With E3 coming in hot, the great speculation brews anew – what games, both new and previously-announced, will or will not be showcased at the major press conferences? Despite conjecture by some that The Last of Us: Part II might make an appearance at the SONY press conference, it doesn’t take the seer of seers, the prognosticator of prognosticators, to predict that it is an unlikely showing considering its relatively recent reveal at Playstation Experience just a half-year ago, coupled with the multiple caveats that the title is still “super early” in development.
Still, the speculation got me thinking about it. I hold very ambivalent feelings on The Last of Us: Part II. I had hoped that Naughty Dog would tell a new story from that universe and leave Joel & Ellie’s story the way it was, pristine in its stirring thematic conclusion. I was swept by how the majority of the original game, supported by its gruesome violence and desperation, heightened by its unwieldy mechanics (inaccurate aiming, real-time crafting, grotesquely intimate melee, sparse resources) repeatedly emphasized the theme of physical, Darwinian brute self-preservation – only for the dizzying conclusion to flip the theme onto its head in its final moments, signaling a post-Darwinian emotional self-preservation by Joel & Ellie’s clinging to their precarious personal narratives, the “truth” revealed as the stories we desperately cling to, comfortable lies that serve our own dubious needs.
The subjective nature of truth and narrative illustrated in The Last of Us is well served by its ambiguity; not ambiguity for a manufactured cliff-hanger ending, but for tangible, nuanced thematic effect. This ambiguity, I fear, is in a position to be relinquished by the continuation of their story.
That isn’t to say, however, that a sequel is destined to fall short. At the most superficial, I get the fan-boy itch of getting more of one of my favorite games ever. Much more than that, however, we get another game from these masterful artists, writers, and developers in this beautifully grim universe. For quite a while, Naughty Dog themselves had expressed doubt in their ability to conjure a story worthy of continuing Joel & Ellie’s. If these creators, who know and care way more about these characters and setting than any of us do, have decided that there is a story worth telling and is worth the creative risk, then I will unequivocally place my trust in their capable hands. I am whole-heartedly excited for Part II, and hope Naughty Dog takes as much time as they need in order to make it an affecting experience.
Watch The Last of Us: Part II reveal again (and again and again) here: