The Last of Us, The Last of Us Part II and the Importance of Perspective and Focalisation (Full Spoilers for Both Games)

by WrapUpBlanket. Posted on Jun 30, 2020    62    492


A few days ago, a post on this sub was dedicated to the gameplay of The Last Of Us 2, so I thought that I would make a post dedicated to the other half of the equation and arguably the more important one than that: the narrative.

Much has been said already about it, the loudest voices being negative in ways I don’t think I need to repeat here. Common criticisms include that the story is badly paced, that Joel deserved better, that characters like Joel broke character for things to happen, that the ending is unsatisfactory and even contradictory to the game’s message, and that that message (revenge is bad, violence is bad) has been told too many times and that the game can’t say anything new about it.

Let me start out by saying that I resoundly disagree with all of those points in ways I will elaborate upon in this post. I don’t think the game is perfect, neither in gameplay nor narrative, but that these criticisms come from a place that misreads (let's use that word?) the game, the role of the player and (in my mind) even the point of games as a narrative medium.

xQc, in a tweet, put it like this: “ALL OF YOU OVER-ANALYZING PSEUDOINTELLECTUALS NEED TO STOP TRYING TO JUSTIFY AND DEFEND THE LAST OF US 2 ENDING. IT FELT UNEVENTFUL, INCONCLUSIVE AND HOLLOW. THE GAME IS GOOD BUT THE KEY MOMENTS WE'RE BAD, JUST FACE IT.” As an over-analyzing pseudointellectual by trade, I feel like I am being called to action, so lets start with the most important piece of the puzzle that many players seem to have misread seven years ago, the ending of the first game.

I won’t plaster this post with narratological theory, but I want to mention the importance of focalisation and perspective in any narrative, but especially in The Last Of Us games: The most crucially important thing about the ending of the first game is that you take control of Ellie in those final moments, not Joel. In that epilogue, there is no meaningful gameplay but a short walk and a short interaction with a fence. So why that decision to play it as Ellie?

Well, it's the only time in the game you see Joel not from the third-person camera or through the cinematography of a cutscene, with one exception: the beginning as Sarah. There, you see Joel as a caring dad being forced into his most separate form of himself, and that focalisation transitions from Sarah to Joel through him holding her in his arms: the camera stays behind Sarah, but since she can’t move, you are effectively controlling Joel and thus the movement of both. At the end of the intro, you are fully in control of Joel, having lost Sarah. The ending reverses that trajectory of focalisation: in the surgery room, you pick up Ellie like you did Sarah, before you see the last moments of that game through the eyes of Ellie. Precisely because of that shift in perspective there exist also a shift in empathy, as you are allowed, just then, to realise just how broken, sad and lonely of a man Joel is from a ‘distance’ (both in terms of narrative and cinematic focalisation). He talks about Sarah, allows himself several moments of weakness that we see for the first time since the intro; For almost the entire rest of the game, the screen would smash-cut to black and fast-forward by weeks anytime anything traumatic happens to Joel and before we can see him process these events, be it the death of Sam, David’s murder by the hands of Ellie, or Joel’s near-death experience. To “survive and endure,” to Joel, is to swallow these emotions and move on, and the camera and cinematic edits themselves mimic that mindset, which indicates just how much the narrative focalisation is done through Joel and his perspective, so any explicit breaking of or moving past that perspective changes the entire meaning of the narrative; or rather, the way it tells itself.

That shift to Ellie, in the final moments of the game, makes us as the player and Ellie both reflect back on Joel and all the things that he does in the game, especially the violence, in a different light. The choice in focalisation and perspective "forces" us to empathise with the character much more than we would without that attentional bias, so removing that bias is crucial for recontextualising character and narrative alike. Folding Ideas talks about this excellently here (timestamp 3:40 for people on mobile): https://youtu.be/sWxCBZ2xFGw?t=220

And the second game, seemingly knowing what the ending of the first does in effect and affect, digs so much deeper from there. By expanding on that idea with Abby, and with non-chronological storytelling, it breaks with a continuity in perspective constantly and repeatedly. Even more than in the first game, the bulk of the character development must be intuited on part of the player by ’reading’ the performances of the characters rather than seeing that development happen explicitly. That ties back into the misunderstood central theme of the franchise, which is not „violence is bad, revenge is bad, people who do either are bad“, but that there exists humanity in violence and vice versa, but that it‘s difficult to see that humanity for all the blood unless you are given the privilege to see the human behind it. That’s why it’s not contradictory that neither Abby nor Ellie die at the hands of the other, but fully part of that level of meaning-making done by both games: Only through perspective can we make sense of actions, whether they be kind or violent. It’s just that much easier to accept a kind act as an expression of humanity than a violent act when you are not allowed access to that perspective.

The game plays with that so often, especially when you play as Abby: Mechanically, Abby is much closer to Joel than Ellie (as evidenced primarily by her use of hand-to-hand combat and shivs and how this balances encounters, but also things like the sniper battle that is very reminiscent of the one at the end of Summer in Part 1); narratively, her arc from the WLF's to her care of Lev to ultimately searching together for the Fireflies mirrors Joel's story from the first game more than anything we've seen of Ellie, and when the camera first 'arrives' in California, it films Lev's shoes as a misdirection to make us think it's Ellie (who wears the same, or at least very similar, shoes), making that mirror image quite clear. (Interestingly, in a move that I can't quite fit into this analysis, is that the boss fight against Ellie in the theater is such a close mirror mechanically and 'emotionally' to when Ellie fights David in the first game; maybe someone smarter than me knows what to make of this.)

I think too many are more invested in what they think of the characters than what the characters are. It‘s not about whether Joel, Ellie or Abby are good or bad, whether Joel did factually doom humanity or not, or whether the WLF/Seraphites/Fireflies/Jacksonites/Rattlers are right or wrong; it’s that to people on the outside, these people’s goals and actions can seem disagreeable. We like Joel and Ellie because we spent time with them, others want them dead because they did not.

Let’s take Tommy as a prime example of that idea: As a player, you probably like Tommy, even if you’ve never played as him. He seems nice, caring, a man of family and community. But almost all the trauma that happens to Ellie in that game is because of Tommy: Abby goes to Jackson because she tracks him down rather than Joel; in his trusting nature, he tells Abby first his and Joel’s name (which, if you look at Abby’s reaction, causes her to pause, reconsider her plans to infiltrate Jackson to instead lure them both back to the other WLF’s); he gives Ellie ‘ethical cover’ to follow him to Seattle and thus a reason she can point to other than her personal revenge for seeing her mission through; he is partly to blame for the map being left behind in the aquarium and he is fully to blame for Ellie’s decision to abandon Dina and go to California. We never get to see what Tommy did as a Firefly, never get to see what he did to the Wolves he got to, all we see is him in very specific moments through a very specific lens, and it takes a lot of (guess) work to know exactly just what kind of a person Tommy is, and what motivates him. His relationship to Maria, for instance, looks everything but perfectly stable even long before any real drama started.

In the intro to the first game, Tommy wants to save a family in need while Joel just puts the pedal to the metal. This is who these two people are shown to be: Tommy is optimistic, trusting and helpful to the point of being naive; Joel is selfish and puts his own survival above everything else. Tommy believes in community, Joel in the self. This changes. Even without the flashbacks of the second game we know that this changes from the ending of the first game. Joel risks his own life to save Ellie rather than to walk away, as he so often said he would do, and as he has done with people like Tess. He tells Ellie for the first time about Sarah and takes up Tommy’s offer to join him in Jackson. In the second game, before he dies, we see him play a song for Ellie about how much he cares about her and make one of the stupid jokes he hated hearing in the first game. We hear about him fighting a bigot who insulted Ellie and we see him helping a woman (Abby) in need. Joel has, in other words, become a man of community — maybe not necessarily gentle, but gentler, kinder, more trusting. That‘s Joel‘s character arc of the first game, paid for in the blood of others. That‘s the same Joel we see in that ski lodge: He doesn‘t even really insult his killer, as he would have in the first game, he asks whom he wronged and then takes his death more-or-less in strides (‘say your speech and get it over with’). Joel has seen character development, but being kinder and more trusting is not necessarily the best thing for survival in this world if that change comes after a trail of corpses.

So saying that Joel would have never told Abby his name is (a) false because it’s Tommy who (carelessly?) tells her their names first and (b) does not account for four years of peace time and change of character that happened mostly off-screen, and the few glimpses we get of Joel through flashbacks show just how much he has changed in those four years, dropping his forced resistance to emotions to the point of crying in front of Ellie because of an announced attempt at reconciliation (i.e. a reconciliation at least two steps removed).

Judging by online discussions, many mistake (uncharacteristic) ‘character weakness’ for ‘weakness in writing.’ Joel’s “weakness in character” is him dropping his hardended survivor shell he has built up after losing his daughter. He becomes more human and humane, and in turn loses much of that brutality which allows him to survive for so long. He essentially sacrifices his life because he stopped to be a monster in a world that rewards inhumanity with survival. This is a much more noble (and in-character) death than most seem to realise. Joel has gained humanity but lost his life because people like Abby were not allowed to see him develop in that way. His death is the logical conclusion to even just the character development seen in the first game. The cruel twist in TLOU2 is that character development towards the more objectively good makes you worse at surviving this world. That’s bleak, but consistent writing. In that final confrontation with Abby, Ellie for the first time in months remembers Joel not in his death, but at his most human moment, and that brief reminder is enough to make have her regain her own humanity when it was about to be lost forever, and to recognise Abby’s in return.

“Future Days,” the song that Joel teaches Ellie, represents that development fully: First, it’s Joel singing it to Ellie, which means that he would have lost his self if he had let her die in that hospital (bleakly, it was him finding his own humanity at the expense of humanity’s survival). Then, when Ellie sings it after Joel’s death, it is a sombre reminder where her path will lead – the lyrics are still stated in the hypothetical (“if I were… I’d surely…”), so there is still hope. Then, in the last scene, she can only play half the song with half of her fingers missing; no lyrics, half of the notes swallowed: she has lost him, and she came close to losing herself, but there is still something left.

​

Edit: When i realised that Manny's dirty "three fingers are all you need" joke was foreshadowing I groaned.


Comments

Bland_Rand 288

"I don’t think the game is perfect, neither in gameplay nor narrative, but that these criticisms come from a place that misunderstands the game, the role of the player and (in my mind) even the point of games as a narrative medium."

So if someone has legitimate criticisms of the game that person misunderstands the game and even the point of games as a narrative medium?

Why is it that every post that talks about how someone likes the game eventually boils down to "people who don't like it are stupid". Quit trying to be intellectually superior by declaring that your opinions are objective truths.

I thought the game was okay. I think it had serious pacing issues that, if resolved, would have made it a better game. That does not make me stupid and you smart. Get off your high horse.

FallenTerran

Because so far most of the criticism about this game boils down to the following coversation.

"game is shit"

why?

"writing bad"

So how can you except people to not feel intellectually superior when most of the people who don't like the game refuse to show any intellect when it comes to their arguments.

mirracz 8

>"game is shit"
>
>why?
>
>"writing bad"

Exactly the same can be said about people criticising Game of Thrones Season 8. I see exactly the same arguments, same conversations. Why is it that for GoT S8 "writing is shit" is reasonable argument and for LOU2 isn't?

SPOILERS: It boils down to what side of the barricade you stand. If you like something, then you attack vague arguments. If you dislike it, vague arguments are suddenly OK.

canad1anbacon 2

There are a mountain of plot holes, inconsistent characterization moments, and downright stupid dialogue you can point to with GOT Season 8

Last of Us 2 does not have those problems to nearly the same degree. The distaste for the game is more about not liking the plot itself and not its execution

I personally have opposite problems with both of these stories. With last of us 2 the execution of the storytelling largely seems competent Im just not very interested in the direction they decided to take the story when other possibilities would have been more interesting to me

With GOT season 8 a lot of the biggest problems could be fixed with minor changes, with Last of Us 2 you can't really "fix" it without telling a whole different story

With GOT im actually pretty fine with all the main plot points that happen (except Bran becoming king) and I think season 8 could have been incredible with the same story but better execution

berserkuh 10

Because there are actual arguments for GoT S8. The very clear dumbing down of characters, the unresolved plot points, the illogical decisions, etc.

So far the only reasons I've seen people hate TLOU2 is "writing bad because favorite character dead and play as bad girl", "violence bad" and also "ew that girl is a boy and that girl is very big".

SetsunaFS 5

>Why is it that for GoT S8 "writing is shit" is reasonable argument and for LOU2 isn't?

It's not for GoT season 8 either. I hate that season and I'm able to articulate my criticisms better than "writing bad".

And I want you to point me to anything on TLoU Part II as stupid as "Dany kinda forgot".

AdamNW 21

There were tons of valid criticisms of GoT S8 in all the major discussion forums. /r/GameofThrones and /r/asoiaf both had plenty of well thought out criticisms, many notable youtubers (including those who tend not to make outrage content), etc. all pointed out the flaws of S8 very thoroughly and carefully.

That isn't to say I haven't seen valid criticisms of TLOU2 either, but the most upvoted/circulated things I see relate to not wanting to play as Abby, which is inherently flawed from what I can tell on the outside.

GiveMeBackMyPants 10

>"writing bad"

I'm actually at the point where I just disregard anyone who says this. Unless they actually have something more substantive to say, it's just an empty platitude used by people who don't understand how to quantify why they don't like a thing.

SetsunaFS 4

Gamers, in particular, are not literate enough to actually have substantive critiques about most of the things they play. For better or for worse, TLoU Part II is a very challenging sequel. And instead of assessing what about this game angers them so much, it's much easier to take some broad thing and say it's bad.

Act_of_God 9

you have no idea how many people criticize the "writing" by pulling out plot points they disliked while never engaging in narrative techniques, directing and any other means of storytelling. It's honestly baffling to me.

Bright_Nebula 2

>So if someone has legitimate criticisms of the game that person misunderstands the game and even the point of games as a narrative medium?
>
>Why is it that every post that talks about how someone likes the game eventually boils down to "people who don't like it are stupid".

This kind of thought process is sadly common among some fans of certain games/movies/etc. I'm getting Bioshock Infinite flashbacks here.

3holes2tits1fork 7

Your side does the same thing though? For instance, the legitimately moronic xQc quote that this was a response to to begin with.

mirracz 7

Agreed. This sounds like some movie connoisseur explaining to the "plebs" why the latest barely watchable Oscar-winning movie is a masterpiece that we just don't understand.

