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Last of Us 2 Discussion [Spoilers]

Discussion in 'Gaming and PC Discussion' started by KHAAAAAAAN!!, Jun 19, 2020.

  1. Gengar

    Gengar Polymagus ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Violence to achieve your aims is not fine, nor is it ever shown as fine. Violence is brutal and horrifying in this world, it's shown as such over and over again, in both the gameplay and the narrative. Violence is just a horrifying part of life, and there's no one moralizing about it (especially since at no point can you kill someone who isn't trying to kill you in this game).

    And speaking of the narrative, it doesn't tell the player that violence will eat you up inside and destroy you, it tells you hatred will eat you up and destroy you. It's the hatred that's poisoning Ellie and ruining her life.
    I don't see the ending as letting Abby go at all. I see it as Ellie letting her hatred go and letting her grief take over. I didn't think it was a coincidence that this scene was soon followed by Joel and Ellie's reconciliation flashback (the scene I wanted to see most and punched me in the gut so hard).

    At this point I'm kinda done talking about this game, it's getting very spoilery. I'm sure people smarter than me will soon be making my points better than I ever will (waiting on you Joseph Anderson!!!!WRJKSJ!)
     
  2. Meerkats

    Meerkats Auror

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    As has been said, the game isn't telling you violence is bad and making you kill people with the next breath. A) every time you kill someone the game tells you violence is bad, b) the game is about Ellie doing the violence, not you. It's about making you feel bad about what Ellie is doing, it's not an rpg that's gonna give you a lot of choice, it's a character driven narrative in which the character is making horrific choices.

    I also think there are some legitimate problems with the Pacing, but it really worked to put me in a frustrated drained and miserable mood that by the time Ellie let Abby go I wasn't happy because I liked Abby, but because I felt sorry for Ellie. I felt sorry that Ellie was going through this and begging for her to stop making herself so miserable.

    It's funny that ludo narrative dissonance is brought up because after I finished the game I though that in a way this game was NDs response to all the criticism the uncharted games got on the subject. A large portion of the game is dedicated to humanising and giving depth and character to both factions Ellie has been killing all this time and coupled with how brutal combat is it works really well to show you that hey: this is some fucked up shit Ellie is doing. It felt to me like someone going : this is why we have ludo narrative dissonance because the reality is absolutely miserable.

    Joseph better like it though.
     
  3. Agayek

    Agayek The Cursed Child DLP Supporter

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    I've said everything that needs to be said on LOU2, so I'm not gonna rehash anything there, but this bit made me pause for a minute, because I'm starting to get the feeling that we're using different definitions of "ludonarrative dissonance". It's understandable, given how commonly it's used in game reviews and whatnot by people who clearly have no idea what it means, but ludonarrative dissonance has nothing to do with characters being humanized or empathizing with the enemies or whatever. It's also got nothing to do with realism or anything of the sort.

    At the most fundamental level, ludonarrative dissonance is "the gameplay tells one story, the narrative tells another". It's when the experience of actually playing the game doesn't jive with the game's cutscenes/dialogue/etc. In Uncharted's case, the dissonance is very much not in Nathan Drake murdering hordes of faceless mooks. It's that Drake murders a horde of faceless mooks, and then a cutscene starts where he turns a corner to find two more faceless mooks pointing guns at him and he immediately surrenders without a fight. The game just had you pilot Drake through a couple dozen clones of the guys now holding him captive without a second thought, and most likely got shot more than once in the process and barely noticed, but as soon as the cutscene started, he became completely terrified of a dude with a pistol. The two portrayals of the same character don't really jive.

