This isn’t a new topic, but sometimes important issues need to be discussed more than once to really get their point across. Most anyone that has played this masterpiece will tell you that it’s one of the best the PlayStation 3 has to offer, or even one of the best our entire medium has to offer, period. I am one of the people in the latter category. The Last of Us impacted me in ways that no other game has been able to and I find it hard to believe that those experiences and emotions could ever be replicated. While it may seem as if I am writing this as a personal plea about my own individual experience, I am truly writing this from an analytic point of view.
There are few times in any form of storytelling that everyone involved with the medium collectively rise up and regard something as an exceptional piece of work. While I am hesitant to place The Last of Us on top of gaming’s pedestal or label it as an ideal to strive towards, I think it deserves to be in that conversation. When something reaches such astronomically well-received levels of excellence, sometimes the obvious reaction is to want more. Naturally, we want to experience more of the things that cause us to feel excitement, or exhilaration – two emotions that are very closely tied to how a player feels during The Last of Us.
However, we must be careful about what we wish for, as it is entirely possible to get too much of a good thing. Replicating something magical is difficult to do – few gaming franchises have successfully iterated on themselves after making huge waves in the industry – and the last thing I’d want is for the world that Naughty Dog created to be watered down. The dark and believable future that Joel and Ellie find themselves in is incredibly unique and emotionally charged, a world I was constantly captivated by. While playing, I would often stop and just take a deep breath while I admired my environment, or listen to Ellie talk to herself about the small quirks of a dead society. Naughty Dog, more so than any developer, successfully created an entirely believable world to explore. So, you might be wondering then: why not revisit this world? Well, after playing the superb and recently released Left Behind DLC for The Last of Us, I know for a fact that I don’t want a sequel.
By the end of my journey with The Last of Us, I was exhausted. For the previous hour, I was on the edge of my seat — fists clenched tightly around my DualShock 3, barely pausing for breaths — as I guided Joel through the final moments of the adventure. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve cried during games before, but never have I gone through such an intense and varied roller coaster of emotions as I did in the game’s final act. After eight months, we finally got to revisit that world – entirely through the eyes of Ellie – with the aforementioned DLC. By filling in some gaps and expanding on other issues, it gave us more insight into her character and background, something that I dearly loved.
After all of that though, I don’t want anymore. Not because I didn’t enjoy it — quite the opposite — but because the story doesn’t need anything else. They could create a spinoff story that focuses on random people that weren’t in the original game. They could look at Joel’s life with Tess during the time lapse, or even look at Joel and Ellie’s life after the credits rolled. But all of these are awful ideas. Anyone that has played The Last of Us and its DLC understands how perfectly the story not only concludes, but also how it is told. The final scene leaves just enough doubt and ambiguity that any more exposition would completely ruin the experience. There is a large difference between a cliffhanger ending to setup a sequel and a purposefully non-conclusive ending that allows players into drawing their own interpretations.
At the end of the day, even after all those things I said about how perfectly the world is realized, The Last of Us wasn’t about the apocalypse. It wasn’t about survival against all odds, and it definitely wasn’t a game about killing zombie-like creatures. It was about two people sharing a life-changing journey together. The performances and writing in The Last of Us are unparalleled in our industry and I felt more attached to these two sets of polygons than I ever thought possible. I don’t want to see that experience tainted with any attempt to revisit this world. No future characters could compare to Joel and Ellie, it would be best to simply move on and focus on other stories that need to be told. The Last of Us’s story is complete, and I’m still trying to recover.