Updated: Jul 19, 2020
In my review of The Last of Us Part II, I awarded it a score of 10/10, and proclaimed that this is my new favorite game of all time. The reasons behind this can not be explained without spoilers, so with that said, here is your warning this post contains spoilers.
If you want to read the spoiler free review, check it out here
Final spoiler warning
Like most players, after playing the first game. I had a connection to Joel and Ellie.
Joel made a decision at the end of the first game to save Ellie, and in doing so, he killed many innocent people that were trying to help humanity. It was a decision that can be taken in many ways, but in reality, he did what most people would do in that world: to protect someone they love.
This decision is the catalyst for the second game.
Sadly, there were leaks that came out about the game a couple of months before release, and unfortunately, it got spoiled for me.
Or so I thought.
I was told Joel died. Of course, being attached to Joel, I did not want this outcome, but it’s not my story to tell. I assumed—based on the trailers—that Joel will be with you for most of the story and then die towards the end. This was not the case at all. Naughty Dog went straight for your heart less, than two hours into the game, with a brutal murder scene, where Joel is killed by Laura Bailey’s character (Abby), while Ellie is powerless and forced to watch.
It was a hard scene to watch and brought some tears to my eyes.
This takes place after you were given control of Abby and get saved by Joel and his brother Tommy; it was unexpected. Even knowing he was not going to make it, and that Abby is going to be the one to kill him, I was not expecting it this early in the game.
As you watch in horror, Ellie is screaming that she will kill them all, but they do not try to kill her or Tommy; they killed Joel and that was it. At this point, motives were unclear, but as the player, you know Joel has done a lot of bad, and you wonder which event it was that brought him to an end. Tommy does not want Ellie to go after Abby, so he goes by himself. Ellie goes out to track them both down with the help of her friend/love interest Dina. She is following leads and killing everyone in her way on her quest to find and kill Abby. I can only speak for myself, but as the player, I understood Ellie's motivations and I couldn’t wait to catch up to Abby and square off with her.
During the game, there are numerous flashbacks to help fill in the gaps from the first game. We see Joel teaching Ellie to swim (finally), teaching her how to play guitar, and ultimately just acting like a father and daughter. At the end of the first game, we didn’t know if Ellie knew what really happened, we can only guess. As this game was playing out in the flashbacks, we see there is tension between her and Joel, which ultimately ends up with Ellie confronting Joel and getting the truth. Joel tells her everything and tells Ellie he would do it all again the same way if he had another chance. It was a really powerful scene to watch. Ellie tells Joel that she is done with him, but we find out at the very end (which ill get back to), that Ellie decided she will work on forgiving him and move past it.
Back to the present day, on Ellie's hunt for Abby, you never seem to run into her, and you get some dialogue from people that really makes you wonder what Abby is up to. You killed a lot of the people that were present that night of Joel's death—though not the killer herself—but because of circumstances going on, you need to go back home. Dina, who has been fighting alongside you, has become sick and reveals to you that she is pregnant. The father is Jesse, another friend of Ellie's, that shows up to help you on your mission. Jesse finds Tommy and then everyone is reunited in an old movie theater they have been using as a camp.
Before you can head out, Abby shows up to the theater.
This was it, the final showdown the game has been building to. Abby has Tommy pinned down at gunpoint and then shoots and kills Jesse. She turns her gun to Ellie, and when my heart was about to beat out of my chest, finally ready to kill Abby for what she had done to Joel, the game flashes back to 4 years earlier. It’s revealed that Abby was a Firefly, the so called "good guys" of the first game, and her dad was a doctor with them. He was not just any doctor: he was the doctor that was going to be performing Ellie's surgery to try to make a vaccine. He was one of the doctors that Joel murdered in order to save Ellie. This was a turning point for both Abby and me as a player. It was from that moment that Abby decided she was going to get vengeance, and take out Joel, and then it was when I finally understood her motivations.
After that flashback, the game switches perspectives and now puts you in control of Abby, after she had killed Joel. You are replaying everything, but this time from Abby's perspective.
I was always wondering what she was doing, but as the player, did I really need to see it? When I realized that I was going to be Abby for a while, I audibly said “fuck this,” and then took a break from the game.
My inner monologue was saying "Abby killed Joel, I don’t want to play as her." Then I remembered her motivations and I started to think; Abby had her father stripped away from her on a selfish decision made by someone else.
I get it, I understand, and then I wanted to see where they take her story. After picking the game back up, I still didn't like Abby, but I understood, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the theater and hopefully be Ellie and take her out. Now, this is why the game is a 10/10 for me. Joel is a character I loved, Abby is a character that took him away, so therefore I hated her.
You start to get to know her and you see she got nothing from killing Joel. By hunting and preparing for this, she has lost and missed out on the last four years of her life, and then the actual act of killing Joel had caused some issues with her friends. Abby is a part of the WLF (Wolves), and they have an ongoing feud with another faction, a religious group called the Seraphites (they call them Scars). Abby is captured by the Seraphites and is about to be hung. There are two children Seraphites that end up saving Abby. The two children are Yara and Lev. Both of them, and Abby, don't trust each other, but they know they are in this together and they fight for a way out. They get to safety, and Abby takes a look at Yara’s arm, which was broken in a very brutal way during her rescue. Abby leaves them and goes back to her friends but she can't get them off her mind. The next morning she goes back for them and saves them from groups of Seraphites that are hunting them and brings the kids back to her friends so Yara can get medical attention.