    The best example of this I can think of off-hand is Mass Effect 3, specifically the fight on Thessia against Kai Leng (if you're unfamiliar, he's a cyborg ninja antagonist that's extremely obnoxious throughout ME3). In that boss fight, skilled players absolutely demolish Kai Leng, tearing through him extremely quickly, and it would take an active effort on their part to actually lose the encounter. However, as soon as the player brings him to ~25% hp, it triggers the end-fight cutscene, in which Kai Leng straight up demolishes Shepard, the player character, steals the maguffin they were fighting over, and then escapes with a smug one-liner. The devs were trying to go with "this is your rival and you struggle to get him low, then he reverses it and sweeps you", but where they actually landed was "this is a total joke, but you're still gonna lose", and it severely undercuts the impact they were trying to make.

    And that's ludonarrative dissonance in a nutshell, the jarring transition from "things work this way" to "things actually work this other way" with no discernible reason for the shift. It's when a cutscene or whatever happens and it makes you go "wait, what? Since when was that a thing?".

    Now, to be clear, it isn't always a bad thing; a rare few games (pretty much all of them being deconstructions) have used that dissonance to phenomenal effect. It's quite rare to see it done successfully however, and I'm not sure it's even possible to do so outside of screwing around with the player<->character dynamic.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2020
  4. Celestin

    Celestin The Cursed Child

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    I disagree with the fact that Ellie being lesbian has much to to with a backlash. Mainly because no one had any problems with it in The Last of Us: Left Behind, but I have longer opinion about it.

    In my opinion, most people, or rather most men, that have problem with homosexuals, only have this problem with gays. While they will attack lesbians' sexuality if they would have an argument with them, they don't hate them for just existing.

    There is this meme going around with a few mainstream games with lesbians main characters. I suspect that the fact that if a player projects himself into a game character, they have no problem with them being romantically attracted to a gender that they're attracted too in a real life is partially a reason why they aren't problematic.

    The other reason is that to a lot of guys lesbians are hot. Simple as that.

    Compare this to the absolute lack of mainstream games, not counting RPGs where it's optional, where the main character is gay.

    If I really wanted to test the audience I would make an AAA game, something like Uncharted and with a similar main character, but I wouldn't mention in any interview that he's gay. Then somewhere in the middle of the game, after at least 20 hours of playing, the main character is in a bar. One woman is clearly into him, but he ignores her. Then a handsome guy sit down nearby and smiles to him. They talk and the player slowly realises that they're flirting. Then the guy ask if the main character wants to go somewhere. The next scene they're in a bed. The Internet explodes around them.
     
  5. Zombie

    Zombie Tegridy Moderator DLP Supporter

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    Lets keep Last of Us discussion, gameplay, spoilers and everything here and out of the other thread.

    My warning still stands, use spoiler tags or I'll infract you.
     
  6. Meerkats

    Meerkats Auror

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    I think at the end of the day it depends on if you can compartmentalise the distinction that it is Ellie doing those things and not the player. That Ellie at first is perhaps drawing some degree of pleasure from her revenge while as a player due to our wider perspective we are horrified. I remember at the start of the game I was already questioning that Ellie and Co were murdering random wlf members who had nothing to do with Joel's death while the characters were very cavalier about it.

    Having read some of the more mature discussion around the game (I'm really disappointed with how many supposed great critics can't stop themselves from throwing a muscular Abby joke in their criticism of the game) I now understand that this is the biggest problem with the game. The game is operating as a cinematic story where it is very easy to understand that any sort of reflection is directed towards the characters, while it is a game which muddies the waters quite a little bit.
     
  7. Agayek

    Agayek The Cursed Child DLP Supporter

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    That's primarily why I said it works quite well up until the climax. At that point, there is no dissonance.

    When Ellie's off on her roaring rampage of revenge, and doesn't give a fuck who she has to kill to get it, the gameplay mechanics incentivizing brutal murder actually fit really well. It subtly nudges the player toward Ellie's headspace and adds greatly to the narrative.

    The problem is that, in the tail end of the game, the game's actively trying to sell the "vengeance is bad, violence bad, give up on your hate" theme to the player, hammering home again and again about the costs of such things, but all of the mechanics are still there, still pushing the player toward violence and rewarding them for engaging in it. The mechanics behind the violence is fun and rewarding, even when the story is saying "no, that's bad and it's not fun", thus the dissonance.

