Forums

Topic: I like The last of us part II but it’s story doesn’t always work

Posts 1 to 20 of 24

Jimmer-jammer

A’hoy matey! Spoilers on the horizon! Many, many spoilers!

I like The Last of Us Part II. A lot. It’s an exceptionally well made video game with a large story told in an incredibly ambitious way. However, as with any ambitious creative endeavour, not every aspect will work for every audience member as the developers intended.

I’m finding it hard to find a discussion about this game that doesn’t devolve into an argument. To help mitigate this, I thought it could be valuable to dissect specific story beats that didn’t work, from people who liked the game as a whole.

This thread is not meant to be a blind rant against the game, but a constructively critical discussion focused on narrative beats that didn’t work, made specifically by people who enjoyed the game. Please support your points. I’ll start:

For me, this game has a Batman V Superman “Martha” level moment that rang so untrue to me that I actually burst out laughing when it happened, surely not the intended audience reaction. It still bothers me.

When Ellie’s blind quest for revenge finally leads her to the aquarium, her journey is reaching a climax. She has come a long way through dangerous territory and has killed a lot people.

In a paranoid rage, she kills Mel and shoots Owen. In his dying, blood gurgling last breath, he musters the strength to utter the most important words we’ve heard until this point, “P-P-regnant!”

Ellie, with rising dread etching across her face, rushes over and opens Mel’s jacket to dramatically confirm that, yes, Mel is indeed expecting a baby. Wiping the blood of the 200 people killed prior to getting here from her brow, Ellie’s world closes in around her as she finally sees the monster she has become...

Really!? That’s what it took? Ludo-narrative dissonance is an argument I don’t generally indulge, but I’d have a Pinocchio sized nose if I said it’s entire thesis didn’t hit me like a freight train in this moment.

I believe the games mostly brilliant ‘double sided’ structure is to blame here. We haven’t had the chance to get to understand who Mel is or how she fits into the overarching narrative. She’s as bad a lady as any we’ve killed, just with child.

This structure works for other story beats to shed light on the impact of everyone’s actions such as the obvious example of Abby being the surgeon’s daughter, or the more obscure example of discovering Abby’s crippling fear of heights is the flip side of Ellie’s dream of going to space; but for a world that runs from cheese like a hipster rat, it was rank and instantly pulled me out of the experience. It was cheesy.

I get it. Children are the embodiment of innocence. Dina is pregnant so it hits close to home for Ellie. Still didn’t buy it. It works when I look at the whole picture, but the moment was wasted.

I’ve been able to justify other story beats that I raised an eyebrow at upon further thought that are supported within the game. That doesn’t work here, as the moment was important to emotionally draw me into the story. What it did was kick me out. Hard.

Jimmer-jammer

Octane

We have plenty of TLOU2 threads already.

Octane

Jimmer-jammer

@Octane fair enough, I felt it was valuable to have a discussion uniquely focused on specific story beats that didn’t work, why, and how you think they could have been changed to make them work.

I’m new to this but searching The Last of Us renders 8 results, none of which had this focus. I’m curious to hear people’s balanced takes on what specifically didn’t work for them narratively. I apologize if this thread is redundant. Have a good one!

Jimmer-jammer

ThroughTheIris56

I very much agree with the ludo narrative dissonance. Usually I don't mind ludonarrative dissonance in games, because typically its in self defense or for a good cause. However in TLOU2, it is quite an issue because the act of killing only seems to affect Ellie when the story needs it to. It's at its worse with the ending, when she's killed countless people who all had friends and family, then literally the last person she's going to kill is the one that's too much. I've heard the argument that she didn't want Lev to share her experience of losing a parental figure, but at that point she's potentially left dozens of orphans in her wake so what's one more, especially when its who you were looking for in the first place. It just seems so contrived, and unfortunately that's an issue that really took me out of a lot of the story.

ThroughTheIris56

Jimmer-jammer

@ThroughTheIris56 yeah this is the first game I’ve played where I was hit by ludo-narrative dissonance this hard. Sticking with Naughty Dog, it’s a non factor for me in the Uncharted games because they are so obviously an emulation and celebration of the Spielbergian flavour of swashbuckling action movies where the body count just doesn’t matter. It does here.

