By Colby Tortorici
As I played through the majority of The Last of Us Part II, I knew that I had something special on my hands.
This was something that was pretty obvious going into it, it’s The Last of Us Part II, a sequel to a game that has arguably the best story ever told in gaming from arguably one of the best studios in the industry, Naughty Dog. Spoilers ahead.
I first realized how unique this game was when it made me go from hating Abby to absolutely loving her by the end of the game. While side characters such as Dina and Lev were also incredibly enjoyable, Abby and Ellie were the emotional center points of the story, and Abby’s arc is nothing short of spectacular. Both women were flawed in just about every way imaginable, and both of them wronged each other in ways that few could ever truly understand. However, both of their decisions are justified for different reasons.
The Last of Us Part II provides so much to love: the storytelling is great, and the gameplay features improvements on its predecessor in virtually every way. However, when I entered the final battle between Ellie and Abby, it fundamentally broke me.
All I wanted for Abby and Ellie was for them just to be able to live their lives. After everything both of them had gone through, there had to be happiness somewhere. I almost got my wish, until Ellie turned around and faced Abby at her boat.
As I landed blow after blow against Abby, tears were streaming down my face. The girl that I was attacking was someone that I had spent hours of my life with, but who I was looking at was a shell of her former self. She was barely alive, and Ellie was only fueled by rage at that point. Both of these two had absolutely nothing left to live for save for their last remaining family members, yet here they were, and at least one of them was willing to leave it all behind, simply to settle a score.
While there’s obviously nothing difficult gameplay-wise about Ellie and Abby’s final fight, finding the strength to simply press the buttons was almost impossible. I just wanted it to end, and just like the original game does with Joel, The Last of Us Part II does a great job at highlighting that you are not Ellie, and your choices are not hers.
While relief eventually washed over me once Ellie decided to spare Abby’s life; the fight took everything out of me. At the beginning of the game, all I wanted was Ellie to finish Abby, to take her life like she had taken Joel’s. By the end, all I wanted was Abby to be able to live a happy life. She had been through everything that a person could imagine and more, and she deserved to find some sort of life at the end of it all. Her bond with Lev was her chance, and watching the boy almost be orphaned for the second time in his life was one of the hardest moments in gaming I’ve ever had to witness.
I was prepared to love The Last of Us Part II from the beginning and love it I did. However, it wasn’t until I was in the middle of that final fight that I realized how much more impactful this game was to me than the original, or how much more I enjoyed it than the first.
Gameplay improvements aside, The Last of Us II’s storytelling touched me in a way that the original never did. Sure, the final moments of The Last of Us were nothing short of visceral, but its sequel hit me in a way that the original never could. I fully curled up and cried as the credits rolled.
While I now fully subscribe to the fan theory that Ellie and Dina made up (there is evidence, I embrace it), I’ll never quite get over how Abby and Ellie’s final moments impacted me. I’ve never felt that way in all of my years in gaming, and I’ll likely never feel that way again.