So you've finished The Last of Us 2, and now you want to talk about it

Dr. Mel

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May 11, 2020
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That's the boat I'm in. Can't be more clear that this thread will discuss all story elements of The Last of Us 2.

The short version: This is one of the grimmest pieces of media I've ever experienced. Almost laughably so (I found myself laughing at points because of how completely dark the events were getting). I almost didn't want to keep playing the game and had it gone on much further I maybe wouldn't have. It was disturbing. And it will remain a challenge for other game makers to meet this level of belevability in acting and script writing (lookn' at you, Japan (kidding (kinda)))

Some further thoughts:

I luckily avoided all spoilers save for the fact that the game continues on when you think it's actually over (yes it does) and that in general people found the plot controversial. I still don't know what was controversial about the plot. Was it that you spend at least 50% of it as Abby? Or that you end up fighting characters you play as in a kind of dissociative manner that makes you wonder wtf you're doing as the player of this game?

There's a LOT to be said in this about L U D O N A R R A T I V E and how you're not inhabiting the role of a protagonist nor are you inserting yourself as the decision maker -- you're simply doing as you're told by game's script. This idea was touched on much more directly by the original Bioshock, but here it's a painful exploration that isn't just reserved as a final twist moment. The characters in this game are all motivated at turns by revenge, and the starting action for each of those moments is something YOU did as a player, either in this game or the first.

The game really was tough ride. I regularly cried, partly because I'm still recovering from the loss of my dog and partly because this shit is really that sad. Joel's loss and his entire character arc is profoundly sad. His death was tramatic and Ellie indeed becomes traumatized. There's no clean ending here. They fake you out with one and then change it to an ending that's about living with unsettled grief. It almost strains believability that these characters find any strength to continue living.

I'm not even touching on the gameplay because it's clearly in the backseat of this game's discussion (at least it is for me) -- it's good. It's gory and not too punishing, but also quite challenging if you try to be stealthy and avoid killing all (well, except one) dogs. I'm half tempted to play the game again, but I'm not sure I'll ever have the stomach to sit through all of the cutscenes again. Not for a long time.
 
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Dr. Mel

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Well NOW I wanna play it.
You haven't at all? I got a lot out of this experience not knowing just how far they were willing to go. I'd personally recommend not reading any further details, but that's up to you.
 
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Roager

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Problem is, I won't have the chance to play it any time soon, maybe ever. If and when that time comes, I may not be able to dig up old discussions about it. I've missed a lot of interesting thoughts that way, so I decided spoilers weren't really my main concern.
 

Rasori

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May 11, 2020
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I loved every minute of it. The gameplay is much better than the first game and allows for more freedom in both navigating the world, and the way you approach enemies.

The AI is more complex and makes for fun challenging encounters, but they are also more human than they've ever been, which carries more weight internally when you take them out, specifically the dog encounters.

Graphically, I mean, it's nothing short of a technical masterpiece. I don't know how they managed to get it looking this good on an original PS4 but they did it. I took screenshots every 15 or so minutes which made the game longer than it probably would have been, but it was worth it.

Characters are all great, especially the new ones Lev and Yara, and yes even Abby, I understand the hate, but I don't necessarily agree with it. It really sucks, I wish it didn't happen, but actions have consequences, we all know this. You don't get to walk away from what Joel did in the last game and not expect to be hunted down for it.

But yeah overall, it's a fantastic game that is everything you could want from a game like this. I'm hoping it gets a 4K/60fps bump on PS5 because it deserves it. But yeah I have no idea what Part 3 could even be about now. I had a theory but then that went out the window in the epilogue so I guess we'll see in 6 years.
 
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Dr. Mel

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Jim Sterling recently released a less favorable take on the game, or at least it's a discrimination between this game and other pieces of media that it has been compared to. Some people REALLY gushed hard about this game, and even if it's some after-glow honeymoon shit, I'm not too worried about hyperbolic praise as much as I'm interested in the reception of this game's oppressive plot.

For my part, I do think this narrative is flawed and to Jim's point videogames do tend to have weaker writing than books, movies and TV. But I do think some of the details are worth praising very much so in a microcosm. I had mentioned in the Quick Posts about the scene exploring Joel's home after he's gone and how real they make that feel by flexing one of their hallmark skills: creating lived in spaces. It was a remarkably impressive feat of artistry. Jim also goes on about how Neil Druckman didn't receive some criticism on social media very well, and that's a fair point -- it's also not a point I care about. Social media and too many of the people who self flagellate by using it constantly can go blow my goat. Jim's point about crunch stands, though, as this game is a product of abused labor. It's worth repeating that fact.