    For a specific example in LOU2, just look at Ellie's reaction after she killed Owen and Mel. She all but breaks down over it, having killed a pregnant woman, and it's a powerful scene. But at the same time, ten minutes earlier, she had grabbed a guy in a choke hold, shot his buddy in the head, curbstomped his dog, and then spun him around and functionally disemboweled him with a hunting knife, all of whom have little to nothing to do with her 'father's' murder (and by extension, significantly less reason to want dead), and didn't so much as blink.

    The gameplay says Ellie is a stonecold killer who gives no fucks, but the cutscene says she's relatively fragile and wearing down from the stress. And that undermines the game's message a fair bit, I feel.

    As for how to address that issue, I'm not entirely sure. My first instinct would be to go the horror game route and make combat deliberately clunky and mildly painful; make it so it just doesn't quite work right so the player would naturally do everything they could to avoid direct combat. I'd also do away with stealth kills entirely; you can sneak up on an enemy and kill them, but then everyone and their dog in the area knows you did it. Really punish the player for deciding to kill people.

    At the same time though, I'd make it so that those issues start at a moderate level, as Ellie doesn't particularly want to go around killing bitches at the start, but then after Joel's murdered, the issues go away entirely. Make combat feel exactly like it does now, where Ellie is preying on all the people in her way. But then as the story progresses, as Ellie starts to realize what her obsession is costing her, start ramping up those issues over time, until eventually the player is pushed away from direct combat entirely and focused just on getting to Abby and ending her.

    Then the perspective switches to Abby, and she gets the reverse treatment, she starts with penalties like Ellie has that shrink as Ellie picks off more and more of her friends until she storms the theater with no penalties at all and beats Ellie bloody and leaves her lying in a pool of her own blood.

    Then the final bit, where Ellie goes off to get closure and has maximum penalties; the whole sequence with the slavers would be almost purely stealth and hyper-focused on finding Abby, with the mechanics pushing the player to ignore and sneak past the slavers, and dreading a direct conflict.

    It's probably not a perfect solution, and a lot of its quality would depend greatly on the implementation specifics, but something along these lines would greatly help with the specific issue here.
     
  8. Viewtiful

    Viewtiful Groundskeeper

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    So this discussion has raised a broader point for me about games in general - to what degree do players view themselves as the protagonist in a game, rather than someone separate controlling the character? I ask because a lot of the criticism about the game (as well as other violent games with some kind of anti-violence theme) is centred around the idea that the game is condemning the player for the violence being committed, and trying to make you feel guilty, rather than the characters. Personally I never felt this condemnation, the game is Ellie's story, not the player's. It's different in a game like Fallout New Vegas, where you're explicitly role-playing as a character you created and making decisions, but The Last of Us is never a role-playing game where the player is supposed to have agency separate from the characters they're controlling, Ellie (and Abby, and Joel) is a fully-realised character with a personality completely independent of anything the player decides. The idea that I should feel guilty about anything Ellie does - or that the game designers want me to - is as alien as feeling guilty over the actions of a protagonist in a book or film.

    EDIT: I actually agree with a lot of your comments on the gameplay, Agayek. I think one of the consistent failings of narrative-driven games, including The Last of Us, is that there's often not enough thought put into how the gameplay mechanics should shift as the narrative shifts - it really is a weakness of the game that the basic gameplay never truly changes at any point to reflect the changes in the characters' mindset. I'm not actually sure if any game does that well, or even at all though.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2020
  9. Meerkats

    Meerkats Auror

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    This is not how it worked for me at all. By the last act of the game I was sick and tired of the combat and killing, at this point I'd already turned the difficulty all the way down and was trying my hardest to avoid combat at all costs. Every time I would get caught my heart would sink at having to go through another combat section. I had recorded some of my gameplay and watching back at multiple points during gameplay I had put down my controller and refuse to play during certain combat sections. The themes of the game absolutely clicked on every level for me, especially during the climax which had a very visceral impact on me.

