I loved The Last of Us: Part II as shown by my spoiler free review, which covered the mechanics and lightly touched on the story. Here I am going to dig into the story and it is going to be filled with spoilers. If you don’t want the ending ruined I recommend you stop reading now.
Ready? Snape killed Dumbledore.
A tale of II badass women
The Last of Us: Part II is a brilliantly structured narrative. The first half where you play as Ellie, witnessing the death of Joel at the hands of Abby triggering her to take a journey through Seattle to hunt her down is exactly the kind of sequel I expected. I mean I didn’t expect Joel to be beaten to death in the more violent version of WHAT THE GOLF? but the revenge story felt appropriate for the series.
What I didn’t expect was the second stage where right after Abby confronts Ellie with a gun pointed at her. Here the game jumps back in time so you play the same days as Abby, after she finally got revenge for the death of her father at the hands of Joel. Initially it felt like it was going to be a short backstory making you feel sorry for her seeing the death of her loving father, but it becomes so much more.
House of Wolves
As Abby you see her as part of the wolves you had been slaughtering, as the community is trying to survive while dealing with a dangerous cult at their door. Despite there being a truce the bodies of their soldiers are being brought in by the dozens, presumably by a certain Ellie and Tommy.
As we see Abby is dealing with being in love with her ex, while his pregnant partner rejects Abby, and she eventually creates a friendship with a couple of scars. All of them being rejected from their homes, make their plan to leave the city for good when the murderous Ellie kills Mel and Owen while Abby is out looking for medicine.
The hunter becomes the hunted … then the hunter … then the hunted.
As Abby’s story progressed I started to feel sorry for her for being hunted by Ellie, but even still when the scene came for Abby to try taking Ellie out, I struggled with trying to kill her. Regardless of how much of a rage fueled antagonist Ellie was, we have spent too much time with her for me to feel comfortable in that scene.
When Abby leaves Ellie to live again, she proves she is the lesser of these two evils and Ellie gets to enjoy her undeserved happy ending with Dana on a farm.
In that fight Abby takes a knife to Dana’s throat and Ellie cries that she is pregnant. Abby says good, because her pregnant friend was killed by Ellie, and Lev calls out and stops Abby killing her. In that moment I felt Abby should have said something that told Ellie she had killed a pregnant woman too because I felt like Ellie’s conscience got to get off scot free there. From Ellie’s perspective this moment would make Abby seem more like an evil antagonist, and less like a revenge bent rage monster like Ellie is.
Can you feel, the evil tonight?
Ellie isn’t haunted by what she has done in killing lots of innocent people, but by the death of Joel which doesn’t sit right in the context of the game. Because she lost one person, she took so many people from their families so she could try to kill one person. She could have seen the Wolves organisation as not being a good one, but she knew Joel was flawed and couldn’t see how what she was doing was so evil.
The number of encounters with humans and clickers does a disservice to the story. Four or so hours could have been cut out of the game as by the end they started to feel more like an inconvenience between the major plot moments. The small open area when Dana and Ellie first leave fits well into the narrative, but the repeated combat encounters didn’t fit as well with the annoying number of them.
Shiv me baby one more time
Other little things annoyed me like the shivs. Ellie finally upgraded to a knife rather than breakable shivs in the first game which makes so much sense, of course she would have a knife. Abby on the other hand crafts shivs despite being a soldier in a well armed army, if anyone should have a knife it would be her.
Yet despite some flaws and a big slice of ludonarrative dissonance (I have always wanted to use that term), the story is as depressing as it is outstanding. At the end of the day Abby gets away, though beaten and battered plenty, which she proves herself to be deserving of as she keeps showing some level of mercy.
Whereas Ellie who even after facing off with Abby and losing, gets to live a happy ending making a loving family home with Dana, and throws it away at another chance for revenge, and ends on her own, unable to even play her guitar because of the fingers she lost in her final fight.
The story is as horrible as it is brilliant. There aren’t many ‘good guys’ in the story except maybe side characters like Dana and Jesse, and the bad ending for Abby and Ellie is exactly what they deserve. Despite being awful people, both Abby and Ellie are such well developed characters that makes the shocking story such an important journey.
In the end the terrible and unsatisfying ending is what makes the game so damn brilliant, even if I did prefer the ambiguous ending of the first game.