So, if people are wondering, what then are the flaws with the plot? I think they don't really land the ending. It felt like the plot came in for one or two landings then aborted not so much because they wanted to surprise the player but because those may have been actual remnants of aborted endings. I could be wrong about that, but it felt to me like a story that very nearly painted itself into a corner and the final result was tellingly less strong even for all the luck of its success in avoiding anything truly badly written. The story is obsessively revenge based in a manner that feels out of step with the original. It feels like it's trying to be a commentary on revenge but the story doesn't resemble anything relatable aside from the window-dressing of a pandemic (but that's not even a little bit the same as what we're going through, let's be real, folks). It's about cultural revenge between two or three (or four or five?) warring tribes and how an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. I mean, yes. But did we need to be taught that lesson so brutally?

I walked away from TLoU2 deeply affected, but the currency of it -- the lasting impression -- was lacking. Powerful words said about nothing very important. Raw emotion about something casually tragic.
 
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I still don’t agree that video games have worse writing than movies or books, because it fuels a needless narrative that games needs to catch up to them and do what they do instead of doing what video games does best. It’s as silly as that time when I read an opinion Piece in some newspaper that said metal music can’t be considered art the way other genres do. In regards to games, I’d say Silent Hill 2 is an excellent written game, and it works because of its atmosphere and how the horror of that atmoaphere plays into the interactivity which simply couldn’t be replicaftes in something like a film. Like there are so many games one could cite that dispproves this argument.

In regards to Last of Us Part 2, I think the game was a bit long but I really liked it all the same. I think the plot about revenge landed a bit lukewarm on me, mostly because the gameplay forces you to murder tons of people so the message that ”revenge is bad” even in a world where there is no justice is a bit jarring. Not unlike a game like Spec Ops, where the violence you commit is because you genuinely think you are the hero and the game doesn’t show its Hand the way this game does which annoys me. I like it, ans I guess I’m just annoter that Ellie and Joel didn’t get to be happy.
 

Dr. Mel

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May 11, 2020
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I still don’t agree that video games have worse writing than movies or books, because it fuels a needless narrative that games needs to catch up to them and do what they do instead of doing what video games does best. It’s as silly as that time when I read an opinion Piece in some newspaper that said metal music can’t be considered art the way other genres do. In regards to games, I’d say Silent Hill 2 is an excellent written game, and it works because of its atmosphere and how the horror of that atmoaphere plays into the interactivity which simply couldn’t be replicaftes in something like a film. Like there are so many games one could cite that dispproves this argument.
The arguments are actually not in disagreement. What I'm generally saying, and Jim says it too in his video, is that games which try too hard to be a movie fail to be a good game. There are plenty of well written games, they just don't tend to be the big cinematic ones that are trying to be hollywood productions written by people who'd probably rather just write for an actual movie.

Also, even though many games don't include great writing that doesn't mean they can't. I would say Silent Hill 2's premise is great, but its actual writing isn't anything to compare to great literature or film. They don't need to be identical to be comparable. Things like character motivation, depth, the acting and so forth can be directly compared, I'd argue. What Silent Hill 2 is a fun short story, but even though I love it as a game among its peers, game writing and scenario design on the whole has a lot of maturation left to do. The medium and how it's used to express ideas is still developing, even though mechanically many things are set in stone on the gameplay front.
 
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The arguments are actually not in disagreement. What I'm generally saying, and Jim says it too in his video, is that games which try too hard to be a movie fail to be a good game. There are plenty of well written games, they just don't tend to be the big cinematic ones that are trying to be hollywood productions written by people who'd probably rather just write for an actual movie.

Also, even though many games don't include great writing that doesn't mean they can't. I would say Silent Hill 2's premise is great, but its actual writing isn't anything to compare to great literature or film. They don't need to be identical to be comparable. Things like character motivation, depth, the acting and so forth can be directly compared, I'd argue. What Silent Hill 2 is a fun short story, but even though I love it as a game among its peers, game writing and scenario design on the whole has a lot of maturation left to do. The medium and how it's used to express ideas is still developing, even though mechanically many things are set in stone on the gameplay front.
Many games do include great writing, if you don’t think they do then I’d suggest to play more games like Disco Elysium, Planescape, KOTOR 2, Super Paper Mario even, heck even the recent released Persona 5 Royal has some excellent writing in it. As for Silent Hill 2? The writing is absolutely great, everything from the trauma of Angela‘s abuse suffered at the hands of her father, to the reveal of James Sunderland’s murder of his wife is genuinely good storytelling, writing isn’t just dialogue.
It’s the old establishment that has decided that video games can’t be art (like Roger Ebert) compared to films and books, whereas I’m sure the same could be said of film in regards to books. I remember Bill Maher’s dumbass rant about comic booK’s recently, generally mocking people for liking comic books because he doesn’t consider them to be engaging the way his love for books is. In regards to cinematic video games I’d argue that games can be whatever they wanna be about, games are diverse like that, which is also why we get so many good games with good writing.
Just simply cannot agree with you on this one. :)
 
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Roager

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To what extent does "being a good game" necessitate playing directly to the unique characteristics of the medium?