Movies, games and all of the consumable art boils down to single fact. It has to be fun. Not fun as "funny", but simply as enjoyable, engaging and immersive. It doesn't matter how many intelligent tropes, narrative devices and moral lessons a medium has. If it is uncomsumable for a portion of the audience, it doesn't make the audience stupid...

user11235813213 1

The fact that art needs to be fun is simply your opinion. I personally appreciate art that challenges my world views and make me grow as a person more than having a good time

  WrapUpBlanket 11

In the very first sentence I mention that I focus on narrative, not gameplay, meaning I say nothing about what makes it fun. Hell, I don’t even say if the narrative is good or not, just what it does.

It’s an analysis of narrative techniques, not a review.

A_Slick_Con_man 9

I agree with you, but I think a better word than "fun" is "entertaining". I got nothing against the word fun, but something doesn't have to be fun to be entertaining. It just has to provide enjoyment, in a way that makes people feel like they got something out of the experience. It can be fun, or emotional, or anything, just as long as it's not a complete waste of time. From what I've seen, many didn't find the story of TLoU2 to be entertaining.

KyleTheWalrus 16

"Entertaining" is still synonymous with fun, though. I think a word that better describes what you mean is engaging. I don't care what emotions I'm feeling as long as I'm engaged in what's happening.

Nodarg 26

I totally disagree. While that may be what most people want, being "fun" should not be the objective of all art whether it be books, movies, or games. The Road is not fun to read, but it is one of my favorite books of all time. Requiem for a Dream is a gut wrenching movie that is not fun to watch, but I love it as a piece of film and think everyone should see it at least once. I believe some people think that because TLOU2 is not fun to them it is worthless as a game because it did not meet their desired objective of a "fun" video game. It's totally fine to not like games that are not "fun", but I also don't think you should be dismissive of other people who enjoyed something that doesn't meet your expectations.

StAugustine94 20

Gamers: “video games deserve to be taken seriously as art!!!”

Also gamers: “this game is pretentious because it isn’t always fun!!!”

  WrapUpBlanket 9

You engaged more with what you think of me than with my argument. I argue throughout this post that much of the criticism I've seen is that the game is emotionally manipulative by making you play as the killer of a beloved character, or wags the finger at the player for "doing violence", when neither is true.

The game's use of perspective plays with the notions that (a) familiarity builds sympathy, and vice versa; (b) that narrative focalisation builds both of these things and (c) that a change in focalisation can create, alter and undo these things.

"The game doesn't give me a choice to be non-violent, so why does it judge me for being violent" is an argument built on a clear misunderstanding because the game says exactly nothing about the actions of any given player, just about how a player builds a relationship with fictional characters.

sunder_and_flame 10

>I argue throughout this post that much of the criticism I've seen is that the game is emotionally manipulative by making you play as the killer of a beloved character, or wags the finger at the player for "doing violence", when neither is true.

Death of the author means that whatever the game's intent was doesn't matter; if many players feel the game is chastising them for "doing violence" it's pointless at best and narcissistic at worst to claim they're wrong for feeling that way.

  WrapUpBlanket 26

Death of the Author means that the Author as a "Meaning-Making God" has been displaced. But since I don't turn to the opinion of the author for my analysis, but make my own and contrast this with opinions I've seen on youtube and in various subreddits, I don't see how this applies. Especially since I speak about "the game", not "Naughty Dog" or "Neil Druckmann" or anything like this.

sunder_and_flame 10

So where does the seemingly objective point of the game come from then, if players are misunderstanding? You?

  WrapUpBlanket 26

I made a subjective analysis of its objectively observable narrative techniques. nothing else. Hence me using "in my opinion", "i think" and "in my mind" all throughout the post.

The misunderstanding (and Jesus Christ do I wish I had used another word, since it seems to be taken a lot more personally than it was ever intended to be) is that a game's narrative is not always automatically about what the player does, or that a game's narrative always implicitly or explicitly forms an opinion on the player. Some games reward you ludically or narratively for some actions (good weapons, bad ending etc.). This game does not, because you the player are irrelevant to how the narrative plays out beyond your emotional investment in it. That's it

sunder_and_flame 17

>The misunderstanding (and Jesus Christ do I wish I had used another word, since it seems to be taken a lot more personally than it was ever intended to be) is that a game's narrative is not always automatically about what the player does, or that a game's narrative always implicitly or explicitly forms an opinion on the player. Some games reward you ludically or narratively for some actions (good weapons, bad ending etc.). This game does not, because you the player are irrelevant to how the narrative plays out beyond your emotional investment in it. That's it

I apologize if this seems like I'm diluting your argument but to me this seems to be word salad for "people who didn't like it just didn't understand it. I do, and that's why I like it". I believe you're explaining why you were able to like it, but I struggle to see how you think everyone can or should be able to do the same.

>you the player are irrelevant to how the narrative plays out beyond your emotional investment in it

The emotional investment is what makes a game good to a player, in what universe could that be considered irrelevant? It's the most relevant piece of a game or any piece of entertainment, that the viewer is engaged and intrigued.

  WrapUpBlanket 17

> I apologize if this seems like I'm diluting your argument but to me this seems to be word salad for "people who didn't like it just didn't understand it. I do, and that's why I like it". I believe you're explaining why you were able to like it, but I struggle to see how you think everyone can or should be able to do the same.

No, I am saying that the many arguments I've seen floating around online that the game says "violence is bad, so why do you do it, gamer?" to me, absolutely do not apply. The game uses all its perspectives and flashbacks to complicate any idea of the objective "good and bad," leaving just the subjective "likable and dislikable" and "agreeable and disagreeable".

> The emotional investment is what makes a game good to a player, in what universe could that be considered irrelevant? It's the most relevant piece of a game or any piece of entertainment, that the viewer is engaged and intrigued.

Yes, that is what I am saying. The "misunderstanding" is that the game does not judge you as a player either way for liking or disliking any of these characters.

Bland_Rand 42

> You engaged more with what you think of me than with my argument.

Doesn't feel good does it? This is also how you started your argument.

I think the game had pacing issues and I enjoyed the game less because of it. That's my opinion and it doesn't make me intellectually inferior.

You think the pacing is fine and the design choices enhanced your enjoyment of the experience. Perfectly fine opinion and I can totally see it.

So tell me how you came to the conclusion that I misunderstand the game and even the point of games as a narrative medium.

  WrapUpBlanket 16

Because having issues with the pacing, gameplay or even specific moments of writing have nothing to do with seeing the game‘s perspective switch as a „personal attack“ against the player and their emotional investment in the story. In other words, you and people like you are not the target of what I said.

Bland_Rand 33

I see you've switched from ad hominem to strawman.

I never said I viewed the writing as a personal attack, just that I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have if it were different.

If you were to read a book and the author took 500 slow pages, after a cliffhanger, to go back chronologically and give you more backstory you might feel like it had pacing issues.

Does that mean you don't understand the point of books as a narrative medium? No, it just means you didn't enjoy this book that much. Maybe you still found things to enjoy, but you may have liked it better if it was a little different. If thousands of people hold that same opinion maybe the book had a pacing issue.

That doesn't mean people who like the book, and the author's choices, are wrong. It certainly doesn't mean the people who don't enjoy the book are morons who don't understand books.

  WrapUpBlanket 58

Okay, let me be unambiguously clear: I did not attack you or people like you who have issues with the game, I took issue with people who think that they, as players, are being attacked by the narrative choices in the game for the simple fact that you, as a player, are never made part of the narrative in the sense that you can change anything — you just make these characters do what they decided to do. These are, for the most part, bad things, and you as the player are not made into an accomplice the way you are in Spec Ops, for example.

These characters exist outside of the player’s control in that sense, and you controlling them does not change that. Thinking that interactivity alone gives you that privilege by definition is a misunderstanding of how games can (but not have to) work as a narrative.

kayzooie 10

even divorcing criticism of the player from criticism of the character, the characters still do plenty of things that clash with the themes of the game. this isn't uncharted, where there's an understanding that the combat sections are not representative of the "canon" of the game. last of us 2 by comparison practically begs you to take it seriously. hence the tons of gravitas lent to random npc's (creating lots of unintentionally hilarious moments where run of the mill video game npcs gurgle & die and their comrades cry out their names only to go back to running into walls), and hence the dogs you slaughter being ones you play catch with later, and the faction you murder wholesale being humanized later.

it felt like it was trying way too much and in a medium not suited to the story it wanted to tell. the game indulges in a dour mood for ellie, judging her for chasing violent catharsis. it screams at you that this isn't the way to deal with trauma, you've got to let things go.

and then you transition into the shoes of a character whos already got her revenge and actually ends up all the better person for it, dream sequences of her father be damned; the guilt makes her grow and even flourish. she's portrayed in a much much more sympathetic light than ellie. she gets a joel arc in miniature takes place across 2 days instead of 3 seasons. of all things a positive story beat happens for her when she.... decides to slaughter all of her own comrades. the same ones that the game agonizingly humanized earlier. the game's theme to me felt seriously unfocused and unclear, and it's not just because i think every game is spec ops

  WrapUpBlanket 34

> and then you transition into the shoes of a character whos already got her revenge and actually ends up all the better person for it, dream sequences of her father be damned

I disagree with this because, to me, Abby's arc is about how her revenge left her as a worse person (see how Mel shuns her) and didn't close that chapter of her life in the way she imagined. She still has nightmares of her dad, and selfish acts (like leaving Yara and Lev behind) intensify these nightmares even more. Abby's arc, to me, is about finding satisfaction and purpose in life not through destructive, but constructive acts. That's where she differs from Ellie, who is all about destruction until the last moments in the game.

Personally, I have an easy time disassociating myself from the characters I play, so I never took the killing of enemy NPCs and their dogs as a 'judgment' of myself. It's Ellie and her decisions, and I am only along for the ride. Deciding to be non-lethal, or hating the violence as I do it, won't make the game treat me or the protagonists any differently.

adamleng 26

Just because people don't like the narrative techniques the game used doesn't mean they didn't understand them, or that those were utilized properly.

Personally I don't think the change in focalization was a good choice to begin with because combined with the misleading advertising, they basically tainted the well and turned off a lot of players from engaging with the story right off the bat. I thought this was disrespectful to the player, especially the longtime fan of TLoU1, and also disrespectful to the character of Joel.

And even if the ideas were smart and good, if it failed to reach so many people, then maybe it's not that so many people just are stupid, maybe the ideas were done poorly. Don't assume that people just didn't get the writing, or refused to give it a chance because of some personal distaste. It could also be that the execution wasn't good enough.

  WrapUpBlanket 16

>Don't assume that people just didn't get the writing, or refused to give it a chance because of some personal distaste

I never meant to say that, and I apologise if it came across like I did.

DrSeafood 19

>So if someone has legitimate criticisms of the game that person misunderstands the game and even the point of games as a narrative medium?

This wasn't directed at you personally dude. It was probably a comment leveled toxic subs like /r/thelastofus2. As much as you think this is an ad-hominem, your response is the double whammy of strawman and self-victimizing. No point getting this defensive about the tone of the comment.

_Robbie 16

This, 100%.

I am so utterly sick and tired of any kind of criticism toward well-liked games (ESPECIALLY The Last of Us) being met with "You just didn't understand it!".

It's so condescending. It's also wrong. It's like people are completely incapable of accepting that some people understand the game and also don't like it. TLOU 2 is, thematically, a mess. Its message isn't bold or interesting, and its story is one we've seen told hundreds of times before. It also uses really lazy narrative crutches on the regular (including its constant attempts to guilt the player for actions that they have no agency to choose not to take).

I don't dislike it because I don't understand it. I just don't like it.

A_Slick_Con_man 4

This reminds me very much of Bioshock: Infinite. That games story was complete nonsense, yet people acted like it was revolutionary when it came out. Reviewers gave it high scores, and people would jump to defend it whenever someone tried to criticize. And their defense was usually "you just didn't get it".

DrSeafood 21

The danger with this mindset is that you're getting so defensive about your ability to understand something. You should be more open-minded about that. If your reaction to this accusation is to get defensive, it sounds like you've made up your mind about the entire topic and are unwilling to reconsider, so there's no point really engaging. I think it really stifles what would otherwise be an interesting conversation.

Danald-Tramp 44

Man it's disappointing to see discussions about the story rather than focusing on the story, devolving into bickering about how the tone of a particular comment is disrespectful, or that some people are not allowing others to dislike the game.

It's literally all just opinions lol - I don't think that needs to be clarified again and again. OP opines that people who disliked the game may have misunderstood some aspects, no one here is or can pretend that their opinion = objective truth. People should not feel compelled to explicitly prefix "In my opinion" in front of every sentence lol

In the same way, it is a perfectly valid opinion to think that the story is shit. The purported "intellectual superiority" comes into play when people who do like the game take the time to explain their viewpoint (like OP does) in a detailed manner, which gets compared to people disliking the game mostly going "I didn't care for this one character" or "The plot boils down to revenge bad", which are subjectively perfectly valid opinions, but people will be liable to take them more seriously if the point is argued for in a more detailed analysis of the plot.

It can be comfortably assumed that unless a comment goes "This is objectively the best game ever", they are solely giving their opinions.

>>Quit trying to be intellectually superior by declaring that your opinions are objective truths.

>the role of the player and (in my mind) even the point of games as a narrative medium.

Bland_Rand 4

I get what you're saying and I agree with it. It was wrong of me to say he was offering objective truths. It was clear he was offering his opinion.

At the same time, the way he offered his opinion was derogatory and demeaning. Instead of offering his opinion and opening the thread up for debate, he dismissed counter arguments as people who "misunderstand the game and even the point of games as a narrative medium" which is simply ridiculous.

I would never say that someone who likes the game misunderstands gaming and even the point of games as an entertainment medium because that would be callous and divisive. That is why the discussion about the story devolved into this; the OP started the discussion by alienating the other side rather than just explaining his views.

  WrapUpBlanket

>At the same time, the way he offered his opinion was derogatory and demeaning. Instead of offering his opinion and opening the thread up for debate, he dismissed counter arguments as people who "misunderstand the game and even the point of games as a narrative medium" which is simply ridiculous.

I said these arguments come from a place of what is in my mind a misunderstanding, not that the people making these arguments are "too dumb to get it."

