Who is the developer?
Let’s start with the basics. The studio is called Naughty Dog and it has a long history in the industry, working on fan-favorite series like Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted. Recently the studio has become renowned for its focus on polished storytelling and larger-than-life setpiece moments. Expect plenty of those in Part II.
What happened in the first game?
The first part of The Last of Us launched in 2013, and established a dystopian future where a mutant Cordyceps fungus ravaged the United States, turning humans into zombie-like monsters, better known as the Infected. Years after this initial outbreak, a gruff, no-nonsense man named Joel must chaperone a girl named Ellie across the country. Ellie is immune to the Cordyceps fungus, and some believe she is the key to finding a cure. Much of the original game recounts Joel and Ellie’s harrowing journey across the country, and it explores the familial bond that slowly forms between the two. The story is full of touching moments and brutal action – a modern classic worth playing if you haven’t already.
What’s the story setup for Part II?
Set five years after the events of the original, Part II picks up Ellie’s journey after she turns 19. Ellie and Joel have both settled into a community in Jackson, Wyoming, and they’ve eked out the closest thing to a normal life that the world has seen in over 25 years. However, tragedy soon finds Ellie again, as a rogue group of survivors does something that destroys the happy home Ellie has helped build. Naughty Dog has been incredibly cagey about this incident (but the internet is full of story spoilers, so be careful out there). The one thing we do know is that this incident sets Ellie on the course for revenge. This journey takes Ellie to Seattle where she goes head-to-head with a ruthless group of survivors. Overall, Part II will greatly expand on the world of The Last of Us, and Naughty Dog promises to grapple with tough choices as it philosophically muses on hate and revenge.
Do you play as anyone other than Ellie?
No, at least according to Naughty Dog. However, during the development of the first game, Naughty Dog said that you wouldn’t play as Ellie, which wasn’t true, so maybe the team is keeping something a secret this time, too.
Will Ellie travel across the U.S. like in the original game?
Part II is set across several different locations and seasons, but Naughty Dog is not as focused on the journey across states this time around. Instead, most of the game takes place in either Jackson or Seattle. In fact, most of the game has you exploring a Seattle that’s divided by warring factions. That said, Naughty Dog says this is its biggest game to date and some of the environments are truly massive. At certain points, you traverse these locations on a horse or via boat.
Woah, woah, who are those warring factions you casually mentioned back there?
Seattle is divided by two factions who are fighting over the city’s dwindling resources. The first group is called the Washington Liberation Front. The WLF is a resistance group that formed to combat the military occupation of Seattle in the early years of the outbreak. This group is highly trained, well-organized, and heavily armed thanks to the supply of weapons they “procured” from the army. Sadly, the WLF won’t hesitate to kill any trespassers they bump into, including Ellie.
The group on the other side of this conflict isn’t much better. The members of this religious group are called Seraphites. They are also sometimes called Scars, because of the deep, self-inflicted wounds on their faces. This group is also very territorial, but are stealthier than the WLF, preferring the silence of arrows to bullets. The Seraphites occasionally practice ritualistic sacrifices and hang their victims from the neck before disemboweling them, believing that they are “nested with sin.”
If humans are this nasty, how bad are the Infected?
Real bad. A lot of the classic Infected types return from the first game. Runners are newly infected humans who barrel at you in full rage. Naughty Dog says that Runners are even more aggressive than before. Meanwhile, Clickers are the blind enemies who chase down anything that makes a sound. Stalkers hide in the dark, waiting for the right time to strike. Naturally, Part II introduces a few new enemies’ types, such as Shamblers. These bloated enemies are covered in pustules that spit acid whenever they are attacked. This monster is essentially a tank that absorbs a great deal of pain before hitting the ground. This doesn’t cover The Last of Us’s entire bestiary, because Naughty Dog has promised that the final game includes a few new types of Infected, some of whom are deadlier than anything we’ve seen before.
Can you pit enemies against each other?
Yes, just like the last game, all of these various factions hold grudges, and you can pit them against one another – just be careful that you don’t get overrun in the ensuing chaos.
What are the new gameplay mechanics?
Ellie is nimbler than Joel was in the first game. She can jump on top of objects and go prone to crawl through tight spaces. These tools come in handy when Ellie explores her environment, but they also invaluable during combat since Ellie can dodge attacks and even hide the grass. However, you aren’t completely hidden in grass. Naughty Dog calls this analog stealth because the closer enemies get to you the more likely they are to spot you … and even then dogs can catch your scent and hunt you down.
Oh yeah, did we forget to mention the dogs? Some of the human factions now employ dogs that follow your smell. You can actually see Ellie’s scent trail when you enter hunter vision, so you want to keep moving to avoid those pups. We don’t know if you can pet any of these dogs, but they sure don’t seem friendly.
What about multiplayer?
The original The Last of Us launched with a multiplayer mode, called Factions, which was surprisingly fun. Part II won’t launch with a multiplayer mode, but Naughty Dog has promised that it is working on a follow-up multiplayer experience. This mode will release sometime after the launch of the single-player experience.
What’s new with crafting?
Another big pillar of The Last of Us series is crafting. Much like the first game, Ellie can scavenge rundown buildings for useful components that can be combined into new tools, medical supplies, and weapons. One of these new gadgets is a trap bomb, which works a bit like a landmine.
How do you upgrade your skills?
In the first game, Joel collected pills that let him level up his abilities, improving the effectiveness of health kits, among other things. Ellie can also use pills, but it is a little more involved than last time. As you rummage through old shopping districts and homes, you find magazines that unlock skill trees to dump your pills into. These trees come in a variety of different flavors, so you can upgrade Ellie’s survival, stealth, or combat skills, or try to evenly distribute her talents, making her a well-rounded survivalist.
Does the workbench from the original game return?
Yes, at workbenches you can use salvage to upgrade your weapons, so they hold more ammo, reload faster, and suffer less recoil. These changes are even represented visually. For example, if you add a new scope, you see that scope added to the weapon when Ellie straps it over her shoulder.
How does the music sound?
Great. Gustavo Santaolalla returns to score this game. Santaolalla wrote the soundtrack to the first game, and he is a renowned composer who won Oscars for his work on the films Brokeback Mountain and Babel. If you loved The Last of Us’ haunting-yet-intense score, you won’t be disappointed with the sequel.
Anything else cool about this game?
Yes, I didn’t know where else to put this, but each enemy has their own name and they will call out to each other during combat. You can even hear them using their names when they discover the bodies of their fallen friends as you sneak through their camps.
This all sounds awesome. Remind me when The Last of Us Part II launches?