In other words, suppose there's a beautifully executed linear-story game that adopts Hollywood/cinema techniques. Let's say this game measures up to higher-tier movies and TV series from a writing perspective, but the gameplay is minimal or unremarkable. Is it "A Good Game" because it's a game and is good, or is it "A Bad Game" because the game-specific elements are weak? Is there a middle ground, and what does that look like? If it's a bad game but a good thing, what kind of "thing" is it, exactly?

I think this is why people reach for weird terminology like "interactive movie" and "walking simulator." Different games place different emphasis on their story elements and their game elements, but they're all under the videogame umbrella and categorizing this stuff gets complicated.
 
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Dr. Mel

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To what extent does "being a good game" necessitate playing directly to the unique characteristics of the medium?
Agreed, games do not need to fill all of the criteria. They're clearly interactive. Dear Esther isn't a movie, it's much closer to a videogame and it's sold on game consoles... it's a "game". If you can give it praise, then it's a good "game". If we want to get granular about genre and composition, I'm actually all for it but I'm not going to say I care too deeply about it. Other mediums get pretty damn granular, too. It's not a problem for them, it shouldn't be for games, either.

Many games do include great writing
Yeah, I mentioned that. "There are plenty of well written games". I think where we disagree is on the critique about Silent Hill and on the evaluation of art. I enjoy it, the way I enjoy I dunno, John Wick or The Ring or comic book stories as you mentioned in your example, but I wouldn't praise the scenario craft or the writing very highly. The concept is neat and compelling, but it's gimmicky. Gimmicky is fun. Fun things are thin, not to sound too broody about it, but they're inherently trifling. There's a reason all the books taught in school are about depressing shit. It's not because all the teachers are old farts who hate comic books, comic books are older than anyone alive. We're not going to start teaching kids X-Men in middle school one day, though. And it's not that fantasy or fiction can't measure up, the aim of most games and comic books was never to do that. They're pulp fiction works. They're entertainment. And indeed many pieces of fiction, horror, fantasy DO fall into the realm of great literary works -- I just don't think until fairly recently that games had many examples to pick from of this.
 
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Agreed, games do not need to fill all of the criteria. They're clearly interactive. Dear Esther isn't a movie, it's much closer to a videogame and it's sold on game consoles... it's a "game". If you can give it praise, then it's a good "game". If we want to get granular about genre and composition, I'm actually all for it but I'm not going to say I care too deeply about it. Other mediums get pretty damn granular, too. It's not a problem for them, it shouldn't be for games, either.



Yeah, I mentioned that. "There are plenty of well written games". I think where we disagree is on the critique about Silent Hill and on the evaluation of art. I enjoy it, the way I enjoy I dunno, John Wick or The Ring or comic book stories as you mentioned in your example, but I wouldn't praise the scenario craft or the writing very highly. The concept is neat and compelling, but it's gimmicky. Gimmicky is fun. Fun things are thin, not to sound too broody about it, but they're inherently trifling. There's a reason all the books taught in school are about depressing shit. It's not because all the teachers are old farts who hate comic books, comic books are older than anyone alive. We're not going to start teaching kids X-Men in middle school one day, though. And it's not that fantasy or fiction can't measure up, the aim of most games and comic books was never to do that. They're pulp fiction works. They're entertainment. And indeed many pieces of fiction, horror, fantasy DO fall into the realm of great literary works -- I just don't think until fairly recently that games had many examples to pick from of this.
So I guess you ultimately agree with Roger Ebert then? Well that’s fine, ultimately I don’t think you are right and just haven’t played enough good games yet and books are aren’t any less or more entertainment than video games. There is a starking contrast between literary fiction, and fairy tales and genre books. H. C. Andersen wrote several fairytales that at the time were considered entertainment for kids, and even so to this day, but at the same time also offered unique introperspective on the class system of the 19th century, as well as lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. Despite most of his books being considered entertainment they are still held in high regard and are being taught in school. I do know some schools that are starting to into depth with video game storytelling as well, like in the media science classes on any given. university. But even so, just because video games aren’t being taught in school doesn’t make them any less art, or make have any less strong writing, than books and films, we certainly aren’t being taught all aspects of important history, literratur, music, in school.
I think it’s all just old men rambling who can’t see that things are changing, I do agree that video games have only just really started to tip the scales in terms of how well written they can be though.
 

