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There's been a lot of talk this week about the future of The Last Of Us Part II. Between reports that Naughty Dog is staffing up for the long-awaited multiplayer spinoff and rumours that we're getting a single-player expansion starring Abby, it's clear we're not done playing in this world just yet.
That's great news, as far as I'm concerned. The Last Of Us Part II was one of the best games of 2020, a few very minor gripes aside. But as much as I'd certainly love to spend more time with Abby and Lev in any potential expansion (and again I stress absolutely nothing has been confirmed in that regard), I feel like any single-player DLC should be focused entirely on Joel and Ellie.
Spoilers for The Last Of Us Part II follow, by the way. Proceed with caution.
Everyone has their own opinions on what went down in The Last Of Us Part II. While I was obviously gutted to see Joel die so early, it's what needed to happen to drive the story forward. I've written before about how this wasn't the sequel I wanted... but it sure as hell was the sequel I needed, in the end.
With that said, some of my favourite parts of The Last Of Us Part II are the flashbacks between Joel and Ellie. Not only do they allow us to once again bask in the palpable chemistry of the wonderfully talented Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, they also provide a window into the few moments of levity and light the game offers. It's bittersweet watching the degradation of the pair's relationship, sure, but... well, bittersweet is still kind of sweet by definition, right? They'll always have the museum, *sob*.
I mean, let's be honest here, The Last Of Us Part II is phenomenal, but it's also relentlessly bleak. The amount of violent murders, betrayals, beatings, broken bones, and dead dogs really starts to weigh a soul down at a certain point. It's very much the job of these Joel and Ellie flashbacks (and to a lesser extent the Abby flashbacks) to remind us of a better time, just so that it can twist the knife a few extra times when we're dragged back to the present (the game's present, anyway) and are left with nothing but corpses and memories. I'm not knocking it - it worked.
Because these flashbacks served the game so well, and because there's no getting around the fact we all want more Joel and Ellie, that's where The Last Of Us Part II should focus its attention, were it to deliver an expansion. In the same way that The Last Of Us: Left Behind helped add further context to the original game by diving into an unseen but important moment from Ellie's past, The Last Of Us Part II could offer a new chapter that focuses more on Joel and Ellie's first few months in Jackson.
This would give us an opportunity to spend more time with the pair at what I guess would have been the peak of their relationship, while also potentially learning a little bit more about the likes of Dinah and Jesse. Maybe Naughty Dog could call it something like The Last Of Us Part II: Future Days, just to really shatter our hearts apart once and for all. If you don't get that reference, I would advise you go back and play through the game's opening hour again.
I'll admit that, at least on the face of it, there isn't much new ground left to cover between Joel and Ellie. The Last Of Us Part II does a pretty good job of establishing what exactly happened to that relationship over the years, but does the expansion need to do anything drastically new or groundbreaking? Hell, just give me a playable series of Birthdays, Christmases, and other key happy events from their time in Jackson. That'll do me.
Seriously though, can it not offer us one last mini Joel and Ellie adventure before Naughty Dog moves on to pastures new? I've no doubt it'd still have moments of terror and violence, but there'd be real comfort in a Joel and Ellie-centric epilogue that closes the book on The Last Of Us Part II once and for all. And maybe that's the perfect way to say goodbye to these characters? As the best possible versions of themselves.
At this point I'm sure you're probably cursing me for having forgotten about Abby and Lev, but you wait right there. I don't think Abby and Lev should have an expansion, because they deserve more than an expansion - they need their own game. The second half of The Last Of Us Part II does more than enough to show us there's so much more story to tell there.
Ellie's story is all but finished, and Joel's journey has absolutely come to a close, obviously. If The Last Of Us has a future, it absolutely lies with Abby. Maybe we'll touch in with Ellie again too in some capacity, but rather than look ahead right away, The Last Of Us Part II should take stock of where we've been so far before sailing off into uncharted territory. That starts with a farewell to the Joel and Ellie we once knew.
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