The Last of Us Part 2 is finally out, and since last Friday, players have been tearing through its harrowing story of cyclical revenge and violence. It's already pretty lengthy by Naughty Dog standards, but in a recent interview, the game's writers expand on just how much got left on the cutting room floor.
Director Neil Druckmann and narrative lead Halley Gross spoke to IndieWire about the writing of The Last of Us Part 2, in what is a fairly spoiler-filled conversation. Amid discussion of the whole plot and its many thematic threads, Druckmann and Gross dug into what actually changed from concept to reality. Keep in mind, this will be spoiler-y by nature, so only read on if you're cool with spoilers.
When discussing the changes that occurred, like what should be said during the death scene for The Last of Us protagonist Joel, things changed from script to final product. In that case, voice actor Troy Baker ended up suggesting how it should play out. But it sounds like, structurally, The Last of Us Part 2 could've been even larger than it eventually was.
"We used to have five days in Seattle for each girl instead of three," said Gross, referring to the split between Ellie and Abby during one part of the game. Druckmann goes on to say that Ellie had an entire encounter with the Seraphites on their island, where she's going through layers of hell and keeps moving forward. An entire section where Ellie hunts and kills a boar that was removed for production and pacing purposes.
Gross even notes that originally Joel would have had a girlfriend, and the ending was different as well. The Last of Us Part 2 seems to have gone through a series of evolutions over the course of development, as Druckmann and Gross whittled things down to what worked.
"There are so many emotional parts of the game that for a long time didn't land, and every time it's so daunting to make them work," said Druckmann. "So often it's just the iterative process of creation and cutting out a bunch of stuff that we realized wasn't necessary."
The Last of Us Part 2 still wound up being a worthy sequel in the eyes of our reviewer, Editor in Chief Kat Bailey, but parts of its narrative struggled to land. The split between Ellie and Abby only just barely works out, and it's not hard to see why; when you're trying to twist the raw emotions that a narrative like The Last of Us spurs into introspection and self-examination, things can get dicey. From the sounds of it, Druckmann and Gross worked hard with the writing staff to get those points across, even if it meant leaving some things behind.
Though really, Joel could have had some love in his life. I think he's earned that much. The Last of Us Part 2 is out right now for PlayStation 4.