn't wait to finish it.

 

i'd be a lot more nervous if this wasn't Naughty Dog's A-team we're talking about.

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...wait, so Ellie's the main character this time? okay, that's pretty interesting. they're saying she's 19 now in that video too.

 

 

there's literally no way Joel walks away from this one, i'm guessing

 

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:lush: so, i re-ran through TLOU 1 to hype myself up earlier this year, and couldn't pass up the chance to finish 2 before having it spoiled - is anyone else ready to talk about this? 

 

a big part of the discussion involves seemingly pretentious commentary about "ludonarrative" dissonance - what i understand this to be, is deeply relevant to naughty dog games: a perfect example is, drake from uncharted comes off as goofy/likeable while the game forces him/you to act as essentially a colonizing force, wiping out hundreds - if not thousands - of usually brown folks before looting their historical artifacts



 

this is a something of a trend that bioshock popularly set off: the framework literally forces the player's hand - by conditioning them to solve conflict with violence - and them shaming them for playing by the prescribed role.  call of duty chapters & others did this, and it felt more manipulative than clever, to me.

 

an easy example:  the final hours of red dead redemption 1.  many players complained of the menial taskes laid out once john mashterton finally reunited withi his family - even though this is a) exactly what john wanted the whole game, and b) exacly what cowboys mostly do, outside of a romanticized historical window from over a century ago. 

but it was so very boring, because the game taught you to solve problems/advance the plot with shootouts, so being a ranchhand feld like something you had to endure before the next part. 

 

now, here's TLOU2.  the world is deeply broken, and the choices joel made in the closing act of part 1 are coming home to roost - in an ugly, awful way, that lends the player (as ellie) to feel righteous in their pursuit for justice/closure.  and conversely, playing as abby feels forced/unwelcome. 

 

but the game plays out in halfs - the first sees ellie push the envelope with what the player will excuse in justifying the awful end to part 1's protagonist, however sociopathic they acted at times.  the game's 2nd half is another take, that largely deals with the repercussions of your actions in the first half.  i've honestly not seen a narrative attempt at this so interestingly done since nier.

 

the game goes from elly is a sweet/funny but violent woman dealing with deep PTSD from the first act, and abby is a swole blonde crypto-fascist (based on her crew) that ends up abandoning all that privilege for a really likeable trans partner they initially felt indebted to, but ended up treating like a real comrade whose liberation they were equally tied to.  it's a really interesting narrative that turns expectations on their ear & despite my fears this would be a naruto-esque anime villain redemption story (a la giving depth to magneto/etc over the years), led somewhere that made ellie's story feel so very...small. 

 

the more distance i get from it, the more i'm impressed with how naughty dog took this opportunity to do that. 

 

it leads to a chapter where abby faces ellie as her "final boss" and eventually brutalized, but spares her.  ellie is given the chance to live something of a dream life in this hellscape, but the trauma rears its ugly head in a way to excuse the players' desire to "see this through", and instantly creates regret, as though this choice was predetermined - despite knowing/seeing ellie literally couldn't live without closure, and the players' desire to finish what they started. 

 

abby & co's final act is, as the world reflects, monstrous and deeply unfair, in a way the game goes to great lengths to illustrate. abby - a shell of who she was - literally rejects the final confrontation that ellie demands, and ellie's untreated trauma manifests in a moment of confusion that ends it.  she's then forced to return to the empty home her choices created. 

 

like...most of these ludonarrative points feel cheap.  imagine a katamari game that forced you to roll up the universe and then demeaned you for the genocide this created....the game literally forced this choice, making it kind of hollow.  that's easily the company this could have joined, but i think it kinda walked the line to show something more, and i'm aware of naughty dog's need for a union/awful crunchtime, but this was still rather well done by our current standards.  i literally hated abby and was resentful of playing as her in the opening hours of her half of the game, but was forced to reexamine all that in a way i found interesting.  considering this is a cinematic b-survival horror game where you spend a chunk of time adapting weapons to stab zombies with, this was really an interesting meta take for the game to go down.

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I guess I'm the asshole for saying that I really liked tlou2, that i feel like it was a complete story and while there were points where it dragged i saw where the vision for it was going and I think they did a good job with what they were given. 

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