Left Behind

We Couldn’t be More Ready for The Last of Us’ Single-Player DLC

I know, I know. The Last of Us is all over gaming sites right now and has been since its explosive release last June. As with all things popular, it has created a group of haters just as rabid as its fanbase. Love it or hate, there’s no denying The Last of Us made an impact, if not on the industry then at least on millions of gamers. Now, after seven (soon to be eight) months of waiting, Naughty Dog is answering many a gamer’s prayers with its first (and likely last) single-player DLC Left Behind.

For someone who grew obsessed with the game and feels it rightly deserved every Game of the Year award it earned, this news is absolutely titillating. Better yet, the subject matter of Left Behind couldn’t be more appropriate. Unlike many I’ve come across, I didn’t find myself yearning to know what happened to Joel and Ellie after the game’s closing cinematic. I have very little desire to see a direct sequel, as it would likely just ruin the game’s consummate ending. I have my own theories about the ending and whether Ellie took Joel at his word, and I’d prefer to leave them as that. For a game so grim and grounded, there was a bit of magic in the ending that I feel would diminish if Naughty Dog were to continue Joel and Ellie’s story.

The backstory, on the other hand, is one I have been dying to know. Though the illustrations of Joel’s background were satisfying enough, barely anything was revealed about our young heroine, even during her tenure as the playable character. What were the tales behind the keepsakes in her backpack? What kind of existence had she occupied that made her so infatuated with nature? While it’s known she was born into the world we see in The Last of Us, the details are absent.

For that reason, I was ecstatic when I got my hands on American Dreams. The appeal of learning of Ellie’s journey a year before the game was enough to make me froth…and then I read it. To be fair, it wasn’t that I thought the comic was bad. Rather, I was disappointed that the story didn’t lead directly into The Last of Us, or at the very least exposit the details of pre-game events alluded to during the game. By all accounts, Left Behind seems to be the bridge between the comic and the game.

Thus far I have merely shared my excitement about the story elements Left Behind promises. Verily, perhaps the biggest achievement of The Last of Us was the story (both plot and characterization), but there is plenty to be said about the gameplay, as well. Though few details have been revealed about the gameplay in Left Behind (the trailer also happens to focus solely on plot), what we have learned is intriguing. Rather than stick with the tried-and-true mechanics of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog is taking another chance by shaking things up.

One of the cleverest (and most obvious) additions is pitting human enemies against Infected. This can be executed via actions such as throwing a bottle near a cluster of human enemies, thus attracting the attention of Clickers or other Infected. It’s something that, in retrospect, should have been included in The Last of Us, and, given Ellie does not have the brawn Joel had, a necessary mechanic.

Left Behind carousel

Naughty Dog has also promised Left Behind will be a lot less focused on combat and more focused on exploration. This isn’t terribly surprising since Ellie is the playable character (though her chapter in The Last of Us was riddled with intense enemy encounters) and may even render some fans ambivalent. For my part, I felt The Last of Us had a healthy blend of combat and exploration, keeping the player on track with the story-driven game while allowing them to scour the areas for various collectibles and supplies. Still, with Left Behind taking place in a mall, there is certainly plenty of room for the developers to expound on the exploratory elements.

In the end, though, it all comes back to the story Naughty Dog seeks to tell. I won’t get my hopes up in believing Left Behind can parallel the genius of The Last of Us. Part of what made that game so magnificent was its unexpected ending and Naughty Dog saying, “This isn’t the conventional way to tell a story, but it’s the only way we can tell it.” Now that we know what Naughty Dog is capable of—and for those of us who have played through the game, the fate of Left Behind’s characters—the shock factor will likely be absent. That doesn’t mean Naughty Dog can’t tell a meaningful story, though, and do it with the same delicacy and poignancy prevalent in The Last of Us.

All in all, this gamer is more than ready for Left Behind, which releases February 14. Are you ready? Any reservations about the DLC, or are you hanging on the edge of your seat for this long-awaited DLC? Let us know in the comments!