Dr. Mel

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I wouldn't say I agree with Ebert. I thought his point was "games can't be art", which isn't my position. Only that as currently produced, many games until recently are just not well made stories. I feel like I need to clarify I do think some games have very well crafted stories. I think Inside is vastly underrated and under-analyzed, I think the undertones of Majora's Mask that support the surface story are extremely carefully chosen and well made. I could go on if I sit and think about it long enough. My primary point is that as of right now, those constitute the vast exception to the rule of pulpy and tropey stories that make up most of the writing in games. And this isn't even touching on the art of gameplay design or the art of the world assets.

Ebert was just like "nah, mario is a toy". And then I think he later went back on that silly claim.
 
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I wouldn't say I agree with Ebert. I thought his point was "games can't be art", which isn't my position. Only that as currently produced, many games until recently are just not well made stories. I feel like I need to clarify I do think some games have very well crafted stories. I think Inside is vastly underrated and under-analyzed, I think the undertones of Majora's Mask that support the surface story are extremely carefully chosen and well made. I could go on if I sit and think about it long enough. My primary point is that as of right now, those constitute the vast exception to the rule of pulpy and tropey stories that make up most of the writing in games. And this isn't even touching on the art of gameplay design or the art of the world assets.

Ebert was just like "nah, mario is a toy". And then I think he later went back on that silly claim.
His point was that games can’t be art because they are interactive as opposed to film which he feels undermines the medium the means of artistic expression which of course is just silly ignorance, and also dreadfully ironic as he has been quoted on saying “Hardly any movies are art“ a long time ago. He also believes that games can’t properly convey stories of what it means to be human which is of course silly, plenty of games like the aforementioned Silent Hill, Nier etc have done this. Video Games is not that old of a medium, many games back then weren’t story based but there still were quite a few that were which were good. It’s hard to draw comparisons between a medium that hasn’t existed all that long compared to cinema. I just don’t agree with the point that films outclass video games in terms of quality writing, not even going into how many bad movies there are out there, because games do things different from film. I think ultimately boils down to what you’d consider good writing, as I argued before in regards to Silent Hill 2. But yeah, I just agree with you :p
 

RiffRaff

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That's the boat I'm in. Can't be more clear that this thread will discuss all story elements of The Last of Us 2.

The short version: This is one of the grimmest pieces of media I've ever experienced. Almost laughably so (I found myself laughing at points because of how completely dark the events were getting). I almost didn't want to keep playing the game and had it gone on much further I maybe wouldn't have. It was disturbing. And it will remain a challenge for other game makers to meet this level of belevability in acting and script writing (lookn' at you, Japan (kidding (kinda)))

Some further thoughts:

I luckily avoided all spoilers save for the fact that the game continues on when you think it's actually over (yes it does) and that in general people found the plot controversial. I still don't know what was controversial about the plot. Was it that you spend at least 50% of it as Abby? Or that you end up fighting characters you play as in a kind of dissociative manner that makes you wonder wtf you're doing as the player of this game?

There's a LOT to be said in this about L U D O N A R R A T I V E and how you're not inhabiting the role of a protagonist nor are you inserting yourself as the decision maker -- you're simply doing as you're told by game's script. This idea was touched on much more directly by the original Bioshock, but here it's a painful exploration that isn't just reserved as a final twist moment. The characters in this game are all motivated at turns by revenge, and the starting action for each of those moments is something YOU did as a player, either in this game or the first.

The game really was tough ride. I regularly cried, partly because I'm still recovering from the loss of my dog and partly because this shit is really that sad. Joel's loss and his entire character arc is profoundly sad. His death was tramatic and Ellie indeed becomes traumatized. There's no clean ending here. They fake you out with one and then change it to an ending that's about living with unsettled grief. It almost strains believability that these characters find any strength to continue living.

I'm not even touching on the gameplay because it's clearly in the backseat of this game's discussion (at least it is for me) -- it's good. It's gory and not too punishing, but also quite challenging if you try to be stealthy and avoid killing all (well, except one) dogs. I'm half tempted to play the game again, but I'm not sure I'll ever have the stomach to sit through all of the cutscenes again. Not for a long time.
I pretty much agree with all the points you make
That's the boat I'm in. Can't be more clear that this thread will discuss all story elements of The Last of Us 2.