The misunderstanding is that a game's narrative is not always automatically about what the player does, or that a game's narrative always implicitily or explicitly forms an opinion on the player. Some games reward you ludically or narratively for some actions (good weapons, bad ending etc.). This game does not, because you the player are irrelevant to how the narrative plays out beyond your emotional investment. That's it

ManOrApe 15

People have different perspectives on elements, themes, and narratives, and that does not necessarily mean their criticism comes from a lack of understanding though. One can comprehend perfectly what something is trying to do, and still disagree with the way in which something is presented/performed, or even if it needed telling. Boiling criticism down to others not "getting it" is needlessly divisive. The views of others aren't flawed necessarily because they took something away that wasn't the same. Without that little added opinion, your deeper dive would probably have been taken a bit better. I thought it was rather well put together, mostly.

  WrapUpBlanket

I never said that the people making the arguments are misguided, just that the arguments themselves are. And I did not intend to imply otherwise. And I frankly don't know how to phrase a disagreement with an argument clearly enough (namely that I disagree with the opinions that games have to do and say certain things by definition) without making it look like I disrespect the people making these arguments, because to me those are completely different things.

ManOrApe 12

Arguments and criticisms are not made by themselves. One can not think they are from a misunderstanding unless one thinks those making them don't grasp the subject. You sort of are implying they are misguided in a roundabout way. You do see this as a reasonable interpretation, yes?

> "I don’t think the game is perfect, neither in gameplay nor narrative, but that these criticisms come from a place that misunderstands the game, the role of the player and (in my mind) even the point of games as a narrative medium."

Which phrase is more likely to be taken as belittlement, even if it is not meant to be:

'I disagree with this criticism/interpretation, and here is my perspective' or 'I disagree with this criticism because it is made by those that don't understand.'

Merely disagreeing should not be seen by reasonable people to be disrespectful. However, saying one does not understand while criticizing something is inherently casting shadows upon the one making what could very well be a valid point in their eyes, and overall.

  WrapUpBlanket 7

An argument coming from a place of misunderstanding does not mean that the person who argues it is (too) dumb. This is probably more of a personal failure than anything else, but I don't know how else to phrase something that effectively says "let me offer more context" without coming of as patronising or rude. This phrasing was the best I could come up with.

Because my entire post is built around an idea of "did you consider this?" If this comes across as belittling, I apologise. Narratology is just my area of expertise, and its a niche and often completely misunderstood field of academia, meaning I come 'a snobbier place' almost by default.

MusoukaMX 23

You keep saying this:

>he dismissed counter arguments as people who "misunderstand the game and even the point of games as a narrative medium" which is simply ridiculous

When OP never said that all criticisms of the game were bad, he specifically said :

>but that these criticisms come from a place that misunderstands the game

About these specific arguments:

>the story is badly paced, that Joel deserved better, that characters like Joel broke character for things to happen, that the ending is unsatisfactory and even contradictory to the game’s message, and that that message (revenge is bad, violence is bad) has been told too many times and that the game can’t say anything new about it

Bar pacing, which he's mentioning in the sense that, even if badly implemented, all the time jumps were there for metanarrative purposes, none of your very valid complains are disregarded by OP's starting paragraphs. I keep reading and I while I understand you immediate cynical take to a write up that starts by pointing out xQc's tweets out, out of everything, I feel like you kinda went out of your way to feel attacked.

On the other hand, I also feel like OP came out with some belittling replies to your comment.

(btw I hate having to tiptoe around what was specifically said but that's where we are now, I guess)

Nrksbullet 28

Reminds me of people claiming that we just "didn't get" Prometheus because of all the incredible religious themes in it.

Themes alone don't make a good movie. But any movie with a clear and well paced narrative has a shot at being decent.

  WrapUpBlanket 8

Whether a narrative is good or bad does not figure at all into an analysis of the themes and techniques, unless you explicitly state that that is the case.

All I did was subjectively analyse a particular technique, I never even once hinted at whether I liked or disliked the repercussions of that technique in the OP.

Nrksbullet 6

I wasn't talking about your post, I was talking about the situation the comment or above me mentioned.

fahadfreid 154

This. Exactly this. The entire post comes off so condescending and assumed that everyone who dislikes the game just didn't understand the meaning of the story DEEP down. No, some of us played it, understood it and even loved the games details, some of the characters but the delivery still fell flat.

I NEVER wanted to play as Abby and them forcing this on for half the game after a climax moment was a huge mistake. And it wasn't some narrative ballsy move because there's plenty of games where you play with your enemy's perspective but it just falls flat here. I think Jim sterling said it best when he was criticizing this game; that the game telegraph's all it's moves and by the time it has done it's job, the point feels like it's been beaten on your head and that too in a game that gives you no choice to do otherwise. Like the dog sequences, killing Abby's friend in self defense etc etc.

  WrapUpBlanket

You are misrepresenting what I am saying, simply because you assume that I think all criticism is invalid because „me smart, you dumb.“

If you read my argument, I never say that the switch to Abby is amazing, great, not jarring and smart. I never say that you gotta like this decision because if you dont, you don’t get it.

I am saying that the games play with a specific narratological idea in very explicit ways. This idea forecloses the player‘s role in how the characters act almost completely while emphasising emotional attachment. It’s about what you think of these characters, not about what you make them do. Because, this is my argument, you don’t make them do anything: you as a player just accompany them in their decision making. You are an interactively engaged spectator more than anything.

I have seen no discussion about this, so I made this post. You can dislike what the game does, and how it does it, and I won’t try to convince you otherwise in this post.

All I am saying is that, if you think that all games have to acknowledge the player’s actions in some way as part of a ludonarrative conversation, then these games offer a counterargument to that notion.

Anchorsify 5

I think it is naive to think a game could utterly ignore ludonarrative dissonance and I think as a "counrerargument" to it, TLOU 2 very obviously comes up short, as evidenced by the hugely mixed (and often negative) reactions it garnered.

Or to put it another way: if you ignore what makes a game, a game, then you have to try that much harder to keep people's suspension of disbelief from going off, and TLOU is like a tornado alarm in a library.

ABigCoffee 2

If people think this is a deep story about revenge (or whatever they see in it) just wait till people hear about books and movies. But this is the thing in a lot of internet discussions with difference camps, it all boils down to feeling intellectually superior (or at least that's how I see it).

MVRKHNTR 34

> I NEVER wanted to play as Abby and them forcing this on for half the game after a climax moment was a huge mistake.

I feel like there's a simple solution to this problem. Start the game with Abby. Have the player grow to like her and her friends, give them genuine shock when she finds them dead at the aquarium, the shock at Ellie being the one who did it and then go back and show her kill Joel and have the bit with Ellie hunting her down. That (along with some more development for the friends and more flashbacks with her and her father just hanging out and bonding) would make people more sympathetic and more conflicted about how to feel.

Mr_Olivar 3

You cannot humanize Abby before she kills Joel. The entire point is to understand what she felt about Joel through feeling the same about Abby. The entire game is about how similar she is to Joel, and it has to start with us seeing her the same way she saw Joel.

MVRKHNTR 30

I understand what they were going for; I just don't think it worked very well. Even that angle would have been better if that was the moment you switched to Abby instead of putting it ten hours later.

I think my biggest overall complaint about the story is how utterly pointless the first section of the story feels by the end of Abby's story and how underdeveloped Abby's story feels as a result.

Mr_Olivar 6

I love the game a lot, but there are two things in particular i think the game dropped the ball on.

1: I don't really feel like i know what Abby was like before she killed Joel, you get hints, but it was unclear to me, and made things a bit iffy.

2: And this one is important enough that i think they should have done everything in their power to fix this before finishing the game. The game needed any kind of palate cleanser when hopping from Ellie to Abby mid game. When i got there i just noped out and shut off the game to pick it up again the day after. I could not just reset like that, and i don't know what they should have done, but they should have found how to make that jump more surmountable. I think it worked when you basically quit the game and reset yourself manually like i did, but you shouldn't have to do that now should you?

If they could make that work, i think everything would have just been brilliant. The stories themselves work fantastically on their own. Not as air tight as the first, but great. And then the ending, which i first thought i hated, has so many layers upon layers to it, that pulls from both stories and elevate them, it's just brilliant too. Can't believe i originally thought they should have just cut it at the farm, or had Ellie go through with it. God what a work of an ending.

slickestwood 24

You're supposed to see her as at least somewhat of a villain when you get to the point of controlling her. You're supposed to feel somewhat conflicted. Changing your opinion as you come to understand her perspective and experiences is pretty much the point of the game.

Terrachova 21

Then it still fell flat because the only people for whom my opinion changed was Owen and Mel... ie: the only two people who felt how they handled Joel was shitty, and the only ones who weren't gung-ho about killing any 'trespasser' on sight. I never thought Joel was innocent - they had as good a reason as any to want him dead and I went into the game not expecting him to survive.

But Abby and much of her group were thoroughly shitty people for most of the game, part of a group that's on record through the relics you find and notes and such basically forcibly relocating people and shooting folks in their own homes for having dissenting opinions. And they take pleasure in the glory of hunting down the 'Scars'... or rather, the Seraphites, who basically had to turn violent to defend themselves. They're not innocent either mind you, but its pretty clear the Wolves broke the truce.

So on top of all that, they bring us back to the climax and expect us to feel sorry for Abby second after shooting Jesse (probably the most likable character in the game) in the face. Then they force you to play as Abby in a fight against Ellie, the character we all love from the first game.

I can get behind showing us the villain's perspective but that entire confrontation at the theater was so utterly tone deaf it actually made me angry. It and the epilogue chapter were entirely unnecessary and made it clear not only did they want to hammer the point home, they wanted to beat us over the head with it with a golf club until there's nothing left. Oh. Too soon?

slickestwood 7

>They're not innocent either mind you, but its pretty clear the Wolves broke the truce.

I think it's kept vague on purpose. IIRC the Wolves think the Scars broke it and vice versa. I mean, the Scars are supposed to stay on their island and you're first, I don't know, dozen interactions with them are way off their territory killing people, hanging people. It's Lev who says the Wolves striked first and who knows with that, and while they're humanized through Lev I don't think they're above lying about something like this. If I'm guessing, I think the Wolves think the Scars broke the truce by coming off their island and Scars think the Wolves broke the truce by firing on them, but maybe there's details I missed.

>So on top of all that, they bring us back to the climax and expect us to feel sorry for Abby second after shooting Jesse

Which is literally no different than Ellie killing Mel and Owen and narrative-wise gives Ellie's decision to go to Seattle real consequence. I mean I disagree with a lot you wrote. If Abby and her group are that unlikable, then so is Joel. Whatever they spent a few years doing in Seattle, Joel was doing just as bad if not worse before TLOU. We love him because we watched him find redemption through Ellie. Abby's playthtough is a very similar journey, one that's just more challenging because we've seen and actually know of what she's done. But it's through her we see she's fundamentally no different than Joel or Ellie.

>Then they force you to play as Abby in a fight against Ellie, the character we all love from the first game.

Oh that was one of the best parts of the game. I mean narrative aside, what better way to demonstrate what an actual fucking terror Ellie (and by extension you) has been throughout the game. I don't know man, I thought the tone was perfect. I thought my heart was going to beat right out of my chest.

I think the epilogue being "pointless", ignoring Ellie saving Abby, was the point. The first time was understandable, if for no other reason than to bring Tommy home. But there's nothing to gain this time around. She has a great life at the farm, but the need for revenge is poisoning her head to the point she throws it all away. She's too stubborn to learn that it's futile the first time around and lost everything she had left in the process. You could see it as beating you over the head with a golf club, I see it as exploring the theme all the way through to its end. Plus I'm a sucker for final fights like the one they had.

Ivaninvankov 21

Which is a great concept in theory, but doesn't really work when she is shown to basically be a psychopath who enjoys torturing and murdering Joel in front of his step-daughter.

GrimaceGrunson 16

And then acts incredulous when she (and his brother) try to get a little vengeance of their own. “I let you live! Without explaining myself in any way, making it especially easy for you to demonise me!” “Well golly, do I feel bad being angry at you now Abby.”

MVRKHNTR 42

I understand the intention but I don't think they pulled it off well at all and making Joel's death a twist after playing as the character for ten hours would have been more powerful. What they attempted to do is difficult to get right and, in my opinion, not only did they not succeed but even if they had, there really isn't much benefit compared to understanding her character before she kills Joel.

hampig 3

I loved the game as-is, but I was confused why they didn’t do this. I don’t think having the player play as Abby was the mistake, but having you play as her exclusively from the mid-point on. I think most people just have a hard time getting on her side when her introduction is what it is, me included.

MyManD 26

> Start the game with Abby.

I think the game needed this but even moreso a fundamental retooling of Abby as a character. Abby is bland, boring, and kind of an asshole. Nothing about her story made me invested in her. Nothing made me like her. She was a void of charisma.

I agree with you that we as players needed to like her, but the Abby we got in the game made that almost impossible even if the game started with her and crescendoed with the killing.

IISuperSlothII 13

>Abby is bland, boring, and kind of an asshole.

We have completely different ideas of bland and boring. In fact her being kind if an asshole is exactly what makes her not bland and boring.

Maybe its just that I enjoy asshole characters, they are just more fun to watch interact with others. I got a ton of laughs and smiles from Abbys interactions due to her nature.

Tornada5786 32

I don't think being an asshole inherently makes a character interesting.

varroth 27

Druckman said in an interview that their original idea was to have a flashback to where Abby was a child and part of a caravan, and have Joel and Tommy kill Abby's dad in front of her during their pasts as marauders, I feel like this would have been a way better justification, and would have made a lot of people less upset. If Joel was killed because of a mistake done before you actually get to meet him in TLOU1, I feel like it would be more palatable, in a "Awh fuck why did you have to do that Joel" way compared to the fact that he dies because he wanted to save his daughter from being murdered. That just makes me sad.

AdamNW 79

Misunderstanding something doesn't make you stupid, it just means you came at something with a flawed perspective. At least, that's how I perceived that statement in the OP.

Bland_Rand 1

That's fair. It's not how I read it but I totally see what you're saying.

Mr_Olivar 16

Often, when things have layers, the perspective you come at it matters a lot. If you are not in the mindset of trusting that the people making the game know what they are doing, you might stop at the very first layer of what is happening and write it off as incompetence before you ever even get to start reflecting on what is going on.

