Sony saved the best for last during their keynote address at PlayStation Experience 2016, showing off an announcement trailer for the sequel to Naughty Dog’s incredible 2013 post-apocalyptic, story-driven action game The Last of Us. Titled The Last of Us Part II, the game will again feature protagonists Joel and Ellie, with director Neil Druckmann confirming that Ellie will be the main playable character this time around.
Druckmann also describes the sequel as a “story about hate,” whereas the first game was “about the love between these two characters,” which seems to indicate that this will be a darker game than the original, if that’s even possible. Naughty Dog is still in the very early stages of development on TLoU Part II, so details are scarce at this point, but when we do finally get our hands on this highly-anticipated game, we hope that the following features / improvements make the cut.
10. Better Crafting System
The Last of Us featured an intuitive crafting system that let you salvage certain items from the environment in order to make various weapons and items. For the sequel, we’d like to see this system return, but it needs to be expanded upon to allow for more interactivity with the game’s environments. The first game was very limited in terms of what you could actually pick up and use, but with the sequel being developed from the ground up on the PS4, Naughty Dog should utilize the hardware to allow players to pick up and use almost anything they find in the game’s environments. This would help unify the game’s story and gameplay even further and also give players more options for dealing with enemies.
9. Survival Playthrough
The Last of Us included four different difficulty modes, but the sequel could introduce an all-new one that further immerses players in the harsh world that Joel and Ellie inhabit. Similar to the survival mode found in games like Fallout 4, players would not only have to deal with limited supplies and ammo, but would also need to find food and water to stay alive and seek shelter to maintain their character’s energy levels.
Obviously this would be a mode that would only appeal to certain players, but with so many other games adopting survival elements into their game designs these days (some with more success than others), The Last of Us Part II is the rare game that could actually do something interesting with the format and since it would be totally optional, it wouldn’t interfere with the game’s core design.
8. More Sizable Roles For Side Characters
While Joel and Ellie established themselves as two of the most well-written (and well-acted) characters in video game history in The Last of Us, that game’s many side characters also made a strong impression and were sometimes just as fascinating as the main duo. Unfortunately, some of these characters, such as Joel’s brother Tommy, left the story just as we were starting to get invested in them, which is understandable given how transient the game’s narrative structure was. When it comes to the sequel, Joel and Ellie absolutely should remain the star players, but it would be great if Naughty Dog found a way to give at least a few of the game’s side characters bigger roles (without compromising the leads’ story, of course).
For instance, if Tommy returns in Part II, he should be given a more sizable role, as we still don’t know very much about Joel’s younger brother. Oh and if a few of these side characters could actually make it through more than one chapter alive, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either; we still get shell-shocked thinking about what went down with Henry and Sam in the first game …
7. More Expansive Levels
One of the more common criticisms leveled at The Last of Us is that it was very linear. While this is a bit of an unfair complaint considering how story-driven the game is, it wouldn’t hurt if the sequel’s environments were opened up a bit to allow for more exploration and to make the fact that there’s only one path to progress feel less obvious.
This is actually something that Naughty Dog did well in their most recent game, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, as that game’s levels were much more open than in previous entries in the series. We’re not asking for The Last of Us: Part II to suddenly become as open and unrestricted as Grand Theft Auto, but opening up the world while making sure that players aren’t confused about where to head next would help make The Last of Us’ already fascinating world feel that much more realistic.
6. Improved Combat And Less Of It
The third-person shooting / stealth gameplay in The Last of Us was perfectly serviceable, but it’s also arguably the weakest part of the game. The combat sections could sometimes feel like slogs and in some ways were a barrier you had to cross in order to get to the next story bit. While Part II should still feature gunplay and stealth elements, they should take a backseat to the other things The Last of Us did so well, namely exploration and puzzle-solving.
Naughty Dog already proven with Uncharted 4 that you can still make a fun, compelling game without having to engage in combat with groups of enemies every ten minutes, as that game featured less combat than prior entries in the series. For TLoU Part II, Naughty Dog needs to tighten up the shooting gameplay while also being smart about when to throw players into combat situations, in order to make them feel integral to the experience rather than an annoyance.