The short version: This is one of the grimmest pieces of media I've ever experienced. Almost laughably so (I found myself laughing at points because of how completely dark the events were getting). I almost didn't want to keep playing the game and had it gone on much further I maybe wouldn't have. It was disturbing. And it will remain a challenge for other game makers to meet this level of belevability in acting and script writing (lookn' at you, Japan (kidding (kinda)))

Some further thoughts:

I luckily avoided all spoilers save for the fact that the game continues on when you think it's actually over (yes it does) and that in general people found the plot controversial. I still don't know what was controversial about the plot. Was it that you spend at least 50% of it as Abby? Or that you end up fighting characters you play as in a kind of dissociative manner that makes you wonder wtf you're doing as the player of this game?

There's a LOT to be said in this about L U D O N A R R A T I V E and how you're not inhabiting the role of a protagonist nor are you inserting yourself as the decision maker -- you're simply doing as you're told by game's script. This idea was touched on much more directly by the original Bioshock, but here it's a painful exploration that isn't just reserved as a final twist moment. The characters in this game are all motivated at turns by revenge, and the starting action for each of those moments is something YOU did as a player, either in this game or the first.

The game really was tough ride. I regularly cried, partly because I'm still recovering from the loss of my dog and partly because this shit is really that sad. Joel's loss and his entire character arc is profoundly sad. His death was tramatic and Ellie indeed becomes traumatized. There's no clean ending here. They fake you out with one and then change it to an ending that's about living with unsettled grief. It almost strains believability that these characters find any strength to continue living.

I'm not even touching on the gameplay because it's clearly in the backseat of this game's discussion (at least it is for me) -- it's good. It's gory and not too punishing, but also quite challenging if you try to be stealthy and avoid killing all (well, except one) dogs. I'm half tempted to play the game again, but I'm not sure I'll ever have the stomach to sit through all of the cutscenes again. Not for a long time.
Good points. I'm still mulling over my final thoughts (just beat it a few hours ago). I really enjoyed the experience. It hit my gut hard many times, and not just wincing at physical pain (when they 'clip Yara's wings', fuck!). Most importantly, it's a game I will never forget, ever. I felt sick even an hour after reaching the end. In a good way.

I think the bullshit people got angry about was that Lev was trans? IDK. Maybe some of the themes of the game could come off as SJW on paper, but everything was executed so well in the game that I really never caught what it was. People just gotta complain about something...
 

Dr. Mel

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@RiffRaff Yeah I feel like the moments that were effective were like short story moments. Joel's interactions with Ellie and their fear and pain of potential and then actual loss is all well executed in a microcosm. What I'm feeling, day by day, slip away from me are the bigger details about the game world or anything else, honestly. Abby is fine, but her parallels to Ellie are a little too pat for her to stand out long term, it all mixes together.

I got the impression the writers loved Joel. Like, kinda a lot. The love and loss of a father is almost what this whole game is about and all the best and most creative moments involve him and, since this is a game about his death and getting revenge for him, the moments also involve a lot of pain. The guitar pluck on the porch the moment Ellie chooses not to kill Abby is a good example of this writer's love for Joel -- that moment was extremely human. Just that brief moment. It's unfortunately couched in a (almost literal!) ocean of gore and revenge lust that I don't think works or says anything important.
 
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I just finished it and really want to write an essay about how I feel but I'm gonna sleep on it.

Quick thoughts:
  • Great character development across the board. No one was wasted here, and no one felt superfluous to the story.
  • Needed 'moment to moment' editing in the level design. After about 30 hours with it, I think it's long because it needs you to spend time with these characters. But there were some locations that went on for too long.
  • Expanded on my biggest issue with the first game and the main reason I had problems with Part 1: The forced killing of the Firefly doctor. You HAVE to kill this NPC, and that always pissed me off. I'm so glad they used this to expand the story. More when I get back to this tomorrow. I want to elaborate on this further.
  • Gameplay was fine. Play this on Survivor (that's a recommendation, as well as what I did) - it's a better game for it. Better than 1, that's for sure.
  • This is one of the first times I can say that a largely narrative based game is better for being a game and not "why not just make it a movie". It tells one story, but because you have to 'live' as the characters, the experience is far more effective.
  • The bigger picture wasn't here like it was in Part 1, and the revenge story is a bit flat: you know how these things end and they're always a cautionary tale about 'losing a part of oneself' - in this game literally, but also obviously forecast by Joel's song, etc. Anyway, it's really a story about learning to forgive. I need to think on this more...
  • I spent a lot of time thinking about 'nations' and us/them, but again, it doesn't wear that subtext too well.
  • Overall though I'm not going to call this a 'masterpiece'. It's a great game with a bunch of cracks, but still one I'll be thinking on for a bit. More than anything though, it's a great character piece, and Naughty Dog's first truly well made game.
I'll have a more thorough analysis later, just wanted to get my thoughts out somewhere first.
 
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I just finished it and really want to write an essay about how I feel but I'm gonna sleep on it.