I did that. Thought the ending was stupid as fuck until i started understanding it through the course of the following day.

DaveSW777

Just... no.

To all of it. The morality espoused in this game is at best juvenile. The message, themes, all of it.

It's pretentious. It invalidates the events of the first game.

I'm curious though, I wonder how many people that like this story believed that Handsome Jack had a point. I'm guessing there's a huge overlap.

Or, Hard Candy. Some people watched that film and felt bad for the main character or even argued Ellen Page's character was just as bad.

You wanted to dictate the rules of this discussion by declaring that anyone that uses the phrase "psuedo-intellectial" immediately loses. I reject that.

Anyone whose idea of morality involves "both-sidesing" the oppressor and the oppressed absolutely is a psuedo-intellectial. You're not smart, you're just excusing the behavior of the oppressor.

In TLoU, the oppressor was the Fireflies. Fuck them. They killed everyone that didn't fall in line. They were more than happy to kill Ellie with absolutely no guarantee of a cure, and even if they found one they weren't gonna distribute it.

In the real world, anyone that is about to murder a child will be put down with lethal force, and no decent human will say their death was unwarranted.

So maybe Abby, being ignorant of the circumstances, is justified in her desire for revenge.

But that's not the issue. The issue is that the story itself is trying to say that Joel was objectively wrong, and that him killing the oppressor is just as bad as the oppressor killing Ellie.

The of the story, clearly written by wealthy white guys, is that violence is bad. All violence is equal, and the only way to stop violence is if you decide to not perpetuate the cycle of violence. This concept doesn't reflect reality. Violence doesn't beget violence. Ignorance, fear, apathy, desperation. Those are what lead to violence.

Abby is driven by ignorance. She doesn't know her mother was an attempted child murderer. Or she's driven by apathy, because she doesn't care.

In the first game, everyone you kill is absolutely fucking evil. Giving you the perspective of a relative of someone from the first game doesn't change that fact. Fuck, Ellie murders cannibals. Fucking cannibals, and that's supposed to be just as bad as Abby's revenge quest?!

No. Not only is this pretentious psuedo-intellectial bullshit, it's downright evil. Any message that equates the oppressor to the oppressed is an evil message. Your morality is fucked.

Plus killing off a beloved non-sexualized LGBT protagonist reduces the number of those characters in video games down to... is there another? Seriously. Main character, LGBT, widely known about loved by players.

There could've been an actual good message in this game, and it could have involved playing as Abby, but the story we got isn't just bad, it supports evil.

[deleted] 1

[removed]

JollyGreenGaint44 8

Seeing people like you on the internet flail around and feel personally attacked by this game is one of the most hilarious things I've seen on the internet in a long time. Can you not see that they were using unconventional storytelling in this game? That's why it's getting a lot of the praise it is. It doesn't follow your generic ethical good vs. bad tropes found in every corner of fiction. I personally found that to be one of my favourite parts of the story, and definitely cemented it as some of the most groundbreaking storytelling in any recent movie/game/show.

DaveSW777

I don't feel personally attacked.

Let me use a very simple analogy for what is wrong with the game.

Joel and Ellie are saying Black Lives Matter.

The Fireflies are saying Blue Lives Matter.

The writers of this game are saying "Don't you see, you're both wrong. All Lives Matter."

It's not about what the characters do. It's about the message the creators are trying to share.

JollyGreenGaint44 10

I think the theme you are touching on is the idea that morality and the difference between right and wrong is not black and white in this post-apocolyptic world. This is a pretty heavy theme that spans across both games, and is touched upon frequently throughout them. Not sure why it's surprising, or even particularly worthy of criticism, especially if you liked the first game. This concept of morality being grey in such a dark world is essentially interwoven into The Last of Us series DNA.

Damerman 6

This is purely wrong. The message is about Ellie living with herself.

B_Rhino 6

>The of the story, clearly written by wealthy white guys, is that violence is bad. All violence is equal, and the only way to stop violence is if you decide to not perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh what? Ellie's last act of violence in the game frees people who were tortured in weird and horrific ways.

> In the first game, everyone you kill is absolutely fucking evil.

Uhhhhh. Except for Marlene and all the fireflies?

> but the story we got isn't just bad, it supports evil.

L A M O

  WrapUpBlanket 11

>I'm curious though, I wonder how many people that like this story believed that Handsome Jack had a point. I'm guessing there's a huge overlap.

I haven't played it, but isn't the entire plot of The Pre-Sequel built around making Jack more sympathetic? As in, you don't necessarily like what he does, but you understand where he is coming from? Because that would 100% agree with the thesis I posit in my post, namely that perspective builds understanding and sympathy, and that this is the primary thrust of the game's narrative and its structure.

That's also why I fully disagree with this sentence of yours:

> The issue is that the story itself is trying to say that Joel was objectively wrong, and that him killing the oppressor is just as bad as the oppressor killing Ellie.

To story goes to great lengths to dispel any mysticism of objectivity we can have about any character. Can you personally hate Abby, Joel or Ellie? Sure. But objectively? The very discussion we have here in this thread is an example as to how that can't work if you are given any sort of time with a character.

DaveSW777 1

No, the Pre-Sequel is a deep dive into just how evil Jack has always been and why he's so focused on Roland and Lillith.

StAugustine94 3

This guy pretty clearly hasn’t even played the game, his “analysis” is irrelevant.

AdamNW 11

It's odd to me that you're framing TLOU2 as saying Joel's hospital actions were definitively wrong, while also arguing that what he did was definitively right.

The whole point of the ending of TLOU1 was that Joel's actions were morally ambiguous, and heavily dependent on the perspective of those involved.

StAugustine94 9

> Abby is driven by ignorance. She doesn't know her mother was an attempted child murderer. Or she's driven by apathy, because she doesn't care.

> Plus killing off a beloved non-sexualized LGBT protagonist reduces the number of those characters in video games down to... is there another? Seriously. Main character, LGBT, widely known about loved by players.


Wanna take a guess about how I know you didn’t play the game?

And I would argue acting high and mighty about offering an “analysis” of a story you haven’t even experienced is pretty “pseudo-intellectual.” That’s like offering an analysis of a book when you’ve only ready the back cover.

Mr_Olivar 15

The story isn't saying that Joel was objectively wrong.

The game is never saying that Abby was right for killing Joel, anyone with even a handful of brain cells can see the pain and misery it caused and realize that it would absolutely be for the best if Abby understood that Joel didn't act out of evil and tried to forgive. That is the lesson she learns by the end which is why she spares Ellie after murdering all her friends. At that point Abby understand that Ellie is going through the same thing Abby did when she killed Joel, and she understands she caused this.

And that is what the story is about, because Abby doesn't stop reliving the moment of her dad's death when she kills Joel. She doesn't get the peace Ellie is convinced vengeance will provide. In fact Abby doesn't start living a better life before she starts becoming more like Joel. Here you sit, saying the game is making Joel out to be objectively evil, but in REALITY the game uses him as a benchmark for becoming a better person. Abby's adventure with Lev is supposed to mirror Joel's adventure with Ellie, and only after that does she find peace. They even pull the parallel so far, that Abby ends up having to shoot her way through a WLF army to save Lev, like how Joel shot himself through the Fireflies to save Ellie. The very act you have somehow convinced yourself the game has condemned, Abby performs as a part of her growth. It's when it all comes full circle and when Abby becomes capable of understanding that Joel's action can have come from a place of love. It's why she's capable of realizing that Ellie has turned into the same person Abby was when she killed Joel.

Joel is shown as a saint in The Last of Us 2. He's always completely understanding as to what Ellie feels, and always humble about it. And never, not ever does the game want you to think he was objectively evil for what he did. The game wanted you to see that even when you do things with the best intentions, you can hurt good people. The idea of Joel taking away mankind's chance of curing the virus is heavy to Ellie, but even if it took her years to reach the point, she does decide she at least wants to forgive, because she understands why he did it, and she knows he did it because he loved her. And by the end Abby does too.

Also, this part

>Plus killing off a beloved non-sexualized LGBT protagonist reduces the number of those characters in video games down to... is there another? Seriously. Main character, LGBT, widely known about loved by players.

I have no clue what you are trying to say, but it feels like you think Ellie died, when she absolutely didn't.

EDIT: Reading your comment again you seem to write that Abby's mother wanted to kill Ellie, when it was her dad who was the surgeon. For the love of god please don't say you didn't even play the game...

StAugustine94 4

He also seems to think Ellie dies, which is what the leak said. He hasn’t played it.

Gaarawoods18

"Psuedo-intellectual" has just become a phrase idiots use now to try and strip away all narrative depth and context from something to justify baseless arguments

Not that the other arguments you noted at the start were any better though, it's becoming painfully obvious who has and hasn't played the game because the pacing is absoloutely fine, and i would leave to see "joel acting out of character" lol but no doubt these people cant provide examples to back up any of thier argument

xenopunk 7

I was expecting the pacing to be way worse than it was based on the comments.

  WrapUpBlanket 27

My biggest issue with the game is one I don't have a solution for: The narrative absolutely needed that 'reset' once you switch to Abby in every which way, but while that switch in focalisation can reimbue the narrative with a new driving force, it does not do the same with the gameplay: The mechanical loops stayed mostly the same, and 20-30 hours of that can become boring if not emotionally draining in ways it is not for the characters, since the player's role in that ludic experience does not reboot in the same way the player's role in the narrative experience does. In other words, 10 hours of violence each as Ellie and Abby is 10 hours of violence per respective character, but 20 hours of violence for the player.

That's the biggest ludonarrative misstep of the game to me, and it's effectively an issue of pacing.

Phantasmata_ 4

I think the beginning as Abby was a bit jarring as you just lacked any skills and had stock weapons. So long as you are playing the game on Hard or above, I feel like playing as either character was pretty different due to the variety of skills they learn and the different weapon loadouts they have. They both have different approaches to combat, being either more combat or stealth focused. It's just that when you start as Abby you have no skills so you're basically just a gimped Ellie.
I think a main issue there is they had the opportunity to make the Seraphites more unique due to them not wanting to interact with stuff from the old world, but that aspect is kinda hand waved away as an exception. Stripping them of having guns and making them rely more on stealth and non-explosive weaponry (bows, crossbows, slings, traps) would have contrasted well with Abby. The first half of the game would be a stealth oriented Ellie against a combat heavy WLF, the second half would be a combat oriented Abby vs more stealthy Seraphites.

JayCFree324 6

Although I don’t think it was a full solution, I think there was a valiant attempt to address that by switching the enemy type, enemy frequency, and the weapon loadout.

The WLF numbers were often overwhelming with increased difficulty that reflected their combat proficiency, as a result, the gameplay fell more inline with needed to Stealth, fight until futility (the enemy AI will legitimately flank and push when they hear you reload) and then run, which is more thematically fitting for the idea of a girl and her few friends trying to take down a paramilitary operation.

Switch over to the second half and you have enemies that don’t attack in numbers, don’t have advanced techniques like dogs, thus allowing you to brute force a LOT more easily, but the primary enemies are more cunning in their approach, and use a communicative method that relies on being able to decipher tone and urgency over language...which is especially fitting for how a paramilitary soldier would fight a guerrilla group.

So it may not have translated fully because a lot of the gameplay framework is the same, but the nuanced changes in approach freshened the experience for myself and I’m assuming it might’ve been similar for others

RikMoscoso 8

This is the only reason why I like TLOU more than TLOU2. That shift wasn’t as exciting as the first game and I lost a little interest at first when meeting all of Abby’s people but then I quickly got back at it. The first game didn’t have that moment for me, I just couldn’t stop playing it.

Vlayer 41

> "joel acting out of character" lol but no doubt these people cant provide examples to back up any of thier argument

I've seen examples point out the scene in TLoU1 when Joel and Ellie arrive at Pittsburgh and someone walks out on the road pretending to be injured, which Joel doesn't fall for. However, that's yet another case of "criticism" which strips away context to make their point.

Even ignoring Joel's character development, that TLoU1 situation is such an obvious setup, where as Abby's isn't. I mean it's not even a setup, she's actually being attacked by a horde of infected. It's not until they can catch a breath that she finds out that the person who just saved her is Joel, so there was no instance where Joel's "instincts" would've alerted him, there was nothing to fear from Abby because not even she knew that her target was right there. By then they escape to the mansion because there's no choice, they can't handle a horde just the three of them. Even if Joel was suspicious before entering the mansion with them, the wise thing would be to just go along with them since he and Tommy were outnumbered anyway.

RikMoscoso

This. All of this.

I loved both games and they both pissed me off but I understood why the characters did what they did. It baffles me when people think “Joel wouldn’t do this” like character growth/change is not a thing. Like you said, we clearly see it on the first game and years have passed since then. I get people are pissed but the whole point of the game is to piss you off and make you think about shit from different’s POVs.

So I don’t get the hate 🤷🏻‍♂️

Danald-Tramp

The story in Part 2 might end up trumping the first one for me. Wrote down my first impressions in another thread:

>The series has always been about multifaceted and real people making terrible decisions - like the one Joel made at the end of the first game, basically dooming humanity for personal happiness.

>From a third person's perspective (other than himself or Ellie's) which Abby embodies, this is basically the gravest sin that is possible in their doomed world. Yet we may see things differently because we have seen Joel from a closer perspective throughout the first game. That's what led to all those conflicting emotions at the end, about how we feel about Joel and his decision of choosing one life over basically the entire human race.

>This game takes that right or wrong question, with Ellie being the one who thinks he did the right thing because she is personally attached to Joel, and Abby embodying the "rest of the world" to whom Joel is unforgivable, and explores the conflict between these two ideas in the form of these two characters. The game sets aside Joel and places his decision center stage, and bases the entire second game around exploring the consequences of that decision from different perspectives.

The game is going to be talked about for a long time. So glad Naughty Dog chose to tell a more ambitious and challenging story than simply going for a mass-appeal crowd-pleaser.

Edit: A word.

VermilionAce 19

Abby doesn't embody the rest of the world. It's a story of personal vengeance and that's what Abby is shown to care about, not about dooming humanity. That's why the cycle of vengeance thing it's going for works, at least in broad concept.

abumwithastick 5

I never had a problem with the way Joel went out, it was the follow up that killed it for me. It was Ellie's revenge plot that was spoiled by petty relationship drama.

I cant get past this if anyone wants to have a honest discussion.

