This The Last of Us Part 2 article contains spoilers.
Like its predecessor, The Last of Us Part 2 will likely be the subject of debate for years to come. Already there’s been much discussion about the game’s biggest twist, a new main character, and the title’s ending, which sees two characters driven by revenge finally show mercy. Crucial to these discussions will be what we learn about the making of the game in the coming months. Now that developer Naughty Dog has released its latest work, we’ll no doubt start to learn more about the creative process behind the game.
In fact, Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann and The Last of Us Part 2 co-writer Halley Gross recently sat down with IndieWire to discuss how the game changed throughout production, from Joel’s original final words before his death (it was “Sarah”), to his ill-fated relationship with a woman named Esther, to how Ellie and Abby would have originally spent five days in Seattle instead of three. The latter tidbit is particularly interesting as it would have meant that Ellie would have spent way more time learning about the Seraphites on their home turf.
“There was a whole side story where Ellie went to the Seraphite island, and we had so much more to say about the Seraphites and Ellie’s journey there and she’s going through like the different layers of Hell and she still keeps going forward,” Druckmann told IndieWire.
But the biggest revelation of all is how the ending of the game changed over time. As anyone who has rolled credits on the game knows, The Last of Us Part 2 ends with one final fight between Ellie and Abby in Santa Barbara. Although Abby spares Ellie and Dina’s lives in Seattle, Ellie can’t live with Joel’s death at the hands of Abby. So when she tracks down Abby in Santa Barbara, Ellie intends to kill her. But just as she’s about to finish the job, Ellie decides to let Abby live, breaking the cycle of violence that permeates the game.
Druckmann revealed that “for more than 50 percent of the production, Ellie used to kill Abby at the end. Which gave a whole different kind of feel to the ending, and then another character would have to stop the cycle of violence.”
But eventually, Naughty Dog changed course, giving the game a more hopeful ending the team felt was a better fit for Ellie’s character.
“At some point, through our conversations about Yara and Lev, we came to the realization that it wasn’t as honest to Ellie’s character that way. Deep down inside there’s goodness there. Hopefully, she can go forward and build her life,” Druckmann said.
Can Ellie move forward after the events of The Last of Us Part 2? Druckmann and Gross seem to think so, although they want the audience to decide for itself.
“Whatever we say here ultimately doesn’t matter. Everything you need to understand the story is in the game, and whatever players take from it… their interpretation is right. At least until if we ever make another game and then we can argue about it then,” Druckmann explained. “But personally, to me, Ellie is finally able to get past her ego and this whole obsession. We’d often use the metaphor of talking about her revenge as a drug and Ellie as a kind of drug addict, and that’s ultimately why Dina left. She’s like ‘this girl’s hit bottom and it’s still not enough, I can’t help her anymore.'”
Gross said that she hoped that there was light at the end of the tunnel for Ellie and that perhaps there’ll be a reunion with Dina and baby JJ in her future.
“In spite of all that Ellie’s been through, I want her to find love. And support, and a community, and a sense of safety,” Gross said. “Whether or not that’s possible in the Last of Us universe given how hostile it is and how you can always lose people and the fragility of everything, I’m not sure. But I want that for her. Also, that baby is damn cute.”
Asked whether a The Last of Us Part 3 was in the works, Druckmann didn’t rule out the possibility of a third game, echoing the comments he made in an interview with GQ, where he said that “the next thing could be a Part 3, the next thing could be some new IP.” That said, Druckmann admitted to IndieWire that he didn’t quite have the right idea for a third game just yet.
“There’s already so many things you’ve seen about the backstory, about how the outbreak happens, so we’d really have to figure out how to create a new experience that matches the emotional impact of these stories and I don’t know what that is. Currently.”
The Last of Us Part 2 is out now on PlayStation 4.