Quick thoughts:
  • Great character development across the board. No one was wasted here, and no one felt superfluous to the story.
  • Needed 'moment to moment' editing in the level design. After about 30 hours with it, I think it's long because it needs you to spend time with these characters. But there were some locations that went on for too long.
  • Expanded on my biggest issue with the first game and the main reason I had problems with Part 1: The forced killing of the Firefly doctor. You HAVE to kill this NPC, and that always pissed me off. I'm so glad they used this to expand the story. More when I get back to this tomorrow. I want to elaborate on this further.
  • Gameplay was fine. Play this on Survivor (that's a recommendation, as well as what I did) - it's a better game for it. Better than 1, that's for sure.
  • This is one of the first times I can say that a largely narrative based game is better for being a game and not "why not just make it a movie". It tells one story, but because you have to 'live' as the characters, the experience is far more effective.
  • The bigger picture wasn't here like it was in Part 1, and the revenge story is a bit flat: you know how these things end and they're always a cautionary tale about 'losing a part of oneself' - in this game literally, but also obviously forecast by Joel's song, etc. Anyway, it's really a story about learning to forgive. I need to think on this more...
  • I spent a lot of time thinking about 'nations' and us/them, but again, it doesn't wear that subtext too well.
  • Overall though I'm not going to call this a 'masterpiece'. It's a great game with a bunch of cracks, but still one I'll be thinking on for a bit. More than anything though, it's a great character piece, and Naughty Dog's first truly well made game.
I'll have a more thorough analysis later, just wanted to get my thoughts out somewhere first.
If your looking for another grimish game to play really recommend trying out Lisa A Painful Rpg half off now at €5. Loved the fact that the game goes for its grim vibe but still works in some nice humour into it.

Its one of the more memorable indie games like it to me. I get its not for everybody and like any game some people just find it dull but I think it set out to do what it wanted to pretty well.

Not really related I guess but any chance to mention that game is nice.
 
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Alright. I night of terrible sleep and a few forum dives and YouTube reviews and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and write it out. Maybe I'll tackle this in chunks? I'm gonna get the muck out of the way first.

The controversy:

- Crunch: I work in a similar crunch industry. I spent the last three years working full-time, or even 6/7 days a week, as a part-time employee and it sucks. The pandemic has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship to work, and the only controversy surrounding this game that I want to address seriously is this one. My reward for working so much was that my employer freaked out and realized they legally had to hire me, so they cut my hours and are restricting my employment going forward and nearly forced me to train my boss on how to do my job. Crunch sucks, it isn't worth the trouble and you're rarely rewarded for it the way the people at the top are. I would have rather played this game much later if it meant the people working on it could have a normal 9-5. This is a culture issue and I don't know how it's going to change unless the people who pull the strings have to actually live that life. This has, historically, never been the case: slaves built the pyramids, after all.

- Joel: Bitch had it coming. He was the problem in Part I. I don't necessarily have an issue with how it went down, but apparently that's people's real frustration with his death - not that it happened, but that it was so unceremonious. Fine? I'm not a script writer but I felt like it was done that way to get all the major players in the same room. Not a big deal. Maybe it could have been handled better? It was still a powerful scene.

- Abby: Loved her. Excellent character arc and the people that don't like her because she has muscles are idiots. Being forced to play as her was apparently the real controversy with the leaks(I need to go back and read those now to see), but it worked, and I ended up feeling for her more than Ellie in the end. She learned how to let go sooner, and I could relate to her more because of that.

- Lev: I can't speak to this personally. I guess it's an issue for both trans people and for people that hate 'woke' shit. I have more learning to do about the issues with this character, but the 'anti-woke' crowd can fuck off. I really liked this character a lot. There's always some joy in the 'fish out of water' trope.

- The L word dissonance: Eh. I enjoyed all the killing. And I didn't necessarily feel like the game wanted me to feel bad about it. I think the points where Ellie in particular has had enough are just the points in the story where she finally catches her breath and realizes what she's been doing. But like Joel in 1, Ellie learns to become the villain, using the drug of revenge to hide her growth in forgiving him for lying and focusing on justice as way out (it never is). She eventually comes to her senses. Thankfully. And for that if we ever get a Part III, I'm still on her team.

The gameplay:

I'll try to keep this short because it's a bit more of an objective analysis and, like anything that works well, you stop thinking about it as a central focus. Having replayed the first game right before this I can safely say it's better in every respect. It works as a brawler, a shooter, a stealth game, and as, what I think is its main focus: an improvisational playground. The combat is weighty, the guns feel real and the consequences of using them are visceral. This is Naughty Dogs first good GAME in my opinion. TLOU1 still felt like an Uncharted engine spin-off, and don't me going on the Uncharted games and their terrible, awful, miserable gunplay. Also I just played Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot and those games aren't great either, sorry. They just aren't.