Abby sets off with Lev to go get supplies from the hospital to save Yara. The character development that happens is unreal. Abby is such a great, believable character and is portrayed spectacularly by Laura Bailey. As these two were interacting with each other, and learning about each other, I really started to like Abby.
With Abby, I felt we were treated to better gameplay, too. More interesting events seemed to happen around her, including one of the hardest, and coolest, boss fight in the series.
When we are in the hospital, we make it to the lower levels, where no one has been since the outbreak. It's here where we run into the largest infected we have ever encountered. It was challenging and scary while trying to take it down, and it may have been the most heart pounding moment of the series.
By the end of it, it was clear to me that while no one is this game is a good person, Abby's motives were a lot more clear and pure than most. She wanted to avenge her father—who was innocent—and Ellie wanted justice for Joel, but the decision that Joel made that led us here was a selfish one.
Abby's father was innocent. Joel was not.
It got to the point where I couldn’t decide which character I liked better. This game did the unthinkable to me, and made me like a character that killed a character I loved, almost as much, or if not more than, the original characters. When I finally got back to the theater, I was almost rooting for Abby over Ellie, which was just incredible to me. The way they developed this character and told her story really made me feel for her and want her to live. Ultimately as Abby, you beat Ellie, but do not kill her. You leave her beaten and bloody and you both walk away. The game then goes forward in time; Dina had her baby and she and Ellie are living together, raising the baby they named JJ, which you can assume the J’s are for Joel and Jesse. It seems that Ellie is happy, and at this stage, I was thinking the game is going to get a happy ending. Ellie and Dina have their baby and Abby and Lev are alive, roll credits. Of course, it can't end happily, and it ends in such a haunting way.
Tommy—who has managed to escape death countless times—comes to Ellie and tells her that he knows where Abby is and she needs to go after her and finish it. Ellie tells him no and Tommy leaves angrily. It’s revealed that Ellie is struggling with PTSD from Joel's death, but she decides she has to finish this and go after Abby. Both Dina and me, the player, were begging Ellie not to go. There’s no way it ends happily.
One of these powerful characters is going to die and I don't want it to be either of them. Ellie ventures back out and then we take control of Abby. Abby has been searching for remaining Fireflies, and right when she finds out where they are, she and Lev are captured by a group called Rattlers. Playing as Ellie, you save Abby and Lev from the Rattlers. At this point, both characters are extremely weak. Ellie was injured while infiltrating the Rattlers base and Abby has been abused and malnourished from being captured. Abby has let her anger go and tells Ellie to follow her to a way out. Ellie follows, but she is unable to let it go, and forces Abby to fight her. Abby refuses until Ellie threatens to kill Lev unless she fights. There is no player choic: you have to play as Ellie and fight Abby.
I couldn’t believe how torn I was as a player. Ellie is this character that I have loved, but Abby is a new character that I loved as well. It’s truly a testament to the storytelling ability of Naughty Dog that I felt this torn on these two characters. In this fight, Abby, in desperation, bites off two of Ellie's fingers, which becomes very important at the very end. Ellie has Abby beaten, and is drowning her; it's at this point that we see the first happy flashback of Joel. Joel is sitting on the porch playing guitar. After seeing this memory, Ellie lets up on Abby, and tells her to go. Abby and Lev go off to the Fireflies and Ellie heads back home. When Ellie arrives home the house is empty. Dina is gone along with all her belongings. The only room left untouched was Ellie's room. Ellie goes to her room and picks up her guitar. Throughout the whole game, there were segments to pick up a guitar and play. It was a major character building moment for Ellie and it was how she remained close to Joel after his passing. Now she tries to play the song Joel taught her and is unable since she is missing two fingers. We are now treated to a final flashback. It's the night before Joel died. Ellie comes to visit him, and her and Joel talk; she tells Joel she is going to work on forgiving him. They never had this chance, since the next day Ellie will have to watch Joel die.
Ellie is a character that lost everything. Joel was taken from her, but the rest was lost due to her inability to let things go. Dina and JJ, and her ability to play guitar, were things that she didn't have to lose.
If she only would have stayed her life could have been happy.
The game ends with Ellie walking off into the woods...where is Ellie going? I hope she goes to find Dina, but it's all about how you interpret her as a character, to decide where she is going. As I have stated here and in my review, to me, this game is a masterpiece. The gameplay is perfect, and the way they told the story was the real reason that it was such an amazing game to me. I never would have thought they could tell a story about Joel getting killed and make me love his killer as much as they did. The talent that these writers and designers have is unfathomable. The performances from all the voice actors are the best I have ever seen.
To me, this is as good as games can get from every aspect. No game is perfect, but this is as close to perfect it can be. There is no doubt that this is a 10/10 and I can't wait to talk more about it with everyone. This needs to be played by everyone, and this game is the definition of a system seller. If you don't have a PS4 this is the game to buy one for.
For more reviews, be sure to check out my thoughts on Mosaic, Jay and Silent Bob Mall Brawl, Spongebob: Patty Pursuit, and my new podcast: Game Bites, the latest entry in The Spinchoon Podcast Network (check out Flix & a Six here). As always, check us out on Twitter @TheSpinchoon and I’m @Big_Broons.