SPOILER WARNING*

IMO Ellie's revenge from days 1-3 were very unsatisfying and focuses more on a her relationship problems and even sports a terrible love triangle(the scene when jesse gets back to the theater) tossed on top of the overwhelming relationship drama. It was a woefully dramatic, somewhat uninteresting relationship on top of a love triangle that felt like it took much of the games story.

There's a lot of story to tell in the Last of Us universe, and the last one I would want to hear about frankly is their relationship and its accompanying problems. It comes across to me as disrespectful to the maturity and seriousness that I think The Last of Us is, at least that is how I feel about it.

All the these scenes like when....

  • Dina and Ellie are riding and only talk about their relationships...
  • When they start rating their kiss with each other...
  • When Dina says you should have kissed me after Ellie played a song in the music shop....
  • Dina saying she's pregnant...
  • Jesse getting back to the theatre talks to Dina and Ellie storms off in a huff...
  • The awkward talk between Ellie and Jesse about Dina's pregnancy....

    ...it just seems to take a lot of the focus away from the revenge plot until its almost a subplot to their relationship.

    Among some of the very few revenge scenes we get like when we are getting revenge on Nora, we only got a few seconds of actual revenge her before it cuts out to a minute long scene with Ellie sulking with Dina again. It really is as much a relationship story as much as it was Ellie getting revenge.

    And for most people its clear this was satisfactory for them, but for me during all of these scenes I kept wondering what Tommy is up to right now, hes probably way more interesting than these moody teens. Because their relationship is without a doubt the least interesting thing happening at that moment.

    All the marketing and the first hours of the game sets up this plot that Ellie is as pissed as Kratos and is going to pull a JohnWick. This was something I was all for and I really wish they focused more on it. There were so many options for the story to branch off from this, they could have called on old friends, made new ones...but this story focused way to much on her relationship instead. Had the relationship been better written such as if their relationship were more interesting from the beginning or if they developed together like Joel and Ellie did that would have been preferable, but the story we got fell below those standards for me. Im not saying their relationship was not "real" enough or unbelievable, i just think for a last of us game, there were so many better options than what we ended up getting.


    Did anyone really get the feeling that Dina and Ellie were soulmates for each other? From their dialogue they barely know each other, and they never develop like Joel and Ellie did.

    Abby, Owen and Mel were a love triangle that had MUCH better writing, and still had a better revenge plot! Their characters were written so well they became the most interesting characters by far, they deserved to be portrayed better than they were. I do wish they didn't break up her sections so much because she was so much more interesting the Ellie.

    They shot themselves in the foot with this story. I honestly believe had they cut this out the specific relationship woes or just write the two better and focus more on the revenge aspect for Ellie, then it would have been such a better game for it.

    *obligatory the best sections playing as Ellie were the ones with Joel!
kwozymodo 6

> All the marketing and the first hours of the game sets up this plot that Ellie is as pissed as Kratos and is going to pull a JohnWick. This was something I was all for and I really wish they focused more on it.

Man...I am so glad that is not what we got.

cyanide4suicide 12

I'm at work so I can't read your whole post right now

I just want to say that I came to appreciate the story beats and ending when I started to understand some of the symbolism and thematic elements of the game.

The Last of Us Part II is easily one of the best games I've ever played and I loved every minute of every encounter and story beat.

C0RR4D0 9

"I just want to say that I came to appreciate the story beats and ending when I started to understand some of the symbolism and thematic elements of the game."

Would you mind expanding on this a bit?

cyanide4suicide 4

https://www.reddit.com/r/thelastofus/comments/hgggqj/full_ending_spoilers_what_i_think_the_ending/?sort=new

This is an interpretation that I subscribe to and really love. >!Basically, the overarching theme of the game is forgiveness. Not necessarily forgiving Abby but by sparing Abby, Ellie thinks she has the capacity to forgive Joel for lying to her and denying her a meaningful death in TLOU1.!<

>!Symbolically, Ellie playing the guitar at the end and putting it down shows that she has come to terms with Joel's death and can let go of her survivor's guilt.!<

Very brief explanation of one interpretation of the game and I can certainly appreciate the story more after having read different analysis similar to it.

adamleng 13

People are quick to jump on Tommy and Joel letting their guard down and getting surrounded by the WLF in that scene because the entire scene feels implausible and forced, but I can actually buy that Tommy and Joel have gotten soft after 4 years of living in relative peace at Jackson and would make that mistake. It's out-of-character, but believable.

But that's only the last step of implausibility in that scene. You're missing the other like, twenty steps that led up to that scene happening. The WLF had to have found Jackson on literally the exact same day that Jackson had sent out their monthly patrols. Tommy and Joel just happened to be one of the groups sent on patrol. It happens to be on a day with a storm (even though they have watchers and monitor the weather? and even could predict the direction of the storm?) so the brothers get ambushed by infected. Speaking of infected, there happens to be a horde too big for the brothers to handle even though the whole point of these patrols is to keep the infected numbers down. Abby just happened to wake up early and run into Owen who just got back, Owen just happened to have found Jackson, Abby just happened to have decided to run off by her own, Abby just happened to have run into the brothers in time for them to save her life.

One or two coincidences are okay, TLoU1's entire plot was driven by coincidences, but this entire chain of events is so implausible that by the time the scene actually happens, a lot of players are already primed for disbelief. That's why they reject the scene, and then they jump on Tommy and Joel behaving out of character because that's the last step that happens before they get killed. And in the words of Druckmann himself, they came up with this scene specifically because they wanted something so brutal and shocking to happen right at the start of the game to serve as an impetus for the plot. Meaning, the scene was made for shock value and subverting expectations, it may not have been storyboarded properly.

I've also seen people like OP try to defend the scene with how TLoU's setting is bleak and realistic, but the entire idea of the scene is actually the MOST unrealistic part of the game. Joel kills like over a hundred people over the course of TLoU1 and has probably killed hundreds of people in his life. But the ONE TIME he did something really morally questionable in TLoU1, it happens to be the cause of his death? I mean what about the cannibal town, he didn't kill anyone's father there who might want revenge? No relatives or comrades of any soldiers or hunters can track him down? I mean lots of people knew about Jackson, maybe some non-Fireflies like the smugglers knew Joel had an ex-Firefly brother named Tommy. The idea that Joel gets his comeuppance because of the one thing players disagreed with him on and then it's justified because he's a questionable character that did a lot of disagreeable things is a circular argument that reflects lazy writing - as in, the writing was done post hoc to rationalize Joel getting killed, rather than having Joel's death being justified as a natural consequence of the plot arcs or themes.

That's just what I have to say about only the death scene, there was like ten other problematic scenes in the game. People who dislike or were disappointed by the game and point to things in the writing aren't automatically morons who couldn't get Druckmann's galaxy brain writing, there are legitimate problems.

thatmitchguy 2

As you said in your own post. TLOU1 is filled with plot conveniences and coincidences. Did you shake your head in disgust and write off that game once David revealed to Ellie that they were chasing a man and and young girl who killed their men previously? No? Then why is that such a huge issue for you with Joel wiping out the fireflies being the catalyst for Abby to track Joel and Tommy in the prologue? They could have had random bandits show up and kill Joel for some unnamed revenge but that would be infinitely worse to the emotional weight of the plot. Did you lose your shit when Joel and Ellie wash up right on the foot of the base of the fire flies where 2 armed guards knock out Joel? Or did you accept a suspension of disbelief to allow Naughty dog to tell the story?

It's more than OK to not like the plot, but your post reads like you absolutely can't stand plot conveniece yet TLOU1 gets a fee pass despite TLOU2 doing the same thing. You're picking and choosing what coincidences are acceptable and making the ones in TLOU2 sound like some unforgivable sin when in reality it's basically a requirement when it comes to video game storytelling

adamleng 4

I swear, do people not understand the definition of a coincidence?

David revealing to Ellie that the cannibals were looking for the protagonists isn't a coincidence, David and James just happening to run into Ellie when she's out hunting is a coincidence. And that's ONE coincidence, if we assume Ellie goes out frequently and the cannibals have small parties canvassing that area, it's not that unbelievable.

My problem isn't with any one single coincidence, it's that there's so many coincidences stacked up on each other in such a way that if even one failed, the death scene wouldn't have happened. That makes the death scene feel implausible and thus forced and thus lazy. And again, that's a subjective reaction, I am explaining WHY many players feel that way, in a way that doesn't insult their intelligence or assume their motivations.

If the scene didn't feel forced to you, it felt natural, then fine, you're welcome to your opinion. But that's not a counter argument to these events being set up in a good or natural-feeling way.

thatmitchguy 6

Now you're splitting hairs. If I wasn't clear with my David and ellie example i apologize but I'm talking about their whole interactions and not just the reveal . You can't demonize TLOU2 for having a group track down Joel and Tommy for dooming humanity (a very real and justifiable motivation based on the first game) and then hand wave Ellie and David meeting up. Well I guess you technically can, but it seems mighty unfair. You're allowing yourself to make assumptions about how David ran into Ellie but not allowing that same concession to the last of us 2 for its own plot conveniences.


I mean If you're letting tiny things like "Abby waking up early and running into Owen" add up and spoil your enjoyment of a story then I don't think there was ever any chance you'd give the game a fair chance. Do we need expositonal dialogue or scenes of Abby hunting Joel without any leads for months on end before we satisfy the checklist that would make it acceptable?

The plot conveniences didn't spoil my enjoyment of that scene because I know a certain suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy ambitious storytelling in video games like Red Dead 2, TLOU1 and TLOU2 and countless others.

adamleng 8

Again, let me reiterate this because you're not getting it:

I'm okay with one coincidence, like David and James happening to run into Ellie. But Joel's death isn't the result of only one coincidence, it's the result of many coincidences linked together in such a way that if even just one didn't happen, Joel wouldn't have died in that way.

Like the WLF group is out looking for Jackson, and they happen to find it on the exact same day Jackson is sending out their monthly patrols. That's fine, that's just one coincidence. But it's also when Tommy and Joel just happen to be one of the patrols and are sent on a route that has infected and it happens to be on a day with a storm so they might get ambushed and there happens to be a horde instead of just a few that they could handle, like with Ellie+Dina?

That's like... five more coincidences, and if any one of them were not true, Tommy and Joel would not ran into Abby and saved her life. Plus Abby being there was also the result of like five other different coincidences. All of these things needed to happen exactly the way they did in order for that scene to happen, that's why it feels forced.

If the WLF group arrive at Jackson at a different time, maybe do reconnaissance and potentially even some spy work, plan ahead for patrol day and track down Tommy+Joel and set a trap for them, maybe they lure a horde and use it in such a way to isolate the brothers from the town, I mean there are lots of ways they could have gone about this. Then I don't think as many people would be criticizing that scene. It's not a problem of suspension of disbelief or people being selective about what plot contrivances they're willing to ignore.

  WrapUpBlanket 10

>But that's only the last step of implausibility in that scene. You're missing the other like, twenty steps that led up to that scene happening. The WLF had to have found Jackson on literally the exact same day that Jackson had sent out their monthly patrols. Tommy and Joel just happened to be one of the groups sent on patrol. It happens to be on a day with a storm (even though they have watchers and monitor the weather? and even could predict the direction of the storm?) so the brothers get ambushed by infected. Speaking of infected, there happens to be a horde too big for the brothers to handle even though the whole point of these patrols is to keep the infected numbers down. Abby just happened to wake up early and run into Owen who just got back, Owen just happened to have found Jackson, Abby just happened to have decided to run off by her own, Abby just happened to have run into the brothers in time for them to save her life.

I can just paraphrase Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan on these points: using coincidences to get characters out of trouble (the infamous Deus Ex Machina) is much worse writing than using coincidences to get characters into trouble.

adamleng 30

That's well and good, except the player's perspective is that of Abby's, so the event IS framed as the characters getting out of trouble by coincidence. It's such an unexpected success for Abby even she can't believe it.

But my point is, you can dislike Joel, you can think he deserves to die, and not have a problem with Abby beating him to death like that, and STILL think the scene is implausible and lazy writing. Thus contradicting your argument that players only dislike it because they like Joel or misunderstood something.

  WrapUpBlanket 15

> It's such an unexpected success for Abby even she can't believe it.

And a colossal failure for Joel and friends, who have been the vehicle for narrative focalisation for much longer. You don't empathise with Abby when Joel finds out what's going on, but with Joel, but as you point out, the complication of that affect through PoV has already begun to happen

> Thus contradicting your argument that players only dislike it because they like Joel or misunderstood something.

That's not what I said. I said that Tommy is much more at fault for the situation unfolding than Joel, and that our PoV affects our ability to see this.

adamleng 16

My point is, the series of coincidences isn't purely to set up events for the plot, as Gilligan was speaking of. And ultimately, Breaking Bad wasn't a story of coincidences and character's reactions to those events, but rather the events being a natural consequence to character's actions.

Rather this series of coincidences was specifically to set up this one scene that the writers had already decided needed to happen at this one point in the game. Joel could have died at another point, or in another way, or even by another character's hand, but then it wouldn't have served for what the writers already had in mind for this game. Therefore they forced this scene and in doing so, made it feel implausible and lazy to many players.

  WrapUpBlanket 21

>Rather this series of coincidences was specifically to set up this one scene that the writers had already decided needed to happen at this one point in the game. Joel could have died at another point, or in another way, or even by another character's hand, but then it wouldn't have served for what the writers already had in mind for this game. Therefore they forced this scene and in doing so, made it feel implausible and lazy to many players.

If you take that viewpoint, all writing is contrived and forced. "Oh so Joel, the guy who happens to have lost his daughter, gets to take care of a girl that happens to be around the same age as his daughter the day she died, so that he can form an unlikely bond with her and overcome his very specific character flaws. Sarah could've stayed alive, or another character could've taken Ellie on, but then it wouldn't have served for what the writers already had in mind for this game. Therefore they forced this scene and in doing so, made it feel implausible and lazy to many players."

Writing is by definition contrived. I don't think this particular set of coincidences was too unrealistic for me to believe, you might have a different opinion. But taking certain shortcuts for narrative pacing and suspense is not a flaw by definition in my book.

adamleng 15

Obviously I don't think all writing is contrived and forced, or else it wouldn't even make sense to level this argument at this one specific story. And I already admitted that TLoU1's entire plot was driven by coincidences and nowhere did I say that that was okay and this case is not, so I don't know why people keep bringing it up.