    This is definitely a valid interpretation but you could also say that killing Mel was a moment of reflection that forced Eliie to look back at all the other people she's killed. Maybe some of them were pregnant too, the vast majority of them were definitely innocent. It tracks too because later she says she's willing to give up on finding Abby and it would be unrealistic to have that be because of a single pregnant lady.

    This would be really interesting, would love to play a game like this.
     
  10. Agayek

    Agayek The Cursed Child DLP Supporter

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    To be clear, the "feeling guilty" thing isn't what I've been trying to say at all, guilt, or any particular emotion really, doesn't really play into it at all. It's that gameplay and narrative butt heads and the conflict between them drags the end result down.

    The problem with violent games preaching anti-violence isn't that it's preaching anti-violence or berating the player for their actions. It's that it's preaching anti-violence and preaching violence at the same time.

    To try to explain what I mean by that:

    We've got the narrative where it shows the real, human cost of Ellie's quest for vengeance and what it does to her psychologically. How she gets ground down and, ultimately, gives everything for her vengeance and in the end is left with nothing because of it. It's a pretty clear condemnation of the cycle of hatred and vengeance.

    And at the same time, the game is ~20 hours of engaging game mechanics centered around having fun brutally murdering hundreds of people. It... embraces the violence wholeheartedly. It shoves it front and center at the player and creates positive feedback loops wherein engaging in violence rewards the player (most obviously with loot but more subtly by both having quality mechanics that players engage with, creating fun whole-cloth, as well as reducing the difficulty of the remainder of that play sequence, and by extension creating positive feelings). And this, functionally, glorifies the violence condemned by the narrative.

    At the most basic level, that's the core conflict in using a violent game to condemn violence; by its very nature, the game has to be engaging to play to retain the audience, and for something to be engaging it must engender positive feelings. It's extremely difficult to push someone to feel negatively about something you've been conditioning them to feel positively about for a dozen hours, and the attempt ends up creating a dissonance between the message of the gameplay and the message of the narrative, weakening both.
     
  11. Viewtiful

    Viewtiful Groundskeeper

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    Oh, I'm aware that's not the argument you're making, it's just something I've seen commonly elsewhere regarding this game, and I also remember it being a common criticism of Spec Ops, that the game is somehow actively judging the player to be a bad person for playing the game.
     
  12. Agayek

    Agayek The Cursed Child DLP Supporter

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    Fair enough. In that case, to more directly address the question, the reason people feel guilty/feel like they should feel guilty is because of the interactive nature of video games. Some people simply have difficult separating out the player avatar and the player; after all, the avatar doesn't actually have any agency, it moves as the player wills, doing as the player wills, for as long as it's within the limitations laid out by the game engine.

    And this becomes more and more entrenched the more the player is able to do things the avatar clearly wouldn't do given the option. In many games, you can trigger dialogue and scripted moments with NPCs, only to then run off and start jumping on the furniture while they exposit whatever. There's no conceivable universe where, for example, Gordon Freeman, PhD and supersoldier, would be jumping around like a lunatic firing random trash around with the gravity gun while Eli Vance is trying to explain how to stop the Combine, except the one where I'm controlling him.

    The level of immersion given by the interactive nature of games makes it much harder for many people to maintain an emotional distance from the protagonist, and so tend to take attacks on the protagonist as attacks on themselves.
     
  13. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    The main takeaway for me is that TLOU2 is a great game, but a horrible sequel.

    There's many reasons for this.

    1. The gameplay is essentially the exact same with a couple extra features, not enough to meaningfully differentiate it from the original.

