We're now in a post-The Last of Us 2 world, and fans are still coming to terms with everything that happens throughout the story. Wherever your opinion falls, there's no denying that Naughty Dog's sequel is an incredibly ambitious game, featuring the largest open spaces the studio has made yet. Exploring Seattle as Ellie, you get the sense of what an open world Last of Us could be like. Funnily enough, the developer was considering an open world structure in the early days of production.
Speaking to IGN in a recent interview, Neil Druckmann was asked about how the team built the game's overall structure. "Initially, this game was gonna be open world, with several different hubs," he explains. According to the director, the first of these hubs would have you playing as Abby among her friends, and eventually the group would be attacked, rescued by Joel and Tommy, and taken back to Jackson. "You would then spend a while in Jackson doing missions before some critical point where Abby would reveal who she is," Druckmann continues. The second hub would've been Seattle playing as Ellie, and so on.
However, Naughty Dog came to the conclusion that an open world structure in this vein wouldn't suit the narrative it wanted to convey. "With the game we were trying to make, with the story we were trying to tell, with the characters we had at our disposal, it didn't make sense for it to be open world, and those aspects felt like they were too much in conflict."
Druckmann says the game became "wide linear" with certain areas being quite large but the overall structure driving the story forward. With how fleshed out certain parts of the game feel, like Jackson, Seattle, and others, you can see how the game could've been made up of these sandbox-like hubs. Still, we think the studio made the right call. When you're making such a story and character rich game, making it open world could definitely dilute the storytelling.
Anyway, there it is. Would you have wanted The Last of Us 2 to be open world? Do you think Naughty Dog's next game could go in that direction? Smash some windows in the comments section below.