After the tremendous success of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us in 2013, work began almost immediately on a sequel. The follow-up to one of the most decorated story-driven video games spent six years in development, so when it finally hit the shelves last summer, the gaming world could not play it fast enough. Like its predecessor, The Last of Us: Part II has won numerous “Game of the Year” titles, and rightfully so. We have never seen a game share the virtues of empathy and compassion with such intricacy and sophistication, and it is the game we need right now.
The first The Last of Us told the story of a smuggler, Joel, tasked with escorting a child across a zombie-ridden United States. The child, Ellie, had been bitten by the undead and had never turned. A doctor on the West Coast believed his team could perform a procedure on her that would allow them to develop a vaccine for the zombie disease. Upon reaching the doctor’s location, Joel learns that the procedure would kill Ellie. Unable to let Ellie go, Joel takes her back while she is under anesthesia and kills anyone who tries to stop their escape.
The Last of Us: Part II takes place five years later. The game primes the player to expect a revenge fantasy. Before the player has much of a chance to get their bearings, Joel is tricked by an intense, muscular woman named Abby into hiding out with other members of the Washington Liberation Front (WLF), a sort of paramilitary organization. Moments after entering, Abby attacks Joel. She beats and tortures the character players spent dozens of hours with in the first game, and she does so just long enough for Ellie to burst in and witness the gruesome killing blow.
Eager to depart before being caught by anyone else, the WLF members let Ellie live. Overcome with shock, grief, and rage, Ellie vows vengeance on the people who killed her father figure — and especially on Abby.
At this point in the game, just a few hours in, most players likely are with Ellie. Nobody expected the protagonist of the first The Last of Us to end so early, so abruptly, and so helplessly. We have…