    2. The music is good, but not *as* good.

    3. The established characters.
    Essentially, TLOU's characters are cannibalized in order to create a supposedly meaningful narrative. Works as a standalone, was always going to disappoint fans of the first game.

    4. Bizarre decisions when it comes to sequence order.
    Frankly, expecting people to be able to sympathize with Abby in any way when we get to play as her immediately after she brutally kills Joel is absurd and was never going to work.
    What they should have done is have the Abby sequences be early in the game, giving us time to get to know her and her friends in a fairly even field, leading up to Joel's eventual death in the second or third act of the story, at which point we already sympathize with Abby and can see her point of view without wearing hate blinders. Abby is essentially Joel by the end, which is funny in a way but never gets used.
    .

    5. Sacrifice of plot for the sake of a "moral".
    Ellie murdering actually unironically hundreds of people including all the witnesses and accomplishes to Joel's murder only to let Abby go, without having had any growth or character moment or gotten to know her or literally anything to explain why, is ridiculous.

    "Revenge bad mmkay?" Sure, yeah.
     
  14. Meerkats

    Meerkats Auror

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    Haven't seen a lot of people talk about the music but you're totally right. It really feels like they didn't get the original composer back and all music was done by a in house music composer. It's all either a remix of a song from the first game or a very slow acoustic piece.

    The tension making music is absolutely top tier though, in those horror moments the game is without peer.
     
  15. Lamora

    Lamora Definitely Not Batman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I didn't play the game, but I did watch a full no-commentary playthrough start to finish, so I feel qualified to speak:

    TLOU 2 is a good but not great game, but a god-awful sequel, as has been previously said.

    Regarding the hate: it's absolutely correct that a whole lot of it is just unwarranted outrage, and comes from a premeditated decision to hate this game.

    However, there are some significant criticisms I've taken away from a few reviewers that were pretty valid.

    Pacing and order of segments:
    One reviewer (cr1tikal) brought up the fact that TLOU 2 had all the components to be a better game than it was - they were just arranged in the complete wrong order, to the point where they were trying to make you feel bad about killing a character as Ellie 6 hours after you had done it. It had the scenes and segments to create empathy with Abby and her crew - it just put them in the wrong order.

    Instead of just being flat half Ellie and then half Abby, the two stories in Seattle should have been interwoven all the way up their confrontation in the theater.

    Show one of Abby's friends, humanize her in an Abby segment, then have Ellie kill them off would have been an easily repeatable pattern that would have slowly intersected their paths, where Abby was slowly built up from the bottom of the players esteem as Joel's killer, and Ellie brought down from the top of being our beloved daughter figure and righteous revenge figure, to a middle point where the player would be unsure who exactly was the one to support any more.

    Instead, leaving Ellie's segment on a cliffhanger while the player impatiently played through Abby's segments in order to find out what happened completely misses that weight, and makes Abby's segment start mostly dead on arrival. You meet characters you already know Ellie will kill (if you even remember their names and scenes), and it's all the more jarring and alienating to see Abby being given all the opportunities to be a hero and be built up in comparison to Ellie, who you are forced as a player to lead down a road where she becomes steadily more bloodstained and irredeemable.

    All and all, most of the feeling of Abby being rammed down our throats as the 'good' character and our initially more favored character being scolded relentlessly is a consequence of the story's pacing, not content.

    That being said, it's not like bad pacing is an 'aw-shucks' error for a studio and game series that is lionized on it's ability to deliver a moving narrative. The pacing is bad and they should feel bad, because they've done way better and have no excuse to have fucked this particular bit up.

    Gender politics, etc.:
    Anyone who complains about this literally isn't worth listening to, full stop.

    Gameplay:
    It's worth saying that the original gameplay of TLOU wasn't really a wheel that needed reinventing, but god did it get tired over the course of 20 hours in TLOU 2, where little to nothing was change besides UI. They didn't make it worse by any stretch of the imagination, but the middle sections and extra fights between the action cutscenes and actual plot fights (which I will pause to say were very very good) dragged some serious ass.

