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Should The Last of Us be the last for us?

on 17 July 2013

Gaming sequels are funny old things. For every Half-Life 2 and Batman: Arkham City you can get a Dragon Age 2 or even worse a Duke Nukem: Forever, and just to confuse the issue there is Mass Effect 3 and its ending.

Of course those are my opinions but if there is one thing these examples show is that sequels can provoke debate and any follow-up or lack of to Naughty Dog's superb The Last of Us is sure to divide fans of the original game.

So should this excellent game even have a sequel? Well, I'm going to look at some of the arguments against any Last of Us sequel and see what the barriers are to expanding this great game.

One of the first perceived barriers to any Last of Us sequel is the fact that the game was so good. It sounds bizarre but let me explain. The Last of Us garnered near perfect reviews with phrases such as game of the year, if not generation, lighting up the internet and let me just say I totally agree with these sentiments. But such high praise brings problems in that people then start to wonder that as the original game was so good would any sequel just tarnish the first games brilliance and incredible ending? You could argue that if you feel that way then don't play the sequel but that is a lot like asking a Trophy hunter to be satisfied with just gold trophies. It is not going to happen.

Another barrier to any sequel is that the ending of the Last of Us wasn't just the end of a game, it felt like the end of the journey and because there is that perfect finale it might not make sense for Joel and Ellie's adventures to continue. After all what is left for them to do and explore? However, there remains the matter of the infection and Ellie being the cure. Surely the Earth is destined to be saved and Ellie is the person for the job, but does this matter? I saw the plague as just the background for the adventures of The Last of Us which bares comparison to The Walking Dead, a show that isn't about endings but focuses instead on people, their choices and the results that they then have to live with. Also curing an infection that has devastated the Earth for twenty years in two, or even three games, would surely lessen the impact of the disaster that bought our planet to its knees if it can be done so quickly?

One last barrier to a sequel is would any new game be able to build on the Joel/Ellie relationship in a way that adds to the original game, while dealing with all Joel has kept from his young charge? A new Last of Us could have a compromise in that it could be about other characters in the game and Joel and Ellie's fate could be discovered during the new adventure. Yet again this leads to a problem in that do sequels work if they deviate too much from the original source material, and also will finding out in a cut scene the fate of Joel and Ellie might cheapen their original adventures?

So will all these barriers prevent a Last of Us sequel? Of course not. You see we now live in a world where nothing is ever released without a sequel being considered. Books are trilogies or more, films and TV shows sign their casts up for sequels before the original material is in the can, and games are no different. We expect, if not demand, sequels as we know what we like and are sometimes reluctant to try anything new if something old and comfortably familiar is available.

Luckily I think any follow-up to the Last of Us is going to be good or even better than the first game because the phrases 'poor sequel' and 'Naughty Dog' aren't two things you would normally put together. Naughty Dog is a company who make good sequels that build on the characters stories, so Joel and Ellie are in good hands wherever they go and whatever they encounter.

But the last word on a Last of Us sequel must surely come from Naughty Dog's creative director Neil Druckmann who said in an interview with Kotaku:

"I think the world is ripe for more stories, but as far as the journey Joel and Ellie go on it ends with this game. We were very conscious that we didn’t want to leave this story dangling. If we never do a sequel we’re okay with it, because we told the story we needed to tell."