TLOU is a world that takes great pains to emulate reality, to make you uncomfortably feel every kill. For the developers to pick and choose which one of those kills matters more than the other, muddy’s their messaging and betrays the driving philosophy of their design decisions.

To offer a friendly counter argument, the ending actually worked for me. I’ve known people who have held debilitating grudges far past the point of reason. This was that concept taken to the extreme in that, I no longer saw Ellie or Abby, but revenge and redemption personified. I felt this was reinforced by their barely recognizable, skeletal shells of their former selves running merely on the fumes of themes.

It went straight up pulp. And I liked that. It suits a revenge story taken to this extreme and I felt the over the top fist fight reinforced that. Does it suit the universe of TLOU? Arguably not. But by that ridiculous point in the story, I bought into the concept and actually kind of dug what Naughty Dog was doing.

I also appreciated the irony of Abby’s survival hinging on Ellie’s inability to let her quest for revenge go. The universe has a funny way of working in this way.

Thanks for the reply, have a good one!

Jimmer-jammer

LordSteev

Not sure if this is what you were after or not, but I've got some fuzzy thoughts about the story overall.

I've played the first game three times, and this one twice, and frankly, I never felt the attachment that some feel for Joel. I thought Abby was, if not justified, at least understandable in her reasons for killing him. He killed her father! Wouldn't any of us go old testament on someone who did that if we had the chance? I also understand Joel's need to save Ellie. Theoretically every life is worth the same amount, but in real life, while watching the suffering of thousands in third world countries across the globe may hurt, it holds a pale candle to watching your wife or your daughter suffering. What he did may not have been the best thing for mankind, but it is understandable and believable.

Back to Abby. By the time I reached the end of the game, I found her story was the one I sympathized with the most. I thought this was brilliant by Naughty Dog. At first, I'm all Ellie. Who is this murderous band of thugs from Washington? How dare they? And then, and I'm not sure exactly where or when, her story started to make more sense to me than Ellie's.

I loved this game, and voted it my favorite of the PS4 generation, but feel towards the final third of the game the story started going off the rails. At the point where Ellie was willing to leave behind the woman she loved and her child, to chase revenge again even after all the killing she had done the first time through was when I really lost empathy towards her side of the story. In the end, I think it would have been more impactful and hard-hitting, though maybe harder to stomach, if Ellie had gone ahead and killed Abby. It would fit more appropriately with the type of character she had become.

It's been a while since I played, so I'm not remembering specifics maybe as well as I should. But I remember the ending feeling contrived, and not organically connected to the flow of the game. It felt like a late change, to keep the viability of Ellie as a protagonist open to future games.

LordSteev

LieutenantFatman

There's definitely a strong argument for ludo-narrative dissonance here. But I feel it could be argued that every group Ellie encountered were armed, dangerous and keen to kill her. So being who she is, in the world she's living in, killing them doesn't phase her too much.

But realising she had just murdered two parents and their about to be new born child is a different kettle of fish and that's crossed a line for her, she didn't sign up for that.

It's interesting how ludo-narrative dissonance hits people in different ways. While I've always loved the original Tomb Raider games for example, I always found it odd how this lover of the great outdoors, history and archaeology so happily killed all these endangered species on entering their habitats.

On another note, whether someone likes Kojima or not, I feel he was definitely onto something when he decided all his games going forward would allow the player the choice not to kill during game play. I think it would be appreciated by a lot of players in these sort of games.

LieutenantFatman

Rudy_Manchego

@Jimmer-jammer It's a good point and I sort of agree that thematically, the message of this game is confusing when it comes to Ellie and her revenge story line. If anything, Abby's story makes the most narrative sense from what we know of the character.