Look, if you don't think this scene felt forced, then fine. But many people did, and you're not giving a fair shake to them if you think it's because they just didn't like how Joel died or didn't understand why the scene had to happen, or whatever other nonsense. Taking shortcuts is lazy, and when this entire story is driven by that one event that feels lazy, then the entire story feels lazy.

  WrapUpBlanket 10

> and you're not giving a fair shake to them if you think it's because they just didn't like how Joel died or didn't understand why the scene had to happen, or whatever other nonsense.

As said all throughout this thread, I never meant to say that, and I apologise if it came across like I did. People can obviously dislike the game and its plot, all I tried to do was analyse a specific technique it uses in the telling of it, one which completely flew under the radar in discussions.

B_Rhino 25

Come on you can do that with anything. That's how stories are, that's what makes them stories. Playing or watching Abby struggle to find and smoke out Joel for 3 weeks worth of game time is not what the story needed, the story needed Abby to find Joel at the start.

Joel just happened to be a great smuggler.

Joel just happened to have lost his daughter when she was 14.

Joel just happened to have worked with Marlene before.

Joel just happened to know a guy who might have a car just outside of boston.

Joel just happened to have a brother living in a safe community.

Joel just happened to wake up from his deathly injury in time to find Ellie after Ellie had just happened to kill her captor.

Ellie just happened to find Joel's gun while he was being downed by that hunter who just happened to beat him in a fight.

Ellie just happened to be immune.

Marlene just happened to level with Joel about what would happen to Ellie in getting the vaccine.

DieDungeon 10

Most of what you listed aren't egregious coincidences.

fishwithfish 11

This was pretty great to read; ill have to think on it a minute, take the dog for a walk, then maybe ill return with comments. Take care.

Thunder-ten-tronckh 2

I hope this dude didn't get lost.

fishwithfish 2

Lol that's sweet. no, you see, i really liked the ideas; however, since i didnt have the time to discuss them then, i wanted others to see the thread (no one had commented yet), for fear it might get buried without activity. By the time i returned, lots of people had joined in, and so ive just been reading it all :)

TallUncle 16

This was a great read, first of all.

Secondly, I’m really conflicted about the story (granted, I’ve only finished it once and may need to go through it a few more times).

The thing is that this game is bold. Killing off our “hero” within the first two hours really sets the tone for the rest of the story. On top of that, it forces us to see things from Abby’s perspective (whether or not the individual player does this or not is a different discussion), somewhat justifying the murder of Joel.

My main issue is that a lot of the critics have made the point that this shift in perspective forces us to change our view of Joel as the “hero”.

To me, he was never a hero. Rather, he was a human being in this world, multifaceted and complex. There are no heroes in this world, only human beings, flawed as we are.

My second gripe with the reviews that have come out is that a lot of them tend to interpret the message of the game to be “killing is bad”.
I disagree. The theme of the game, at least in my opinion, is that the cycle of violence is innately human; we all participate in it despite knowing that it’ll only make things worse. This is also what makes the game so compelling: we as players really feel like we have to get our revenge through violence, no matter the consequences. I can’t tell you how many times I intentionally let Abby get ripped to shreds just to see her die.

I’ll still have to let the game sink in, TLOU is my favorite game of all time and I’ve finished it 37 times (I’m insane, I know), so I’m looking forward to finishing it again. And again.

bg93 3

Great read.

I'll add, I think that the violence and anger is not resolved by understanding the person on the receiving end of it. It's personal. Ellie's anger at Abby is almost entirely anger at Joel, and anger at herself. That part of it is also universal, I think.

TallUncle 3

Right, projection is also an important factor in this narrative as well. I’m starting to appreciate the story more than I did during my first playthrough.

Luckily, I managed to avoid any spoilers before release. I do feel, however, that the trailers we were shown were disingenuous in terms of character swapping (Joel being replaced with Jesse with the same lines etc.), I was certain, from watching the trailers, that Dina would be the one Ellie would avenge, so the moment when Joel was brutally murdered caught me off guard. I just sat there for ten minutes afterwards with my hand on my forehead, mouth open. To think that they would dare such a thing. I was angry, just another testament to games’ ability to engage us emotionally, and I wanted revenge.

bg93 2

I'm really grateful for the redirects. The premise alone made me suspect the game would be about avenging Joel, but seeing him crop up in teasers got me thinking differently. It preserved the really shocking nature of his death, and I am so glad I had that.

I like that Naughty Dog "lies" about their games. They said you only play as Joel in the first game, so taking control of Ellie in Winter was a genuine shock and a pleasant surprise. I don't really understand why people are offended by this practice, because it made the experience of playing the game so much more interesting.

fleakill 22

Does anyone think xQc is the authority on what good writing is?

  WrapUpBlanket 9

No, but more than enough people think that him, PewDiePie, Angry Joe and others disliking it is proof of objectively bad writing

fleakill 12

Epic Gamers hating the game is so predictable because the game doesn't blast BFG Division and let you rip Abby's head open.

Also Angry Joe's reaction to that early death was a fucking joke. What the fuck does player agency even mean in a naughty dog game? We've never been given a choice ever.

  WrapUpBlanket 11

Unfortunately, I even riled up the subreddit a few months back by posting a thread which said that Doom Eternal is good, actually. I am just glad I didn‘t play RDR2 until last Christmas, because I also loved that game to pieces and almost didn‘t touch it because of this sub‘s negative reaction to it.

varroth 15

Who cares? If before, 90% of people liked TLOU1, and now 60% of those people like TLOU2, even if their understanding of "good writing" is shallow, it doesn't make them wrong.

Gorudu 174

Couple issues I have:

> We like Joel and Ellie because we spent time with them...

No. We like them because they were well written and relatable. There are plenty of stories where you don't like the lead because they are badly written or just unlikeable characters. This is the reason many people don't like Abby. And the attempts to humanize her in the beginning (playing with dog and saving Zebra being two examples) felt cheap and shallow.

​

> Joel is selfish and puts his own survival above everything else. Tommy believes in community, Joel in the self. This changes. Even without the flashbacks of the second game we know that this changes from the ending of the first game.

Absolutely not. Joel is just as selfish at the end of the first game as he was in the beginning, if not more. His choices in the beginning all point to him wanting to save his daughter and only his daughter. The choice at the end of the game to save Ellie is even more damning given that Ellie's life was going to be given up for a chance to save all of humanity and Joel had to actively murder dozens of people for her life.

The ending of the first game was incredibly uneasy because Joel made a selfish decision. In fact, given his arc in the first game, it feels LESS likely that he would put himself in such a stupid situation in the second game. His arc after the intro goes from "loner" to "father", not from "selfish" to "community family man". I think what you're pulling out of the end of the first game misses the point. The game literally ends on a lie.

​

> Joel has seen character development, but being kinder and more trusting is not necessarily the best thing for survival in this world if that change comes after a trail of corpses.

I agree that there is a point where the player base could accept Joel as being a kinder more trusting individual. But this story wasn't told, which makes it upsetting when it's introduced as Joel's fatal flaw. The reason people dislike the writing of Joel in this game is the same reason they disliked Luke in The Last Jedi. You can't make a major character change so much to be his undoing without telling that story first. It needs to feel like a natural progression of the characters rather than a way to justify the plot. Otherwise it feels cheap and like the writers are putting plot first, theme second, and characters third (which most writers agree is bad writing).

​

> This is a much more noble (and in-character) death than most seem to realise. Joel has gained humanity but lost his life because people like Abby were not allowed to see him develop in that way.

Yes, his death can be seen as noble. But again, the writers didn't do enough to show this transition or to justify the death. The issue with this game isn't necessarily the story. Rather, it's how the story is told.

​

> His death is the logical conclusion to even just the character development seen in the first game.

Absolutely this. But it's telling that the end of The Last of Us doesn't punish Joel for his actions, and that's teaching us about this world. I want to emphasize that I don't agree with your conclusion that Joel's arc to be nicer and kinder started in Part 1. The death of Merle was the coldest and most badass thing we see in the entire game, especially considering Merle had some noble ambitions. Shooting her in cold blood because "she'd just come after her" is some dark, selfish stuff. Not necessarily a trusting and kind man.

​

> The cruel twist in TLOU2 is that character development towards the more objectively good makes you worse at surviving this world. That’s bleak, but consistent writing.

I'd disagree that this is the only message that was given off in The Last of Us. While you bring up some good points about Tommy's character, he is a great example of optimism surviving in this world. He's dedicating himself to a family and focuses on repairing what already exists as a community rather than tearing it down for himself. And this character trait has made his lifestyle so attractive that even Joel, who is almost opposite of Tommy's philosophy, decides to return to him at the end of the game.

Final thoughts:

The issue people have with this game isn't the plot. The plot could have worked in theory. But where the first game is masterfully told, this one has some severe pacing issues that pretty much damn the plot and make the whole game feel a little cheap.

I'd also like to point out that, personally, I have a major issue with the nihilism put forth in this game. It's bleak to the point of numbing, and it actually makes me care less about the story it's trying to tell because it feels like it's trying so damn hard to be nothing but miserable. That's not maturity. That's not adult. It's just boring.

fleakill 2

I feel as though there's two groups of people: those who could empathise with Abby and those who couldn't. The latter will feel it's "cheap and hollow", but those of us who could empathise don't feel that way.

JimmieMcnulty 3

The first game is waaaay more nihilistic than the second lol

OdaNova 18

> The ending of the first game was incredibly uneasy because Joel made a selfish decision.

Is it though?

Doesn't most of the documentation in TLOU 1 basically show that the chances of a cure were minimal and the Fireflies and co were incredibly incompetent throughout the entire game? There's already been lots of very good reddit analysis on this point, but I genuinely think that Joel's actions in the end are no longer controversial once that information is take onboard.

slickestwood 6

If all that is true, why did Joel lie about it to Ellie? If there was no chance, if they were that incompetent and he did the right thing, he wouldn't need to lie about it to save face.

It's been several years but I remember a recording mentioning that they had a few failed attempts, but I thought they were so close. Like they really could get it on the next attempt. Joel exaggerates this to Ellie and I think people have it mixed up.

Caltroop2480 9

The Fireflies believed they could've found a cure because Ellie's case unique, unlike the subjects they studied in in the past. I've recently replayed the first game and the audio recordings and letters found throughout the hospital give more insight about the cure and the doctors than the cutscenes

Either way, the cure was never guaranteed in the first game. Part 2 kinda changes this and insinuates that it was much more possible

vodkamasta 2

Part 2 does that to justify Abby's revenge in some way, it's kind of a lame retcon too. In fact it is really hard to empathize with Abby at all when we know nothing about her dad.

2PacksOfWeakSauce 25

Important plot points of TLOU2 make it pretty clear that the fireflies were fairly certain that Ellie would result in a cure. The recording in TLOU1 says the same thing, just also adding that they've experimented on other people with weaker immunities to no effect, but that Ellie is much more promising.

It was far from confirmation that Ellie would die for nothing, and much closer to the opposite. It's just something people like to bring up to try and justify Joel's actions.

palladacycle 26

Lots of people are fairly certain that whatever they're trying to do will work. I think it's totally fair to say that just because the Fireflies thought they could make a vaccine from Ellie doesn't mean they'd actually be able to.

GrimaceGrunson 5

And plus people are powerfully overestimating how easy it is to make a cure/vaccine to something so clearly virulent as the fungus. I mean hell, we've got how many cultures of COVID in labs around the world being looked at by how many scientists, and a vaccine probably ain't gonna be with us until 2021.

Of course, storywise this doesn't matter. Joel would have Joel'd up the place if they were 110% certain and the vaccine would be ready tomorrow. But I'm personally not a huge fan of ND trying to remove the gray of it by suggesting it was a certainty.

palladacycle 3

With regards to covid-19 – potential drug candidates are only coming out because the primary active site of the main protease is so conserved among all coronaviruses, so we have a lot of wide-spectrum inhibitors we can tune to work really well with the covid-19 strain. Even having so much literature precedence and prior work to go off of, it's still taking 6 months at the minimum for promising studies to be published (which will take another ~1 yr to even have a chance at being turned into an actual drug).

With this in mind, if the FFs even had the right people to find a cure for an infliction that's pretty much the first of its kind, it could take years, even decades, to get it right. But, it's just a video game so real-life logic doesn't really apply when there are zombies walking around as a daily occurrence lol

DieDungeon 50

It's still selfish since he doesn't care about any of that stuff. He would have done it, even if the cure was 100% likely to happen.

Youropiano 19

> His arc after the intro goes from "loner" to "father", not from "selfish" to "community family man".

No, it actually goes from "loner" to "father" to "bad father". And in TLoU 2 it goes from "bad father" to "father trying to redeem himself". Him dropping his guard down is perfectly in character since he was in a safe community for so long and he constantly wanted to win Ellie's approval and make her forgive him.

>where the player base could accept Joel as being a kinder more trusting individual. But this story wasn't told

It actually is. And it's told in a few ways. One is through Abby, who also does a horrible deed and seeks redemption throughout the game and even mirror's Joel's story. The other is through Ellie's flashbacks in which we learn Joel did tell Ellie the truth about the TLoU 1's ending and made attempts in redeeming himself.

adamleng 29

I couldn't agree more with your last point.

The Last of Us 1 was bleak, it was brutal, it was depressing in parts, but it was also ultimately a story of hope and beauty. Even when sad things happen like Tess and Henry's deaths it is used to push the relationship between Joel and Ellie further. You care more and more about Ellie to the point that by the end you can agree with Joel even if you disagree with his choice.

The Last of Us 2 is just bad things happening, sometimes almost pointlessly or in the most brutal ways possible. Nora doesn't just die, she dies in such a horrific and unnecessary way. The deaths of Owen and Mel could not have been more brutal. Jesse's death is so sudden and shocking, and then you almost could forget that it even happened because you then play as someone else for the next 10 hours and Jesse is barely mentioned ever again. You can't get invested in anyone in this game because not only does like everyone die but you also know ahead of time how they die, and the only character you can be reasonably sure won't die (Ellie) they turn into such an unlikable person. There's nothing for the player to put their emotional stake into.

