Content of the article: "[TLOU2] My review of TLOU2; the story we did not expect, but that we needed to hear."
This is long, and I’m no poet or writer, but hear me out. (I briefly summarize my thoughts on the story below and then my thoughts follow. If you want to skip all that then scroll down to the TL;DR. Those of you that read the whole thing I’d also suggest reading the TL;DR as well)
When I first finished this game, I had no words to express how I felt. Anger. Hatred. Compassion. Betrayal. Hollow. Empty. So many feelings rushing through me that I had to sleep on it.
It took me just under 24 hours to complete the game on normal mode. Albeit, it felt like a lifetime compared to the first game.
Let’s rewind though a little bit. I played the TLOU on PS3 a little after it was released. Completed the story multiple times, even on Hardcore+. But, my first play through was a wonderful journey full of dark fights, silly jokes and laughs from Ellie, and deep love for Joel. At the time I was not a father, but I deemed TLOU the best RPG game I had ever played. I bawled at the ending. But nevertheless, despite Joel’s choice to save Ellie, it was a happy ending. And I liked that. My playthrough felt worth it.
Now, let’s fast forward to TLOU2. I am now a father. I understand more deeply why Joel did what he did.
The beginning of the game was no surprise to me, however, I was surprised at how Joel was killed, not that he was killed. The prior leaks as to Ellie saying “I’m going to kill every last one of them” told me that Joel was most likely going to die. I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for were the consequences for Joel’s choice to save Ellie.
We learn pretty early on that Ellie did not forgive Joel for what he did. She felt that her life didn’t mean anything anymore. At the end of the game we see a brief clip of where Ellie was trying to reconcile with Joel for what he did saying, “I cant forgive you, but I’d like to try”.
This one sentence explains the ending perfectly. Keep it in mind. And yes, this game is not an insult to the first one.
The whole game makes us focus on getting revenge for Joel and convincing us that killing Abby is the climatic ending. But when we get to that scene it cuts. Almost so abruptly, you’re left with feelings you don’t know what to do with. Then all of the sudden you’re playing as Abby! One can only imagine the hate you might feel, especially now knowing that you’re controlling Ellie’s worst enemy. I do not think that Naughty Dog had the intention of getting you to like Abby, but maybe to more sympathize with her and her experiences. There’s always two sides to a story.
At the end of her playthrough I actually had started to like Abby as much as Ellie, if not more. She seemed better hearted than Ellie especially when she starts caring for Lev and his sister. But then her rage came out again when she saw the death of Owen. After a fight Abby shows mercy due to Lev calling out her name when she’s about to murder an unconscious and pregnant Dina. Abby realizes she is not a killer and that killing Dina and Ellie will not resolve anything. In this very moment Abby forgives Ellie for killing her friends.
The game then sends you to a farmhouse with Dina and Ellie, and a baby, which presumably means about a year has gone by since the prior scene. All three are living happily together. At this point I thought the game was over but was still content with its’ because of the mercy Abby showed. But I could tell that Ellie was not fully recovered from the ordeal as she has a panic attack in the barn.
That happiness is ruined when Tommy visits and has found where Abby has gone. Ellie originally denies following the lead, but a few nights later she tries to sneak out at night. Dina wakes up and catches her in the act. Ellie must choose Dina or Abby. Ellie then leaves, choosing Abby.
We are taken back to Abby who is searching for the Fireflies, upon information from Owen, and ends up finding them but is captured by a band that we eventually see almost kill her. Her story ends there for the player.
Ellie is now within miles of where Abby is and eventually finds her, tied up, on a pole in the ocean shore left to die. Ellie cuts her down and proceeds to a boat for them all to escape (they’re all beat up very badly) but she has a flashback of Joel when seeing blood on her hand and proceeds to fight Abby. Abby however says she doesn’t want to fight. That is because Abby has found her peace. Ellie threatens an unconscious but still alive Lev, and reluctantly Abby agrees to fight.
