The Last of Us: Part II has one hell of a strange story, which deserves its own breakdown. Let’s take a look at the major story beats and see if Naughty Dog nailed it. This feature contains spoilers for the entire plot of The Last of Us: Part II. You have been warned. To find out what we thought of the game, check out our Last of Us Part II review.
The game opens up with a brief summary with Joel talking to Tommy about what happened to Ellie was a neat touch, riding to Jackson showed off how pretty the game was and the interaction with Ellie and Joel was great. As Ellie departs on her patrol with Dina, we get our first cut to Abby. This was a really good surprise. Who is this girl? Why are we playing as her? Of course, we find out pretty soon that she and her team are after Joel but I think this sequence should have taken place before the horse ride with Tommy and Joel. Playing as Abby and being rescued by Tommy and Joel first would have made the twist hit a bit harder. We get some interactions with Ellie and Dina during their patrol but playing this entire sequence instead of cutting to Abby a couple of times would have disarmed the player.
(Here is your last chance to back out before the major spoilers hit!)
This leads up to Joel’s murder, which I think was handled well. Joel knows he can’t win this fight and after his leg is severely damaged by a shotgun blast, he has accepted his fate. I interpret this in the way that he has gotten to a good point in his life and experienced happiness, he doesn’t need to fight for that glimmer of hope any more. He could have tried to fight and maybe even kill someone but he knows he wouldn’t be able to help Ellie with his leg. By this time Ellie is present and knows Joel is the type of guy to fight until his last breath. This is the first time she’s seen him throw in the towel, which makes his death hit so hard. The player doesn’t know anything about this group but it’s not difficult to see why they would want Joel dead, he isn’t a good guy. At this point in the game, I was excited to find out what Joel had done to deserve this fate but knew he must have deserved it. Abby and Owen let Ellie and Tommy live, this then brings in the question “Do they know about Ellie’s immunity and are they trying to exploit it?”
The grief Ellie goes through is portrayed well and so is her drive for revenge. She grew up surrounded by violence and her travels with Joel exposed him as a vengeful man, this makes her anger easy to justify, as it’s all she’d known. We learn Tommy has gone after Abby’s group, just as Ellie has planned to. We know Tommy is every bit as vengeful as Joel, learning he too, has done some nasty things and not in the name of survival. This brings us to the Seattle portion of the game with Ellie and Dina tearing through the city and occasionally finding some of Abby’s crew.
This is where I was kinda split on Dina, it was hard to know whether her love for Ellie was actually genuine or not. Was she running from her pregnancy? The motivation felt off, she had been with Ellie barely a day (after breaking up with someone a week before) and is happy to now fight against potentially impossible odds? This caused me to suspend my belief a lot more than Ellie’s desire for revenge. Either way, all of this bloodshed makes Ellie feel she’s on the right path until she meets Nora. Ellie has to brutalise Nora in a way as vicious as her rapist, David. This is the first time she has done this just to acquire information. At this point, she realises what Tommy and Joel have done in the past and is scared to be like them. In our adventure through Seattle, we get a beautiful sequence with Ellie and Joel and the bond they had, which pushes Ellie even further. This was awesome, it made the slog through Seattle worth the trip and reunites us with Abby when we least expect it.
This is where the game splits off into a flashback with Abby and her father. It is no coincidence Abby is a similar age to Ellie, travelling with a father figure and while the parallel is obvious, things click as soon as you see St Mary’s Hospital. Learning that Abby’s father is the doctor you are forced to kill in the first title justifies her revenge. What impacted me more is when Abby tells Ellie she let her and Tommy live because the revenge was taken. It’s rare to see a villain only do what they needed to but also does a great job in showing us the cycle of revenge. Of course, Ellie needs to get her revenge, but so do the loved ones of those who Ellie killed and so on.
Surprisingly, we continue as Abby, taking place at the same time Ellie entered Seattle. This sequence of the game shows the fight between the WLF and the Scars and while it was cool to see the other side of the story, it felt like filler. What I will say though, is props to Naughty Dog for creating a physically powerful female character. Usually, a strong female is still dainty or beautified, it’s great to see a woman who has trained to be strong in a dangerous world. Like Ellie and Dina’s story, this all done fairly well but it doesn’t really go anywhere until Abby is captured and we meet Yara and Lev.
At this point we start to see Abby change, we see a bit of her humanity with her friends but her interaction with Yara and Lev are very interesting. They are her sworn enemies and she sees them as allies. This juxtaposes with Ellie brilliantly, her path to darkness is the opposite of Abby becoming more human. We learn that Lev was born a girl named Lily and changed his gender to male to avoid being abused by the leaders of the Scars. This immediately made me think of the outrage towards the game about it being “woke” and to me, everything it does that is “woke” (strong females, gay characters, trans characters) is done with a deft hand. As Abby’s journey continues, she finds out Ellie is following her and killing her beloved friends. She finds Ellie and defeats her in combat, telling her to never approach her again. Yet again, Abby takes the moral high ground and has become a far more interesting character than Ellie.
This jumps us forward in time and we see Ellie, living with Dina and their son JJ. While I have problems buying their relationship, it’s easy to accept. They are living an idyllic life and while it’s a struggle, Ellie has let her revenge go. This all changes when Tommy visits Ellie and tells her he has found Abby and he’s going for revenge. I’m gonna rush through this silly sequence. Ellie decides to go for revenge and Abby is looking for Fireflies. Instead of them simply meeting, we get an overly long sequence with new enemies which culminates in a battle between Ellie and Abby.
At the end of this fight, Ellie almost kills Abby but lets her go. Naughty Dog missed a trick by not giving us a choice at this moment but either way, Ellie has succeeded in her revenge by pretty much killing Abby. She returns home to find Dina has left her, understandably giving the fact that Ellie just can’t let Abby go.
The biggest problem with the plot is that it’s overly long. We didn’t need Dina and Jesse to come along for the ride, we could have Ellie and Tommy and the result would have been the same. With Abby’s story, we didn’t need the sequences with Mel, Manny and Isaac. The story with Yara and Lev was sufficient. That alone shaves a long time off the game and would have given the writers time to craft something a little more concise. The final section in Santa Barbara was ridiculous, introducing us to villains we don’t care about was a silly idea. I liked how Ellie chose to go after Abby and that Dina left Ellie because of it, this shows the consequence of revenge but the final battle was frustrating. The choice should have been, kill Abby and Lev kills you or let Abby and Lev go. This would have been far more interesting.
The story as presented isn’t bad, it really isn’t. There are massive portions of the story we didn’t need to see, perhaps they should have been saved for DLC, but the frustration is that the first game understood less is more and this game threw everything and the kitchen sink into it and as a result, a lot of people will find the game boring. If I was to rate the story, it would be a 3.5/5. In all honesty, I found Abby’s tale to be the most interesting part of the game. Whether that’s a success or a failure, well that’s for you to decide.