Oelingz 3

I think the portrayal of Ellie is great in this game, and the way they go to the extreme with the vengeance is a very nice way to handle the loss of your father. I can still feel in my guts the sheer hatred I felt when I lost mine, so having him killed like this in front of her, plus the guilt she feels towards her own survival and the fact that she didn't really talked to Joel for years before he died... They also go out of their way to explain everything that happened to Ellie through Abby's own arc and that's one of the things I really disklied about the game, having both stories mirror each other is kinda cool (I loved Nocturnal Animals for this reason) but it's also a very in your face writing about feeling and such that is not very TLoU (the first one made you feel things without spelling it out for you).

As I've said, I was quite invested in the Ellie's vengeance plot, so everyone dying in the most horrible fashion way was actually quite satisfying. I restarted a lot of encounters just because it was so fun to kill people in this game, it threw me back to a time I played the first Fear in high school quick saving and quick loading most encounters to have fun with the AI. Then, the game showed me how badly Ellie was gone into her vengeance when Jesse can't convince her to go save Tommy and I started to fear for her.

When it throws you into Abby's shoes, it throws you back in a character that is less fun to play than Ellie and you can't be invested in a story you know the ending of. It felt like a chore until you reach events you don't know anything about. And the whole sky-bridges, hospital part, Island was great gameplay-wise and fucking gorgeous making me glad to persevere. Had the stories been told in parallel (or chronological order up to a certain point), I'm sure it would have been way better.

I liked the Seattle ending with the last four standing (and a surprise fifth) going back their way. It felt like a good point to end the plot letting everything open.

But they choose to throw you back in the fray at Santa Barbara making you realize how much you missed Ellie's way of killing people. How much more satisfying it is to play as her than Abby. Making you, as a player, not as a spectator wish for her survival. Then the real ending happens, and I'd be fine with anything, the story was told by this point and how it ends isn't that important to me.

Could have been Abby and Ellie going to the Fireflies to try and make a vaccine Ellie redeeming Joel in the process for instance. But the way it ends opens up more possibilities for the third one if they do one right before the PS6 which is fine by me.

I_Have_A_Huge_Penis_ 35

>No. We like them because they were well written and relatable. There are plenty of stories where you don't like the lead because they are badly written or just unlikeable characters. This is the reason many people don't like Abby. And the attempts to humanize her in the beginning (playing with dog and saving Zebra being two examples) felt cheap and shallow.

​Bingo, felt very unnatural the way they tried to push her as a good character when playing as her, yeah there's always perspective nobody is evil for the sake of it but you gotta earn the opinion of the player in a way that makes the player see their actions and make judgements based off that, not in a way that feels as if they're telling us what to think and shoving it down our throats.

>I'd also like to point out that, personally, I have a major issue with the nihilism put forth in this game. It's bleak to the point of numbing, and it actually makes me care less about the story it's trying to tell because it feels like it's trying so damn hard to be nothing but miserable. That's not maturity. That's not adult. It's just boring.

Strongly agree with that too, there's no light in this game, everything is brutal, merciless and depressing, the first game had happy moments every now and again, those were what made it special and human, this game just has darkness, more darkness, more misery, more death and it just keeps getting more depressing all the time without balance to it.

  WrapUpBlanket 2

>felt very unnatural the way they tried to push her as a good character when playing as her

If anything, the game tells you Abby is bad even in her section (see how Mel treats her, or how the Wolves call her a traitor). You make your judgment yourself.

I_Have_A_Huge_Penis_ 28

There's more that tries to show her in a favourable manner though, while it also tries to makes Ellie look bad for killing Mel and Owen.

  WrapUpBlanket 11

Abby never regrets torturing and killing Joel, while we see Ellie immediately struggling with her torture of Nora and murder of Owen and Mel, which was more accidental than anything else. We even have characters like Tommy telling her that her revenge is good, necessary and part of a promise. In the final confrontation, Abby has lost literally everything that made her identifiable (her body, her hair) and is but a shadow of herself, while Ellie is still clearly Ellie.

Removed from all emotional attachment, the script judges Abby harsher than Ellie in my eyes.

KMan21p 19

I've agreed with almost everything you've said in the thread except for Abby never regretting torturing Joel. I don't know if she'd regret killing him per se, but the nature of the killing seemed to have a big effect.

She has a conversation with Mel at one point about the deed, and Mel says she wishes she was never part of it, with Abby responding "yeah, what kind of a person could do that, right?" It's obviously sarcastic and loaded, but the fact it was framed in her thoughts like that is telling.

What cemented it for me is when she talks to Owen on the boat and he pokes at her asking about whether he should find his family's killer, cut into them, and torture them. She cuts him off with force and nothing else is said about it.

Plus, Abby is plagued by nightmares until she saves Lev and Yara, despite having killed Joel. You could say these were just a result of her father's death, but mixed with the points above, I'd say it's both.

  WrapUpBlanket 8

> I've agreed with almost everything you've said in the thread except for Abby never regretting torturing Joel. I don't know if she'd regret killing him per se, but the nature of the killing seemed to have a big effect.

You are right, and I should've rephrased it slightly: It's not that she does not regret it, but that she does not think she has to explain her actions. She does eventually figure out that she has to atone for it, though, leading into...

> Plus, Abby is plagued by nightmares until she saves Lev and Yara, despite having killed Joel. You could say these were just a result of her father's death, but mixed with the points above, I'd say it's both.

After she saves Lev and Yara, this dream turns from a nightmare into something hopeful: it's her finding her dad alive in that surgery room. I took that to mean that she has herself 'embraced' that which she admired about her dad: compassion, the will to help, hope for her group and humanity as a whole. Killing Joel might have avenged his death, but it didn't 'honor' him in death, quite the opposite.

KMan21p 10

We're in complete agreement then. Now I'm just curious to know what you thought about the story overall, since you're only discussing the narrative techniques used and not whether you liked them or not, as you've had to state in the battleground that the comments turned into 😂

  WrapUpBlanket 6

I liked the vast majority of it, but I am still not clear on what I think about it as a complete package as I haven't had enough time to digest all of it yet. I think everything regarding Abby, Ellie and Joel is outstanding, though, and I struggle to see many meaningful ways to improve on it. Some things outside of that trio I am still in the process of figuring out for myself.

For instance, I am still struggling a bit with the almost dreamlike feeling of unrealness that the chapters after Seattle gave me, and I can't pinpoint why that is. But everything from the perfect calm of the farm to the sunburnt infected to the rattlers all the way to how Abby looked on that beach made me feel like I was in a fugue state, and I don't know if that was only me. So some things are kind of hazy, I understand the point of making Abby be completely unaware of the "trespassers" until the sniper battle and of Ellie until she sees her in the theater, and I understand that this would've slowed the pacing down even more, but I wish the WLF cast would have been fleshed out more of those characters killed (mostly) off-screen.

When I finished the first game for the first time, I was in a similar situation, only a second playthrough years later made me appeciate it fully. I think the same will be true of Part II, but considering its length and how draining the gameplay can feel (in a good way) that second playthrough won't come soon.

What about you?

KMan21p 10

>For instance, I am still struggling a bit with the almost dreamlike feeling of unrealness that the chapters after Seattle gave me, and I can't pinpoint why that is. But everything from the perfect calm of the farm to the sunburnt infected to the rattlers all the way Abby looked made me feel like I was in a fugue state, and I don't know if that was only me. So some things are kind of hazy, I understand the point of making Abby be completely unaware of the "trespassers" until the sniper battle and of Ellie until she sees her in the theater, and I understand that this would've slowed the pacing down even more, but I wish the WLF cast would have been fleshed out more of those characters killed (mostly) off-screen.

Now this is interesting, because I feel exactly the same way. Everything after Seattle up until finding Abby again felt so odd and disconnected from events prior to me, so much so that my immediate reaction when thinking about Santa Barbara is "I didn't like it." I don't feel it's as intentional and confident as the pacing issues, which I would say are a 'problem' that Naughty Dog was completely aware and boldly uncaring of. The dislike wasn't a big deal though, and the final encounter with Abby is so good for me that I disregard that dislike entirely.

The side characters were my other issue as well. I liked them entirely, but I think that they have more narrative focus than the ones in the first game, meaning they need to do a bit more with them. They achieve this with Owen, Dinah, and Lev, but the others have a bit too much focus with not enough depth. Though again, not a big deal for me cos I liked them entirely, if you get me.

>When I finished the first game for the first time, I was in a similar situation, only a second playthrough years later made me appeciate it fully. I think the same will be true of Part II, but considering its length and how draining the gameplay can feel (in a good way) that second playthrough won't come soon.

I think time will be very kind to this game as well, but I'm with you on a second playthrough likely being a bit far off due to the nature of the game. Although I do really want to dive back in and recontextualise so much with full knowledge of events.

>What about you?

As you can probably tell, I adored it. I think it has issues and isn't as tight as the first. But the highs, the scope of the game, and the depth of the emotions it elicited from me (I'm generally pretty stoic when it comes to fiction), are too great to consider it anything but a masterpiece for me personally.

Mr_Olivar 15

Last of Us 2 has its happy moments too. Dinah acts as a shining light in Ellie's life at every chance she gets. Ellie and Joel flashback have a lot of joy to them, like exploring the musseum together, while Ellie gets to nerd out over astronaughts. Ellie and Tommy bond over sniping infected. There's a lot of happy moments. Abby's part has less of it, but by the end, when her and Lev look for Fireflies, and we finally hear Abby actually laugh and be warm, it radiates when compared to the glum self she used to be.

havocssbm 13

It's because Ellie's and Abby's stories are in reverse kind of. One has already gotten her revenge and finally realized what a piece of shit she was - she finds and manages to hold onto one good thing. The other yearned for it without caring about the consequences - she only realizes what Abby already had when it was too late, she'd thrown out the last good thing she had left.

She's a great foil for Ellie.

ThatDerpingGuy 62

While I loved The Last of Us 1, nothing particularly appeals to me about the Last of Us 2 because it's so just insanely nihilistic. All media just seems so incredibly nihilistic or edgy that... I'm just exhausted of it. Particularly when that piece of media or its creators just revel in how depressing it is.

I'm just tired of nihilism being passed off as high brow.

Hyndis 4

I was watching a stream of TLOU2 while working from home, and I turned it off after about 12 hours in. I just don't care about any of these people.

Every single person in this game is a terrible human being who constantly does despicable things for no good reason.

Ellie spends most of the game sneaking around to stab people in the throat with a knife. This is most of her adventure. She's literally murdering random people on first sight. The game does not give you a choice. You have to just murder your way through so many lengthy combat sections. Then the one murder that distresses Ellie, where the one visibly pregnant woman? And Ellie is somehow upset about this?

Ellie, you've killed 200+ people already, most of them by sneaking up behind them and slitting their throats, holding the person while they're struggling and gurgling and drown in their own blood. Ellie is a complete monster.

Abby's question for revenge, and how easily she starts torturing and murdering people is sickening.

The whole thing is just murder porn. Its violence for the sake of violence.

Honestly, I'd prefer it if both Ellie and Abby were eaten by mushroom zombies and lets be done with the series.

GrimaceGrunson 7

> I'm just tired of nihilism being passed off as high brow

It's like when a kid learns how to swear and decides that's entirely how they'll talk now, because to them it's more 'mature'.

Alamact 6

On a related note, you have to appreciate just how much time Martin spent thematically destroying nihilism as a valid philosophy in A Song of Ice and Fire, and then have the showrunners ultimately construct an ending devoid of any theme, purpose or meaning - deliberately so.

NihilisticSquirrel 15

I don't think it's an issue about nihilism per se. Rather, it hinges more on how those themes are executed in these games.

I liked TLOU1 because of the nihilism. We had this story juxtaposing a walled up survivalist outlook with caring relationships that constantly chipped away at that cold exterior, situated within a post-apocalyptic context. It culminated in a utilitarian dilemma at the end of the game where Joel makes a decision between saving one life versus potentially saving humanity, choosing a loved one when it was all said and done.

We could have had a story ending on a high note with Ellie's sacrifice being the turning point in reclaiming humanity from the blight of the cordyceps. But Joel didn't do what most of us would consider to be "the right thing".

Joel, just one man out of an endless sea of other survivors all trying to keep their heads above the water, imposed his own will and values onto the world in the most impactful way he could have. Joel chose to be selfish. And as uncomfortable as I felt watching that decision unfold in front of me, I still found myself smiling. I wasn't giving him any indignant moralist's reproach from behind the screen. I was rooting for him. He made his own decision for himself notwithstanding those Old World ethical pressures bearing down on him. In a way, his rejection of those pressures added an incredible weight to his decision. And I found myself going all in for him from there.

When you contrast that with the philosophy that seems to govern TLOU2, the cohesion of these nihilistic themes is softened if not outright contradicted in some areas.

We're met with these notions that Joel "had to die", that he had to get his comeuppance for the decisions that he made during TLOU1. But this thought is incommensurable with nihilism, for why would he "have" to face any consequence at all if not for the imposition of some moral standard that he contravened.

Arguably, revenge could be viewed as a nihilistic pursuit in TLOU2, but it's couched in this overbearing and ceaseless narrative that decries that sort of pursuit throughout the game. It leaves you wondering what the meaning of any of this story was by the credit roll. It didn't touch on that existential facet of nihilism in the same way that its predecessor did. In TLOU2, there seemed to be this running theme of meaninglessness for its own sake, which left it feeling flat. Like it was trying too hard.

All of that is to say, it's less about nihilism as a philosophy and more to do with how that philosophy is interpreted and applied. TLOU1 worked its way up to a morally grey endgame scenario involving existential nihilism through a well crafted lead-up of character development, and left you wondering: "was he right?". TLOU2, on the other hand, stacked one scenario over another with the overstated reaffirmation that "this is wrong", and topped it all off with an ending that rendered everything inconsequential.

I don't need a reminder that life is a bitch, much less from a full price AAA game.

thederpyguide 5

Id agure at the end of the day the last of us 2 is a lot more hopeful than the last of us 1

nybbas 56

Not only that, but it only WORKS in TLoU2 because you are so attached to the characters because of how they were told in the first one. I shouldn't have been happy when Abby's buddy takes a bullet to the back of the head from Tommy when I'm playing as her, but I was. Because this game didn't do a good job making me like those characters. Meanwhile, the reason you are so upset over what happens to Ellie and Joel is because of the first game. It's easy to torture your audience and make them feel for characters, when the previous game did all that work for you.

fleakill 1

> Didn't do a good job of making me like those characters

To each their own unfortunately.

IISuperSlothII 8

>Because this game didn't do a good job making me like those characters.