    Conclusion to the narrative, and what I would have changed:
    This ties into the complaints about pacing.

    I am definitely one of the people who sneers whenever 'ludonarrative dissonance' gets thrown around and used wrong 99% of the time, but in this case, it does have a place.

    TLOU delivered a message at the end of the story that even in the face of a possible cure to the literal apocalypse, personal connections are still more compelling than ideals. Joel knows exactly how bad what he's doing is, and does it anyway. The gameplay supports this narrative - you go from moving Ellie like a package to dismantling one of the sole lights of hope left in the post-apocalypse on the basis that her life for the world has become too high a price.

    TLOU 2 was primed to go two main ways from there - either reinforce that message father to daughter, or refute it as the father's sins denied. In the end, the game failed to do either.

    The hundreds of mooks Abby and Ellie kill frankly don't matter. Really. They're window dressing on the game to give it length and to make it so your resources aren't free - if you removed almost everything but the main plot fights, it wouldn't stretch credulity for the world at all.

    The most important bit is how the game treats the side characters that Ellie and Abby are supposed to care about, as they represent their remaining ties to morality and decency: the way it uses them supports neither way.

    The pacing ruins the narrative weight the deaths and abandonments on either Abby or Ellie's side would have had. They built poorly, and then are treated like nothing in comparison to the Winds of Plot That Needs To Happen, and that's what they become.

    Ellie, it is revealed, is just barely in the beginning of reconciling with Joel after finding out the truth when he is killed. This is revealed at the literal end of game, instead of the beginning, where it absolutely should have been - the best place for this to be would have been right before his death, to give a sense of weight to what was lost instead of a cheap shock. From this point, all Ellie has left is her friend, newly her girlfriend who's she's got high and fucked once, and the community.

    From the time they leave the community to the point where Dina's throat is arbitrarily not slit, every ounce of tension is plastered on like a fucking brick-layer without an ounce of subtlety or actual weight. Tommy is off by himself, but he'll be fine. Dina, you're pregnant, I guess you should go home. I'm immune to the apocalypse disease - wow, damn that's crazy.

    The acting is excellent. What the actors were given to work with sucks ass.

    If they'd wanted to go with reinforcing the message of darkness feeding darkness and personal connection trumping ideals OR rejecting it, it should have gone like this:

    Abby, after finding out Ellie has killed her pregnant friend and Isaac, on the brink of becoming a proper hero and escaping her bloodthirstiness, absolutely succumbs back into it and slits Dina's throat right in front of Ellie. This serves the dual purpose of making it Ellie's fault both that Dina is dead and that Abby has returned to being a villain on the brink of being otherwise. If the narratives had been interwoven instead of half and half, both of these losses would actually be meaningful. This serves the purpose also of passing the thrust of the narrative back into Ellie's hands.

    Abby spares Ellie again, this time out of cruelty instead of mercy. Ellie and Tommy survive and crawl back to Seattle. Ellie is a ghost of herself - no idyllic life on a farm here. She is where Joel was at the beginning of TLOU.

    Tommy finds her, and lets her know Abby has been spotted where she was. Revenge is the only thing she has left, so she goes. Abby is with Lev, searching for the Fireflies still and a sense of meaning after she has also lost everything. Abby is in the slave camp in search of some heard of clue to finding them, and is again captured.

    The ending sequence happens much the same. The main difference is in what message is being pushed.

    If they are reinforcing TLOU's message:

    Abby must die. Not because she deserves it more than Ellie in any sense, but because Ellie cannot narratively speaking do anything else. She finishes killing Abby, and Lev at some point wakes up - not in view of the body. He tells Ellie they were looking for the Fireflies and found a clue. Ellie lies and says Abby didn't make it, and they both depart the camp in search of the Fireflies and some meaning.

