September 2nd, 2012 @ 02:38:44

What We Want (and Don’t Want) For The Last of Us 2

**SPOILERS FOR THE ORIGINAL GAME LIE AHEAD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.**

This week, it was reported via Omelete that The Last of Us 2 is already in development for a 2015 release. While there’s a good chance that’s not true, seeing as how Naughty Dog recently announced Uncharted 4 and Left Behind (the latest DLC for The Last of Us) won’t be released for another two weeks, it does get me thinking about what I would love to see (and not see) in a sequel.

WHAT WE WANT

Let’s face it: Naughty Dog did a lot of things right with The Last of Us. Namely, delivering a despondent story laced with excellent characterization, both in terms of character growth and, frankly, characters you just come to care for in a palpable way. I can honestly say I’ve rarely grown so attached to fictional characters, and I really want a repeat of that.

Quality graphics are a given, so I’ll brush past that for something more important: gameplay. I found The Last of Us to be a tremendous stepping stone in action adventure gaming. The real-time menu was brilliant and the crafting, while not revolutionary, was done extraordinarily well. On higher difficulties, the developers succeeded in rendering ammo scarce (though I found other supplies to be far more abundant than I’d expected), which is a welcome change from most shooters, where you’d swear the inhabitants of the game’s world drop ammo like a dog sheds fur.

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It was all done well, but they could take it a step further. For instance, Left Behind will implement a mechanic whereupon the player can throw a noisy object toward a group of humans to attract the Infected’s attention. It provides a great alternative to combat that isn’t merely sneaking around an Infected. On that note, it’d be great if more combat alternatives were introduced. As it were, firearms and melee were the sole means of combat. It’d be nice to let the player utilize other methods, such as picking up random objects and hurling them at foes. More destructible environments are needed, too. How cool would it be to have the option of stealth, running and gunning, or bringing the floor out from underneath a cadre of soldiers or group of Infected? This is the post-apocalypse, after all. I think more than a few buildings would be dilapidated.

The crafting could be further developed, too. The real-time element was great and the crafting was a breath of fresh air for the genre, but it grew stale after a while. Once you crafted everything in the game, it became pretty rote. Sure, there were instances when I had to decide on whether to strengthen my melee weapon or craft another molotov, but after you grew accustomed to the flow of the game, the choices were easier to make. Gamers play to be challenged. Naughty Dog should mollify us with even more crafting choices.

Shifting back toward story elements, new locations are a must. We saw enough of the United States in the original. It’d be great to set the game outside North America and shift to Europe or Asia. I’m hesitant to suggest a more rural South American or African setting, just because the sense of solitude would lose some of its impact. Then again, people are well-versed enough with the post-apocalyptic setting.

The Last Of Us Route Map

We’ve seen enough of this

WHAT WE DON’T WANT

Fans seem to be split on this issue, but I rest in the camp that does not want to see a continuation of Joel and Ellie’s story. Joel, I feel, has gone as far as Naughty Dog can take him. He already went from a loving father to a broken man trying to survive in a broken world to being thrust back into a paternal role and learning how to love and care again to being so attached to what he’d rediscovered that he couldn’t let it go, even for the sake of mankind. After all that, it doesn’t seem like there’s much else to do with him.

As far as Ellie, she has plenty of growing to do, but perhaps more predictably than Joel. The only way I would want to see Ellie is years down the road, but by then it’s logical she’d be hardened by her travels, which could tread too closely to Lara Croft, especially with Crystal Dynamics’ grittier take. Keeping Joel in the mix and showing her discover the truth about the Fireflies could make for an interesting plot, but probably not enough to carry an entire game. I’d be more satisfied if she were on her own by the second game’s start, searching for the cure she couldn’t offer humanity. Really, though, I’d prefer Naughty Dog to focus on an entirely new cast of characters in a new setting (see above).

I also don’t want a rehash of the original. The gameplay was great, but like I stated earlier, they could do so much more with it. One of my complaints with the Uncharted series is that each game felt more like an extension of its antecedent. There was no real progression in the gameplay, which was a bummer. The Last of Us did so much more than most games have done, and I want to see that trend continue. I’d also like to see more challenging puzzles. As fun as it was scavenging for that ladder to reach that rooftop, you have to figure at some point a fugitive wouldn’t have conveniently left their ladder fifty feet from a rundown edifice.

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They had a great story. Let’s leave it where it ended.

On the note of rehashing, it’d be a shame to see a similar plot or similar themes. I would hope Naughty Dog’s writers are more talented than revisiting the “finding a cure and self-sacrifice” motif, but you never know. I’m more worried they would be tempted to replicate Joel and Ellie’s relationship. What could turn out really cool (both story-wise and gameplay-wise) is starting the sequel with a band of survivors living outside a major city, and they slowly die off. Each chapter could feature a different playable character with separate strengths and weaknesses, sort of like Ellie’s chapter in the original except with greater diversity. We also don’t need any more emphasis on the Cordyceps virus. It’s a clever idea, but the first game introduced us to the cause quite comprehensively; it’s time to focus more on the effect.

In truth, I trust Naughty Dog to deliver another stellar experience if they truly are developing The Last of Us 2 (they no doubt will at some point). Hopefully some (or all!) of my worries will be laid to rest and my hopes fulfilled, but time will tell. Now it’s your turn. What do you want to see in The Last of Us 2? What don’t you want? Let us read your thoughts in the comments!



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