At PlayStation Experience 2016 earlier this month, Naughty Dog blew the roof off of the Anaheim Convention Center when they finally revealed the long-awaited sequel to The Last of Us at the end of the keynote presentation. The Last of Us Part II is still a long way from release, but the trailer embedded above gave us more than enough information to hold everyone over until a full-fledged gameplay trailer drops.
Shortly after the worldwide reveal, Neil Druckmann, Ashley Johnson, and Troy Baker took the stage to talk a little more openly about this upcoming sequel. From this 35-minute conversation, we learned several things including the following:
- The Last of Us Part II takes place 5 years after the first game and the storyline is centered around hate.
- Ellie is now 19 years old and the main playable character.
- The Last of Us Composer Gustavo Santaolalla will return for the sequel.
- Bruce Straley is taking some much needed time off and won’t be working on this game.
- The reference to Part II was used primarily to continue Ellie and Joel’s story. Druckmann knows that fans are concerned about Naughty Dog’s decision to revisit these characters but has assured us that the story won’t disappoint.
The single most important tidbit from this conversation and a topic that Druckmann remains secretive of is the meaning behind the hateful narrative. Fans who completed the first game already know that the story was heavily focused on the relationship between Ellie and Joel and how the grizzled older man grew to love and protect this girl as if she was his own daughter. With that said, the main question on everyone’s mind now is where will this hate come from in the sequel and how will it impact the overall storyline? Here are a few of my thoughts on how everything could play out.
First and foremost, one significant plot point that remains unanswered about the original game lies in how the story ended. After arriving in Salt Lake City, Ellie and Joel are captured by a Firefly patrol and it’s revealed that acquiring an infected portion of Ellie’s brain is the key to finding a cure for the virus. Knowing that she will die during this procedure, Joel prevents this from happening by killing several Fireflies and their leader before escaping with an unconscious Ellie to his brother’s settlement. When Ellie finally wakes up, Joel lies to her about the situation and she accepts his story but remains guilty about having survived.
One way to revisit this issue in the sequel would be for the Fireflies to seek revenge and successfully kill Joel. This would lead to Ellie going on a warpath eliminating each and every Firefly in existence to avenge his death. At this point, the story would take a tragic turn because Ellie would be committing all these violent acts without fully knowing the truth behind Joel’s lie. Once everything is finally revealed, Ellie is overwhelmed by emotion and may reluctantly decide to take her own life. This particular narrative idea is extremely dark in nature and isn’t a path that I think Druckmann would explore in full but it definitely would achieve the goal of being a much more hateful story than the first game.
Another scenario could involve Joel becoming infected by the very same virus that he had a chance to put an end to. This approach would be poetic in a sense as it would hit home the fact that there are consequences for our actions despite how unforgiving the outcome may be. Imagine if this does happen and Ellie is the one who has to put him out of his misery. Given her deep-seated relationships with both Joel and Riley, I could see Ellie being deeply impacted by this and deciding to go after the infected that took her loved ones away from her. The origin of the outbreak was never fully explored in the first game so this is one of many different ways that they could address this in the sequel.
While both of these ideas seem like logical places to start from, the truth of the matter is that Druckmann more than likely won’t take a safe approach while telling the story this time around. One of the difficult aspects of making a sequel is that you have to avoid clichés to make the narrative engaging and unpredictable for the audience. There has to be a justified reason why we are continuing to explore these characters stories rather than starting fresh with new protagonists. Regardless of which path they ultimately take, there’s absolutely no doubt about it that we are all in for a treat.
What are your theories on how the The Last of Us Part II narrative will play out? Please feel free to let us know in the comments section below.