    This fully completes Ellie's narrative and sets her up for TLOU 3, or serves as a point to leave the story indefinitely. Not only has it reinforced TLOU 1, but both Ellie and Joel's narratives have come full circle - Ellie is once again seeking the Fireflies, but now she is in Joel's place - transporting a child who she has lied to about something that would alienate them entirely if they knew, having lost everything but a vain hope that something of meaning could be accomplished. Abby, in turn, has taken the place of Marlene. Ellie is her both her father's daughter and her own self, having come to stand in the very shoes she rejected Joel in. A reinforcement of this message would be if she somehow completely avoided saving the slave camp on the way, mirroring Joel's destruction of the hospital.

    If they are rejecting TLOU's message:

    Abby and Ellie have their fight. A good gameplay device here might be to switch between characters every time one lands a blow: this would be a brutal mirror of the game's own story. The player, if they support one side over the other, want to strike the enemy - but when they do, they become them. Suddenly, to play the character they want, they have to hurt them. There is no striking out without becoming what you strike out at.

    This becomes a bloody, miserable fight. Perhaps you start with the flashbacks of Joel's death and Abby's father's death, and their friends, at the beginning, mirroring both of their desires for vengeance - but as the fight progresses, each character begins flashing back to the more tender moments - spaceships, guitars, the memories of love rather than hate and vengeance.

    Eventually, both collapse from emotional and physical exhaustion.

    They awaken on the boat at the same times, speeding away - the other former slaves might be here, or it might be just Lev. Lev, either by getting the slaves' help, or all by himself, has dragged both characters to safety as the slave camp burns behind them, having awoken without realizing that Ellie and Abby were fighting eachother.

    Lev speaks about going to meet the Fireflies. As one, Ellie and Abby meet eyes. The weight of both of their stories builds in a charged moment -

    - and Lev speaks, excited about possibly working for a good cause, and both Ellie and Abby surrender: redeemed not by themselves, but by the next generation. By Lev, a trans boy who from childhood rejected a dogmatic and violent doctrine from the very beginning - paralleled to the paths of revenge both Abby and Ellie were unable to escape.

    Ellie agrees that the Fireflies sound good, and Abby doesn't refute it. There's some sort of conversation exchange where it's clear that Ellie and Abby are certainly not friends, they are willing to come together in order to not hand the violent cycle they were trapped in to Lev. Revenge begets revenge endlessly until both sides agree to lay down their swords for the higher ideal of peace.

    They speed off into the mist and a possible TLOU 3.
     
  16. AutumnSouls

    AutumnSouls Muggle

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    ...But you like Joel who practically admits to ambushing and killing innocent people in the first game? That's more cowardly, crueler, and evil than anything Abby ever did.
     
  17. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    High Score:
    2,296
    So I finished this in the early hours this morning, and I'm still making up my mind on a few points. Some things are, to my mind, inarguable; it's technically incredible, brilliantly acted and written in most respects. It's also very bleak, and bloody, and depressing, and will absolutely not be to everyone's tastes.

    Onto more subjective stuff, and things I'm not decided about...

    For some context, I didn't play the first game when it came out, and only really got round to it recently - I actually finished it while in lockdown. So I haven't had years to think about the events and the characters, and how life would go for them in the aftermath. I also didn't get especially attached to either Ellie or Joel. I was engaged with them and the story in the moment, but they didn't make an impression with me the way that, say, Max and Chloe from Life is Strange did, or indeed the way they seem to have done with an awful lot of the fanbase. Therefore, there was no sort of external element to how I felt about some of the events of the game; shocking, disturbing, sad, etc etc in the moment, sure, but something like the catalyst for Ellie's journey just didn't devastate me the way it seems to have a lot of people, for better or worse. More mechanically, I played through on a lighter difficulty setting, which may have contributed somewhat to my view of the gameplay.