@LieutenantFatman Makes a good comparison with Tomb Raider. I did a video on it ages ago when I called it the 'Goodie Vs Gameplay scenario'. In the new Tomb Raider games in particular, Lara is shown as being caring, compassionate and wanting to do good but brutally murders anyone. There was a side mission in Shadow of the Tomb Raider when she was asked to check on the status of an NPC and while searching, sees a group of baddies and without wondering why there are there, guts them all, then gets welcomed for saving the life of one villager.

In TLOU2, the theme is revenge but for Ellie, it only seems to matter when it is not cannon fodder and it is at odds with that theme. Yes the average human enemy is out to kill her but in this game, she is bringing the fight to them. In the first game, once Ellie joins, they are trying to achieve a positive goal but are repeatedly attacked. In this game, Ellie goes on the attack, murders hundreds but reconsiders her life choices in a few specific moments. On their own, those moments work but then you have to consider that she has brutally killed loads of people with no consideration of what she has become.

Abby, on the other hand, has a far better motivation. At the start of the game, because of her experiences, she is that killer and she is forced to examine her motivation for that because the last few years of her life have been killing for others. Her relationship with the two islanders make her realise the impact of her ways and she changes to try to defend life and do something positive.

Now I may be an idiot, but there's one thing I am not sir, and that sir, is an idiot

https://jambags.co.uk

PSN: Rudy_Manchego | Twitter:

TheBrandedSwordsman

@LieutenantFatman Quite so, old chap. Did you complete Death Stranding? I am planning on going back to it afresh on Friday so we could have a cup of tea and chat about it.

"Ten thousand toadstools, with right purchase, could lift a man, I suppose. But what good would it do?"

PSN: Draco_V_Ecliptic

LieutenantFatman

@Draco_V_Ecliptic
I did indeed complete it, such a great game. Loved every minute of it.

@Rudy_Manchego
I feel it's worth pointing out that on many occasions Ellie is simply traversing through certain areas to get to her destination. And different groups on sighting her will always attempt to hunt her down and kill her, even when they have no idea who she is.

None of them attempt to capture her alive or communicate with her at all.

She's definitely a killer but whether you can say she murdered a lot of these people is up for debate. Not that I'm suggesting anything she did was acceptable of course.

Edited on by LieutenantFatman

LieutenantFatman

ApostateMage

I didn't particularly like older Ellie and was actually routing for Abby to put that wild dog down when they fought in the theatre.

ApostateMage

Jimmer-jammer

@LordSteev as much as I like the more hopeful message of Ellie breaking the cycle, learning to forgive Joel and herself at the cost of everything she knows, I wholeheartedly agree that it would have been more impactful for her to kill Abby and let Lev go.

I agree it would have been harder to stomach, but watching in horror as Ellie breathlessly delivers the final killing blow while Lev watches would have been a more believable finale.

Maybe at that point, seeing Lev’s distraught face and remembering her own witness to Joel’s death would have been the breakthrough moment for her. The moment she realizes that everything she has gone through and lost just left one more Ellie. Maybe Lev could have forgiven Ellie in some kind of interaction, truly breaking the cycle in a believable way.

I also empathized with Abby, though no one in these games are particularly likeable. I commend Naughty Dog for flipping the script and turning widely loved characters into flawed human beings and even villains. And touching on the fact that the label of villain is often just a matter of perspective.

Jimmer-jammer

Jimmer-jammer

@LieutenantFatman the moment would have worked better for me had Ellie discovered Mel’s pregnancy organically. Maybe she was searching for something and upon opening Mel’s jacket unknowing of what she would find, she slowly realizes the true depth of her killing spree.

To have Owen choose that as his last words sets up a TLOU universal ‘rule’ if you will, that killing is okay as long as you don’t cross the pregnancy line. It’s a common ground among strangers that is unearned, and came across to me as very cheesy.

The concept itself works, but the way Naughty Dog applied it here just didn’t ring true.

I love Kojima. He is a creative genius and I accept and appreciate his quirks. The Sorrow’s boss fight from MGS 3 still sticks with me as you walk ‘the river styx’, avoiding all of the enemies you’ve killed up to that point. Kojima is always thinking 10 steps ahead, and with Death Stranding really made you think about the impact of killing in a mechanical way, and I thought it was brilliant.