Really? I thought Manny was great, his personality was incredibly fun to watch and that made me like him as a character. Same with Jesse, both characters are ones I expected to die bit really didn't want them to because they made me like them in such a short amount of time.

Tito_Lounge 11

Manny was a womanizer and a latin american stereotype. Plus he cut in line to get food what was likeable about him?

IISuperSlothII 3

Characters don't have to be shining beacons of good will to be likable.

One of my favourite characters in any medium says he's an advocate of true gender equality so he's willing to dropkick a girl in the face. He's not a good person, but watching him be a completely shit is fun, and that aspect makes him likable as a character.

GrimaceGrunson 3

> I shouldn't have been happy when Abby's buddy takes a bullet to the back of the head from Tommy when I'm playing as her, but I was.

It didn't help that, while I didn't hate him, he was kind of a bog-standard 'sexy-times Spaniard' archtype without much else about him to talk about.

aneesdbeast 16

There are numerous flashbacks which show how Joel's relationship with Ellie at Jackson make him into a more compassionate, caring person, if you are wondering. The story makes it clear how Joel's time at Jackson shifts his character.

Diabetophobic 1

Exactly.


I really wonder if some of these people taking digs at the game has even played the game? Doubt it.

Salty_Pancakes 48

> There are plenty of stories where you don't like the lead because they are badly written or just unlikeable characters

Case in point: GTA V. Man I can't stand any of those toolbags. cept maybe Franklin (but even he gets on my nerves sometimes). All the other gtas had dudes that you could empathize with. Specially CJ and Niko.

GrimaceGrunson 8

Funnily enough the only one of the trio in V I liked was Trevor - he was a monster, but he was at least honest about it.

Im_a_wet_towel 2

For sure. Trevor is one of my favorite protagonists of any game.

night-wing-politics 5

Michael was ok, but his family were the most annoying set of characters on screen. Completely 2 dimensional, and existed just to say. Lool look at millennials and rich yuppies.

Franklin had absolutely no personality, no motivation after the first set of missions

Trevor was the only good character IMO.

GuyWithTheFae 3

I agree except the yuppie part, I wouldn't say Michael is a yuppie. He's in witness protection, he states multiple times that his money situation isn't as grand as it looks and that he really isn't all that wealthy.

Boswell_Kinbote 104

Here is my take on this whole debacle:

When we become invested in a story, many of us end up developing a sense of ownership towards the story and its characters. So when the story moves in a direction we don't approve, or the characters make decisions we don't like, our sense of ownership is challenged.

I really appreciate your insight and I think the point you make about the re-focalisation of the first game's ending is fantastic.

B_Rhino 16

>So when the story moves in a direction we don't approve, or the characters make decisions we don't like, our sense of ownership is challenged.

Being challenged is good. I'm not a professional writer, why the hell should I demand what I want to happen happens in the story, what do I know about writing?

donpaulwalnuts 3

Absolutely, I never understood this. What's the point of being told a story if you expect them to tell it the way you want it? The idea is to take the audience on the journey, not have have them backseat drive the whole thing.

osay77 28

The irony is that professional writers are by far the least likely to get viscerally upset about writing in a piece of fiction because they understand the machinations behind it and respect the craft.

  WrapUpBlanket 32

>When we become invested in a story, many of us end up developing a sense of ownership towards the story and its characters. So when the story moves in a direction we don't approve, or the characters make decisions we don't like, our sense of ownership is challenged.

And my entire argument is built around the idea that the game actively tries to sever (or at least intensely complicate) that sense of ownership to question its necessity and validity. Since I regrettably called this a "misunderstanding," most of the discussion on here is on a perceived personal attack rather than the argument itself.

Act_of_God 4

this is the reason I think the game is written brilliantly, the way it works it would have only worked with a game like the last of us, a game where the main characters are more or less universally loved. The way they use their cultural status to drive the narrative is honestly amazing.

SetsunaFS 12

>Since I regrettably called this a "misunderstanding," most of the discussion on here is on a perceived personal attack rather than the argument itself.

Don't worry too much about that. Most of the people here can not mentally engage with what you're saying anyway. So they're just going to pretend to be super outraged about your tone and fall back on the, "YOU THINK EVERYONE THAT DISLIKES THE GAME AND DISAGREES WITH YOU IS STUPID?!?" They were going find any out they possibly could have to make sure they didn't actually have to engage with you in good faith.

If you actually want to talk about the game, go to /r/truegaming.

KingOfTheYetis 2

> "YOU THINK EVERYONE THAT DISLIKES THE GAME AND DISAGREES WITH YOU IS STUPID?!?"

I think most of them are ignorant, for sure.

themanoftin 45

I think also interactivity plays a huge part of it. Not only do we like Joel and Ellie as characters, but because we control them, we feel a stronger sense of attachment. So whenever we get to a cutscene and the characters do something different than we would have done, it's easy to feel betrayed that that control was ripped away from us. There are so many actions in TLOU2 that people disagree with because they think it's out of character, but I just don't think that's the case. The whole game is spent justifying not only Joel's death, but Ellie's mercy.

7ujmnbvfr456yhgt 10

As someone who watched both games on youtube and found the stories both great, I think you might be on to something. I came away from TLOU1, which I didn't play because I never owned a playstation, thinking "wow that story was fantastic, but why did it need to be a game?" Not that I'm against good writing in games, (there should be more of it) but I think if the player's actions have no effect on the story, maybe tell a different story?

The part where you interact with the game is basically wholly separate from the story. You're just playing the action sequences. If you like the gameplay parts then maybe that works out for you but it's inherently limiting to the enjoyment of the story because at best the story breaks even with just watching it on youtube and at worst it causes that weird dissonance you describe.

themanoftin 17

That's interesting because to me I don't think the story would be anywhere near as satisfying in any other medium, or without that interactivity, especially with the 2nd game when you get to control Abby and Ellie again. That sense of revenge and anger feels more tied to the player, and when we control Abby, it helps Ellie's mercy at the end feel more justified.

7ujmnbvfr456yhgt 3

Yeah, I could be wrong. No way to see the story for the first time twice through, so who knows. I tend to gravitate towards story-based games that are explicitly focused on player choice or games that are just mechanically engaging and can be played while listening to a podcast so I'm probably not the target audience in a way.

rokerroker45 3

You're absolutely not wrong. Both TLOU have great stories and are overall ok games but it's absolutely in spite of the writing, not because of it. As purely game theory entities they're OK - the combat encounters are solid sandboxes and on the harder difficulties I felt the game asked you to make interesting decisions about expending resources vs sneaking.

Where it fails is at the holy grail of what 'good' narrative games typically do to be considered good: give the player the illusion of agency. Most games that are also cutscene galleries like TLOU usually succeed at this because they simply never brazenly defy players' expectations and shatter the illusion of agency.

TLOU 2 does shatter the illusion of agency by forcing the character to do acts that most players wouldn't, however, it is for legitimate literary effect. Imo TLOU 2's failing that it does not make it more clear that the player should not be identifying as the POV characters. They are simply actors playing the roles of Ellie and Abbey, but both Ellie and Abbey exist in the meta fiction as established characters who would commit the violence and mercies they commit regardless of how the player feels about it

pesiloveyou 161

You're taking a beating in the comments here, so I'm sorry. I know how that feels.

However for the sake of public discussion (rather than being directed at you specifically), I will say that I don't find this kind of analysis especially convincing. It's an intelligent and thoughtful look at the narrative of the game, but it ultimately doesn't say much about how or why you think the game is misunderstood by its detractors.

It's defending a song by pointing out how the notes are all in the same key, and how the instruments are played in time, and how the modulation makes sense because it switches to the relative minor. These are just observations about what 'works' about the song. But there are thousands of songs out there that are widely disliked or completely ignored due to factors that have nothing to do with how they're crafted. A song can follow all the rules, and those who know what to look for will easily be able to say "yes, the writer of this song knew exactly what they were doing", but that doesn't make it a well-liked song. Providing a musicological analysis of Achy Breaky Heart will prove that it wasn't written by a bunch of morons, but not much else about why a lot of people specifically hate that song and find it embarrassing or whatever.

All of this is to say, I think people dislike TLOU2 for a host of reasons that don't have anything to do with how it's constructed.

  WrapUpBlanket

>All of this is to say, I think people dislike TLOU2 for a host of reasons that don't have anything to do with how it's constructed.

Sure, and I don't say anything about these criticisms. I attack people like xQc who state that the game, unequivocally and objectively, has a bad ending, by arguing that this can't be the case since the structure itself is more important to the meaning of the ending than any plot beat ever is.

pesiloveyou 80

> this can't be the case since the structure itself is more important to the meaning of the ending than any plot beat ever is.

That the ending making sense in a overall narrative/structural sense precludes it from being a bad ending is itself a subjective opinion, which is kind of my point. I know what you're saying - that any feature of a piece of art cannot be considered "bad" if it follows a set of (admittedly) subjective-but-logical rules that we all more or less agree on - but it seems to me that you're coming at things from an analytical perspective. Any attempt to explain this perspective will fail, because the people you're responding to aren't viewing things analytically. That's why defenders are being accused of overanalyzing. It's because they are, from the perspective of the detractors, missing the forest for the trees.

In other words, your argument reads like you're assuming that when someone calls the ending "bad", what they mean is that it is illogical or badly-written in according to the generally-accepted standard rules of fiction. They're actually calling it "bad" for any number of other reasons eg it didn't hit them the way they thought it would, they've seen endings like it before from films that didn't take 25 hours to get there, they're scared of gay people and representation in their precious video games, their home was invaded by a poltergeist shortly after etc. xQc himself said "it felt uneventful, inconclusive and hollow" in your quote.

Even if these people say things like "objectively bad" and "didn't make any sense" and such, it's pretty obvious they're actually reacting from a subjective, emotional standpoint. Which isn't invalid - it just means that telling someone they're wrong to have had a negative emotional reaction because "actually, it all makes sense it's good if you apply these particular criteria" probably isn't going to be all that successful.

I appreciate your commentary and found it well-considered. I'm only saying this because I can see you're going to get a lot of undeserved abuse and I've been through that a number of times myself, and I'm trying to communicate that it's honestly not even worth bothering defending something online. No-one's mind ever gets changed and people just end up getting hurt.

Edit: Changed "it all makes sense" to "it's good" because it's more appropriate for the point I'm trying to make.

  WrapUpBlanket 5

No, I agree with you. I was taught (and now myself teach) that it's perfectly fine to dislike even the best of writing, but that you can dislike a thing and still analyse/appreciate its construction. I study and teach English lit and I very much dislike Dickens, but I would never conflate that with the idea that he or his writing is incompetent.

At the same time, I find it incredibly frustrating that people act like I personally insulted them as morons... for believing they are smart enough to understand that saying "this is a thing the game does and you probably haven't looked at it that way" doesn't mean that I am saying that they have to like the story/game, or that I consider everyone who dislikes it/doesn't agree with me/didn't notice it to be stupid.

Is The Waste-Land by T.S. Eliot a milestone in modernist poetry? Sure, and I can tell you all the reasons why. I still can't stand it.

Zelasny 8

Ah, you're a teacher, that explains everything i guess

DenverDiscountAuto 14

It’s totally valid to dislike the game, but I think OP was pointing out that a lot of criticisms about sloppy writing just aren’t valid.

There are people who don’t care about the character arcs in the game, or its broader themes about humanity and perspective. Partly for that reason they don’t like the story, which they think means it’s poorly written.

Stellewind 23

The way I see it, many people were angry at the story for rightful reason, but they often can't articulate what's really wrong with it (not everyone has a degree in literature), so they attack the game from all kinds of angles, most of which are hard to be seem as valid criticism.

HOWEVER, the emotion is real. The game did something that deeply hurts, frustrates and angers them, and I don't think it's players' fault for "misunderstand" it. There are many ways to convey the same message and tell the same story in a much better and convincing way, the game just failed to do so. And no, I don't buy the theory of "writers want you to feel angry so it did the job", that's the same thing I heard when people defends GOT season 8.

kwozymodo 6

>There are many ways to convey the same message and tell the same story in a much better and convincing way, the game just failed to do so. And no, I don't buy the theory of "writers want you to feel angry so it did the job", that's the same thing I heard when people defends GOT season 8.

The default answer to anything that upsets fans now is "uhh it's like GoT season 8 because...uhhh.." when that comparison just means nothing. Gamers and "nerd culture" have an absolutely terrible tolerance for their beloved franchises not bending to their will. If a character is killed in an undignified way it is called "bad writing" because apparently they needed a hero's death. It's not a coincidence that most nerd fiction just goes on and on with the same characters either never dying or somehow being brought back into the fold, and surprises are kept to a minimum. And even when there are surprises they aren't truly shocking, and if they are truly shocking, well you can guess what the response is.

If you think the game accidentally left players feeling unfulfilled and conflicted then I don't know what to say. There are countless scenes and plot developments that cover the futility of revenge and the cost associated with devoting yourself to that pursuit, so leaving the player feeling similar emotions wasn't some big coincidence. What specifically do you think lessened the power of the story and the themes it covered?

Stellewind 5

I could simply bring up GOT season 1-4 as good example of “shocking” the audience. There are many beloved characters that died in absolutely not heroic ways, fans were definitely shocked and saddened, but they loved the writer for doing so. The Red Wedding was rated 9.8 on IMDB, think about that, one of the most shockingly tragic twist in TV history and it didn’t stir an ounce of controversy. However, when the “shock” became cheap tricks to manipulate fans in Season 8, fans saw right through it and called it out.

TLOU2 is definitely better than GOT S8 but the point stands. It’s human nature for fans to nitpick the shit out of the things that made them angry, and the simple reality is that TLOU2 failed the test while GOT season 1-4 did. So if you want challenge the fans, better do it well and convincingly. Writers clearly want fans to first see Abby as villain then gradually started to sympathize with her, like many people did with Jamie Lannister, but they only manage to achieve the “ hate” part.

Sergnb 5

Comparing this game to GoT S8 is such a dishonest false equivalency. There's no way you can compare the two stories.

Even if both of the stories elicited the same kind of anger in the audience, one was legitimately horrible writing and the other was legitimately good writing. Being mad at TLoU2 makes no sense and all the reasons given to do so are always nonsensical, incongruent, or overly exagerated non-issues. Meanwhile in GoT8 it's very easy to poke holes in quality all over the place.