    On which note, gameplay is pretty good. No problems with it, but nothing that I really loved either, bar a few clear setpieces (often chase sequences). There were times when I wished Naughty Dog had taken a less realistic approach to matters than they did, particulalry with regard to enemies being able to spot my companions, something they couldn't do in the first game but seemed perfectly able to do here (to be fair, it only happened a handful of times, but it was still annoying when I was clearing out an area perfectly well only for things to descend into a shoot-out that used up half my resources through no fault of my own), but my main issue was a few segments that crossed over to frustrating rather than satisfyingly challenging. As I say though, I'm aware that, playing on a lighter difficulty setting, it might be more to do with the overall easier gameplay making difficulty spikes more obvious than they would have been otherwise - I'm thinking particularly of encounters involving dogs and stalkers (seriously, fuck both of them).

    Narratively, I didn't particularly have any problems with the story choices in and of themselves...but the number of them, and the order in which they were presented? Definitely. By the end of the game, I desperately wanted things to stop, not so much because of the characters various emotional traumas, but because this comes close to Lord of the Rings style ending fatigue. At about half past midnight, I decided to press on with the game, thinking that I was pretty much at the end, only to find the credits not rolling for about another hour and a half - and sure, I could have stopped, but at the same time, I just couldn't quite believe that there was ever much more to go. I was just kind of bored, and numb to the whole thing, which seems like the exact opposite of what they were going for.

    Named characters in TLOU2: Ellie, Joel, Tommy, Dina, Jesse, JJ, Maria, Abby, Owen, Mel, Manny, Jordan, Leah, Isaac, Yara, Lev, Norah. Half of those characters are killed, usually brutally, and with the possible exception of Abby and Lev, none of them are happy; Ellie may well have lost everything she had with Dina (I was certain this was the case, but reading up on it there's a few signs that seem to point more towards her and Dina at least being on amicable terms, if not necessarily back together), Abby has lost all but one of her friends and family, Tommy is half crippled, Lev has lost his sister and had to kill his mother, and might well blame himself, with more than a little justification...the civil war in Seattle seems to conclude with both sides basically wiping each other out, and both groups are just assholes anyway. It doesn't help that a lot of this is crammed into the latter half of the game, rather than spread out evenly; Ellie's sections in Seattle are dark, certainly, and get darker as things go on, but there are lighter touches to them that make them feel less relentless; while those touches are there in Abby's sections too, they're undermined by the fact that you already know that most of the time, they're with people who are going to be dead not long later.

    I'm also undecided on whether Abby's sections are really necessary from a narrative point of view. I understand the attempt to make her sympathetic, or at least understandable, and I don't really disagree with it - but I really didn't need much more than the scene explaining her being the surgeon's daughter. After that, you've got it really; Joel killed her father, and possibly doomed humanity into the bargain. You don't need more than that to pick up the fact that she and Ellie have basically identical motivations, so a lot of her section could have been trimmed...but it does do good character work, and had it been spread out over the game rather than one long chunk midway through, I don't think I'd have as much issue with it. It definitely fucks the pacing though, leaving the Abby vs Ellie cliffhanger hanging for about six hours while you go through interacting with a bunch of people who, again, we've already killed, and not really worrying about the scrapes Abby herself gets into because you know she's going to be fine.

    It's not so much the bleakness and tragedy that I mind; I mentioned Life is Strange earlier, which is one of my favourite games of the last few years, and I know that has some similar criticism levelled at it over the endings - a choice of either using time travel to wipe the last week from existence and letting your best friend/possibly girlfriend die in a school shooting, arguably rendering the entire game moot, or sparing her and letting a small town get wiped out, vs a brutal revenge quest where ultimately you don't do what you set out to do, and lose more than you originally had along the way - but it hit different in TLOU2, I think again, largely due to it being so drawn out.

    I don't know. I'd still recommend the game, on the whole, assuming you've got a strong stomach and don't have an inherent issue with such dark content, but I don't think I'll be replaying it. And I'm not sure I've got the will to play any DLC, should it be announced.
     
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