Jimmer-jammer

Jimmer-jammer

@Rudy_Manchego I agree that Abby’s story is the most relatable and tonally consistent. Her arc of redemption mirrored Joel’s in a of ways and I felt that was reinforced mechanically in both how she played, and her 3 days being much closer to the tone of the first game.

I enjoy the Tomb Raider series and have never really thought about ludo-narrative dissonance regarding them but looking on it now, I can definitely see the point.

Jimmer-jammer

dychomir

You have nailed it on the head. Because the Naughty Dog insistence to deliver mature storytelling from the off there was a thin line between pathos and cringe. Although it was a superb experience the last scene was an epitome of that challenge throughout the whole game. Ellie returning to the empty house was a serviceable ending and then the unfortunate close up of her hand whilst playing the guitar came up and made me wonder if I am perhaps watching something more suitable for the naked gun movie.

dychomir

Jimmer-jammer

@ApostateMage yeah they really made Ellie into a villain and I thought that was a very bold move. I actually related more with Abby than Ellie.

Jimmer-jammer

FullMetalWesker

@LieutenantFatman - "I feel it's worth pointing out that on many occasions Ellie is simply traversing through certain areas to get to her destination. And different groups on sighting her will always attempt to hunt her down and kill her, even when they have no idea who she is.

None of them attempt to capture her alive or communicate with her at all."

The Seraphites definitely don't bother, but iirc, the WLF and Rattlers do in fact capture her initially; but after she breaks out and kills her captors they seemingly give up on the idea and go for the kill.
That said though, to be fair, even if she didn't just break out, neither group would likely reach a mutually beneficial agreement with her; Ellie's main goal is to kill the WLF's top Scar killer, and the Rattlers only see outsiders as either potential slaves or just target practice. Ironically, the Seraphites are the group that come the closest to possibly reaching a rapport, as both have enemies in the WLF and Abby in particular, but as the Seraphites seemingly see all outsiders as 'unworthy', they don't even bother trying, even though both could gain from a potential (even if temporary) truce/alliance.

Edited on by FullMetalWesker

FullMetalWesker

Jimmer-jammer

@dychomir beautifully said and not wrong. This particular example didn’t bother me personally but I can certainly see where you’re coming from!

Jimmer-jammer

LieutenantFatman

@FullMetalWesker
Yeah, I guess the game makes it pretty clear for all those groups that their leaders expect them to kill anyone that's a threat and for them to not adhere to that would get them in a huge amount of trouble. Everyone you meet outside of cutscenes are essentially soldiers ready for combat.

LieutenantFatman

MaulTsir

The reason most factions are highly aggressive is clearly the world they've all been living in for the last 20+ years has been on of fear and violence, all the groups will have had interaction with other groups that will have either been mutual and beneficial or very sour from the start, its a us vs them scenario in most cases, better safe than sorry. Its almost like going back in time, the vikings, Romans etc all killed with ease but murder was still looked down upon

None of us have actually been in the apocalypse so saying I wouldn't do this or I would do this is all just a matter of opinion and in this case its the opinions of the writers, believable or not you really wouldn't know what you would do in most situations these characters face until they were actually forced upon you. I mean we talking about believable really? Abby would never survive the rat king, it would be almost impossible to survive half the situations ellie, Joel and Abby do survive so I don't think believable is the problem its more understanding.

Some one posted earlier about villains and perspectives and that's what its all about really, there's no good or evil in these characters not one is the bad guy and the other the good guy, depending on whose side of the story you see it from then that's who your inevitably going to side with but what naughty dog did was clever they showed you both and really inside you had to choose the one you felt more empathy for.

As far as the fingers go for Ellie corny or not its a clear show of the more things she lost rather than gained in her journey for revenge, which is clear to me that as the flash backs start to show more of whats gone on she realises she is capable of forgiveness. Also yeah if she killed Andy and left Lev to survive that circle of revenge would just repeat and she has people who she cares about who are still alive.

MaulTsir

Top

Please login or sign up to reply to this topic