My favorite moments in the game were exploring the open areas, the hidden rooms, and galloping slowly through the world when I was allowed to. General combat moments with infected were frustrating for me, whereas my time killing other humans were where the gameplay shines. The infected segments tend to devolve into a game of spacing, whereas the moments with people can be so many things if you want. But I have to give credit for two of the scariest moments in the game: the descent with Abby down the building, and the hospital basement with the Rat King. Those were stand out moments for sure.

Everything Else:

- My problem with Part I, killing the doctor: It was never that Joel kills the doctor, it was that they made you, the player, engage in it. I didn't want to kill this character in the game on my first run, so why make me do it? What was once a huge frustration of mine has become an excellent jumping off point for the sequel. The ONE character I felt bad about killing is now the kernel that sparks off the events of the second game, and it was a stronger experience as a result, as well as one that enhances the original in my opinion. That act will forever have more meaning if I play it again. If there was ever something to focus on in the initial writing process, this was it, and I'm glad they used it.

- The fight in the theater with Abby and Ellie: this was the standout moment for me. I can't think of another game that gave me such an out of body experience. This was the moment I knew what I was experiencing couldn't be a book or a movie. This is the realm of story telling unique to video games - give the person engaging with the story/characters 10-15 hours in those shoes and then put them in that scenario with 'full' control. This kind of empathy or perspective shift can be done with other mediums, but the feeling and experience of it on the screen; the living it, can't. Ditto for the final confrontation in the water.

- The story: I don't want to suggest this game is perfect, but I will say that I've played a LOT of video games and none of them, off the top of my head, have been this... I don't know? Real? If that makes sense. Realized, maybe? The rest is all allegory, metaphor, and the usual stuff with redemption arcs. Using the motif of mirroring to drive home that these two women are essentially the same was done well. I'm also so thankful it ended the way it did. While I maybe didn't need the final punch-fest, I see why it had to happen, and it came after so much yelling at the screen for Ellie to just let it go... GIVE UP! It isn't worth it. The ending to 1 is good, but you just sort of watch it happen. In 2, you live it. You NEED Ellie to move on, and when she finally does, it was such a god damn relief. I almost wonder if it could have ended with the shot of her kneeling in the water, but I do appreciate the last two scenes.

Ok... this is starting to get a bit stream of consciousness. Need another break from this.
 

RiffRaff

Human Person, Maybe
Robot
May 11, 2020
368
336
63
Italy
Alright. I night of terrible sleep and a few forum dives and YouTube reviews and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and write it out. Maybe I'll tackle this in chunks? I'm gonna get the muck out of the way first.

The controversy:

- Crunch: I work in a similar crunch industry. I spent the last three years working full-time, or even 6/7 days a week, as a part-time employee and it sucks. The pandemic has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship to work, and the only controversy surrounding this game that I want to address seriously is this one. My reward for working so much was that my employer freaked out and realized they legally had to hire me, so they cut my hours and are restricting my employment going forward and nearly forced me to train my boss on how to do my job. Crunch sucks, it isn't worth the trouble and you're rarely rewarded for it the way the people at the top are. I would have rather played this game much later if it meant the people working on it could have a normal 9-5. This is a culture issue and I don't know how it's going to change unless the people who pull the strings have to actually live that life. This has, historically, never been the case: slaves built the pyramids, after all.

- Joel: Bitch had it coming. He was the problem in Part I. I don't necessarily have an issue with how it went down, but apparently that's people's real frustration with his death - not that it happened, but that it was so unceremonious. Fine? I'm not a script writer but I felt like it was done that way to get all the major players in the same room. Not a big deal. Maybe it could have been handled better? It was still a powerful scene.

- Abby: Loved her. Excellent character arc and the people that don't like her because she has muscles are idiots. Being forced to play as her was apparently the real controversy with the leaks(I need to go back and read those now to see), but it worked, and I ended up feeling for her more than Ellie in the end. She learned how to let go sooner, and I could relate to her more because of that.

- Lev: I can't speak to this personally. I guess it's an issue for both trans people and for people that hate 'woke' shit. I have more learning to do about the issues with this character, but the 'anti-woke' crowd can fuck off. I really liked this character a lot. There's always some joy in the 'fish out of water' trope.