5. More Puzzles
While The Last of Us had puzzle-solving sections, most of them involved picking up and moving conveniently placed ladders and large pieces of wood in order to progress to the next area. There’s certainly room for these kinds of puzzles in Part II, but it would be nice to see the sequel get a bit more ambitious with its puzzle designs. We’re not asking for Uncharted style tomb raiding or anything like that, but a bit of variety on this front would certainly go a long way.
As before though, Naughty Dog needs to make sure the game’s puzzles feel organic, as it would feel a bit ridiculous to have Ellie stumble upon some sophisticated network of levers and pulleys that somehow lead to a treasure that’s gone undiscovered for hundreds of years. Still, we’d be willing to suspend our disbelief a bit if a particularly difficult puzzle concluded with the discovery of a new weapon or upgrade, as getting new stuff is always a rewarding video game trope, even in a game like The Last of Us that tries to avoid such things.
4. Flashback Sequences
Flashback sequences are always a tricky proposition, but given Naughty Dog’s track record, we’re confident that if they did decide to do a few playable flashback sections in The Last of Us Part II, they would stick the landing. With Part II set about five years after the first game, there are a ton of events in Joel and Ellie’s life that we won’t get to see and having a flashback sequence that informs the present would be a good way of getting us up to speed on how these characters have become the people they are when we meet them in this game.
That being said, it would also be cool if Naughty Dog went even further back and shed more light on the 20 year gap that exists between when the cordyceps outbreak first began and when we pick up with Joel at the beginning of the first game. Joel alludes to how he saved Tommy’s life during their years spent together trying to survive in the aftermath of the outbreak and we want to see some of what happened between them.
3. Improved Companion A.I.
The Last of Us may be one of the most polished video games we’ve ever played, but that doesn’t mean its without its chinks in the armor that remind you it’s still a video game. While The Last of Us received very few criticisms from most critics, the one that kept getting repeated was that the game’s companion A.I. would frequently act in a way that would take you out of the experience. Naughty Dog made the wise decision to have Ellie be invincible while you’re in combat, as having to keep an A.I. companion alive can be an incredibly frustrating experience.
Unfortunately, Ellie would often wander out cover in the middle of a firefight and make other questionable choices that broke the illusion of her being a vulnerable teenager in a dangerous post-apocalyptic world. With NPC A.I. improving all the time, this is a problem that very well could be eliminated altogether in the sequel; although, if the popular theory that Joel is actually a ghost in this new game and Ellie is by herself turns out to be true, this won’t be an issue anyway.
2. More Exploration
While the combat sections in The Last of Us could often be brutal, but entertaining, the best parts of the game were its quiet moments; when things slowed down and you were free to explore the ruins of what used to be the United States of America. Discovering notes left behind for lost family members or having to endure one of the many terrible puns from Ellie’s joke book are what helped make The Last of Us feel special and were also a great way of doing subtle storytelling that didn’t involve having to sit through a cutscene. Simply put, The Last of Us Part II needs more of this and should make exploration the main thing you do in the game. We’d also like to see the return of optional dialogue, as this led to some of the best character moments between Joel and Ellie.
Oh and more giraffes, of course!
1. Be Even Better Than The Original
Well duh, right? Of course we would want The Last of Us Part II to be better than the original! That being said, while video games with the number ‘2’ in their title are often better than the original game, The Last of Us is arguably one of the greatest games of all time and that is a ridiculously hard act to follow. No one is doubting that Part II is going to be anything less than stellar, but trying to make lightning strike twice — particularly in the story department — will be no easy feat.
Heck, some people thought (and probably still do think) that there shouldn’t even be a sequel to The Last of Us because it was such a complete experience and ended perfectly. Those people are fools, of course, but they do have a point: if Naughty Dog can’t make a sequel that lives up to the original, than they probably shouldn’t have bothered at all.
Fortunately, we have no doubt that they’ll be able to accomplish this. Now let the long wait for The Last of Us Part II begin …