Eventually Ellie has Abby underwater and is attempting to drown her. During that brief moment Ellie has a flashback to the conversation with Joel about forgiveness as mentioned before. In that very small moment Ellie finally understands that the only thing that will make everything right is forgiveness, and lets go of Abby, saving her life. We then see Abby and Lev disappear into the ocean on a boat. And Ellie is left there by herself. But in that moment, we see that Ellie is not a killer. She never has been. A manifestation of that is when she threw up after killing pregnant Mel. Joel was always the one doing the killing in the first game, with the exceptions when Ellie was defending herself or saving Joel. She was caught up in the idea of revenge, finally realizing that Joel would never want that. He realized his time had come when he was being tortured. Ellie then begins her journey home.
As Ellie returns to the farmhouse, after having returned from California, we see that Dina and the baby have gone. The house is empty except for her belongings. Ellie finds her guitar and begins to play, flashing back to Joel. She has finally come to terms with what happened and moved on. The crowning scene is her leaving the guitar standing by the window signifying, in my opinion, that she’s left that part of her life behind, and has begun moving forward to a new life and identity.
I’ve said a lot here, but I felt it important to relay the story briefly to convey how I felt about the game. Many people hate this game because of the major roller coaster ride of feelings it gives us, with numerous places where those feelings cannot be put anywhere. So we are left hanging on to them especially with the ending that we get. The crowning lesson in this game is that all actions have consequences, and those not only affect us, but those around us. This game teaches us that not all stories have happy endings in the way that we see the “fairytale happy endings”. We learn that forgiveness is the best method to resolve any issues. Not murder, not revenge, not anything but forgiveness.
Originally, right when the game ended, I had so many feelings I felt numb. Anger. Hatred. Compassion. Betrayal. Hollow. Empty. Why? Because many of us did not expect the game to end the way it did. This is something we are not used to. We didn’t have any closure, with really any of the characters. But that is not the point. TLOU began with a problem and the ending was a resolution to that. TLOU2 began with that resolution and we saw the consequences of it. The biggest tragedy in all of this story was the loss of those surrounded by Abby and Ellie, particularly Owen, in my opinion. This man had been just doing things his whole life because he loves people and building loved ones around him. He just wanted to be with Abby. He didn’t care about anything else, as he states in a raid that he didn’t want to kill anymore and is betrayed by a friend. But because of her decisions he lost his life.
If one does not look at the story as a whole, I can definitely see why you’d be upset. Everything is left on “read”, in a sense. There’s no “official” ending, and are instead left with “well what was the point of all that?” When you discover each decision and the reasoning behind it you can then see that the ending was meant to be the way it was.
I am in awe at what Naughty Dog accomplished. Never have I been so impressed upon by a video game. While it did take me awhile to come to terms with the ending and the lessons taught, I now understand it all. Actions always have consequences, and those always affect those around us. Forgiveness is the way to go. With those lessons in mind the whole scope of this game is absolutely stunning and I will forever remember the journey I took with these characters, Abby included.
This game is by far well above its time. The crowning lesson in this game is that all actions have consequences, and those not only affect us, but those around us. This game teaches us that not all stories have happy endings in the way that we see the “fairytale happy endings”. We learn that forgiveness is the best method to resolve any issues. Not murder, not revenge, not anything but forgiveness. Masterfully done, it relays the true nature of being human; cause and effect, love, devotion, weakness and forgiveness, and shows us that not every story ends with justice, peace, and resolve. But that sometimes, merely forgiving and moving on, is the best ending one can achieve in one’s circumstances. Those that have rated the game poorly merely do not understand the story as a whole and are only focusing on the outcome of Ellie and Abby.
With absolutely stunning gameplay and visuals, this is the best game I have ever played, and it will have an impact on me for the rest of my life. Do I hope there’s a 3rd game? Of course! But the story, in my mind, could end here and be perfectly okay and I’d be happy with that.
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