- The L word dissonance: Eh. I enjoyed all the killing. And I didn't necessarily feel like the game wanted me to feel bad about it. I think the points where Ellie in particular has had enough are just the points in the story where she finally catches her breath and realizes what she's been doing. But like Joel in 1, Ellie learns to become the villain, using the drug of revenge to hide her growth in forgiving him for lying and focusing on justice as way out (it never is). She eventually comes to her senses. Thankfully. And for that if we ever get a Part III, I'm still on her team.

The gameplay:

I'll try to keep this short because it's a bit more of an objective analysis and, like anything that works well, you stop thinking about it as a central focus. Having replayed the first game right before this I can safely say it's better in every respect. It works as a brawler, a shooter, a stealth game, and as, what I think is its main focus: an improvisational playground. The combat is weighty, the guns feel real and the consequences of using them are visceral. This is Naughty Dogs first good GAME in my opinion. TLOU1 still felt like an Uncharted engine spin-off, and don't me going on the Uncharted games and their terrible, awful, miserable gunplay. Also I just played Jak and Daxter and Crash Bandicoot and those games aren't great either, sorry. They just aren't.

My favorite moments in the game were exploring the open areas, the hidden rooms, and galloping slowly through the world when I was allowed to. General combat moments with infected were frustrating for me, whereas my time killing other humans were where the gameplay shines. The infected segments tend to devolve into a game of spacing, whereas the moments with people can be so many things if you want. But I have to give credit for two of the scariest moments in the game: the descent with Abby down the building, and the hospital basement with the Rat King. Those were stand out moments for sure.

Everything Else:

- My problem with Part I, killing the doctor: It was never that Joel kills the doctor, it was that they made you, the player, engage in it. I didn't want to kill this character in the game on my first run, so why make me do it? What was once a huge frustration of mine has become an excellent jumping off point for the sequel. The ONE character I felt bad about killing is now the kernel that sparks off the events of the second game, and it was a stronger experience as a result, as well as one that enhances the original in my opinion. That act will forever have more meaning if I play it again. If there was ever something to focus on in the initial writing process, this was it, and I'm glad they used it.

- The fight in the theater with Abby and Ellie: this was the standout moment for me. I can't think of another game that gave me such an out of body experience. This was the moment I knew what I was experiencing couldn't be a book or a movie. This is the realm of story telling unique to video games - give the person engaging with the story/characters 10-15 hours in those shoes and then put them in that scenario with 'full' control. This kind of empathy or perspective shift can be done with other mediums, but the feeling and experience of it on the screen; the living it, can't. Ditto for the final confrontation in the water.

- The story: I don't want to suggest this game is perfect, but I will say that I've played a LOT of video games and none of them, off the top of my head, have been this... I don't know? Real? If that makes sense. Realized, maybe? The rest is all allegory, metaphor, and the usual stuff with redemption arcs. Using the motif of mirroring to drive home that these two women are essentially the same was done well. I'm also so thankful it ended the way it did. While I maybe didn't need the final punch-fest, I see why it had to happen, and it came after so much yelling at the screen for Ellie to just let it go... GIVE UP! It isn't worth it. The ending to 1 is good, but you just sort of watch it happen. In 2, you live it. You NEED Ellie to move on, and when she finally does, it was such a god damn relief. I almost wonder if it could have ended with the shot of her kneeling in the water, but I do appreciate the last two scenes.

Ok... this is starting to get a bit stream of consciousness. Need another break from this.
Finished it yesterday and have been rolling it all around in my head finding it hard to put exactly what I felt into words (especially since I wrote about 15 pages of notes while playing, the most I've done for any game. Actually thinking of posting them in a Cblog, but might be boring to read me basically saying, oh shit that was cool for 15 pages lol). Everything you said is exactly how I felt as well (well, I love ND's other games though ;) ). Especially being angry at Ellie. By the time I was getting to the end of Abby's part I was so pissed at Ellie and that was magnified right up to the final second of the slug fest. I was actively cheering for the opponent to win. How often does that happen in games lol.

Did you catch that the title screen changes to Catalina after the credits ;) I liked that touch. For a game that was so bleak, that little bit of hope really hit nicely.

And I do have to say, I don't think any game, or any other media for that matter, has effected me as much emotionally. Sure I have pangs of emotion when gaming sometimes, but nothing that really cracks the surface level. Nier Automata's ending is about the only other game that gave me a physical feeling of elation. With TLoU2 I was literally tearing up ('You did good.'), wincing in pain (clipping Yara's wings), and genuine nausea (many points, but the final battle and ending seeing just how broken Ellie is even if she finally forgave).

Definitely not a perfect game, but anything that can effect me like TLoU2 gets and enthusiastic 10/10 from me. Such an unforgettable experience that I'm so happy I went on. Probably going to replay it before the year's out on Survivor, but I need a good few months of sugary sweet games to balance the grim masterpiece out.
 
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