Earlier this week, we teased that The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog was going to be revealing some alternate endings to their critically acclaimed game at PAX East. However, as it turns out, the team at Naughty Dog is spilling the beans a little earlier.
In order to discuss the alternate plot points and ending, though, Naughty Dog also has to spoil some parts of The Last of Us‘ ending that did make it into the final cut. In other words, if you haven’t finished The Last of Us, go do that and then come back and read this post.
The alternate story details come courtesy by way of an interview between Creative Director Neil Druckmann and Game Informer magazine. In the interview, Druckmann reveals that the original story conceit for The Last of Us involved Joel betraying his partner Tess and fleeing across the country to escape her. This is almost a complete 180 from the actual story, which sees Tess dying in the first act, and urging Joel to get Ellie to the Fireflies.
Early on, the game establishes that Joel is a man with questionable morals, but this alternate direction almost painted him as an outright antagonist. The storyline puts a different spin on Joel and Ellie’s “adventure” and relationship as well.
However, Druckmann and his team decided it was better to cast Tess as a motivator than an antagonist – to have her death be what spurs Joel on. Rather than trying to escape from Tess’ grasp, Joel wants to honor his dead friend by doing something good.
Naughty Dog also couldn’t conceive of a believable scenario in which Tess would continue to pursue Joel for a full year. Considering The Last of Us takes place over the course of four full seasons one would think that, at some point, Tess would give up.
That slight story wrinkle also threw a wrench into Naughty Dog’s original ending for The Last of Us, which (as depicted in the concept art above) saw Tess torturing Joel, before Ellie intervenes. In this version of the game, Ellie’s decision to kill Tess would have actually had some major story implications because, up until that point, Ellie would have established an aversion to killing non-infected humans. And it would only be when she sees Joel is on the brink of death that she decides to break her vow.
This didn’t work for Naughty Dog, though, because it kept Ellie out of combat encounters and made her transformation sudden rather than gradual. Instead of a story that leads up to her first kill, Naughty Dog decided it was better to have Ellie slowly become a product of the senseless violence she is exposed to.
There were also some slight changes made to the game’s actual ending in development, which affected the tone of the conclusion. Originally, Druckmann had written an ending where Joel and Ellie arrive in San Francisco, Joel lies to Ellie (like in the actual game), and Ellie buys into the lie completely. However, as Druckmann saw it, that was a little too neat and tidy, even in a post-apocalyptic setting.
“Joel has killed all these doctors and lied to Ellie, and Ellie just fully buys into the lie. So, you’re left with the idea that they are going to live the rest of their lives in this town. The camera pulls back and maybe everything is going to be alright for these two. I was working on writing, and it didn’t feel honest any more. After everything they’ve done and everything they’ve been through, that was letting them off a little too easy – especially for Joel.”
Instead, as you know, Naughty Dog went with something a little more ambiguous. Joel still lies to Ellie, but it’s unclear whether or not she actually believes him or is just saving face. Either way, this ending gives The Last of Us a more somber tone, which works well overall. For our full thoughts on The Last of Us make sure to read our review.
What do you think about the ending Naughty Dog eventually chose for The Last of Us? Would you have rather seen the Tess revenge storyline?
The Last of Us is available now for the PS3.
Source: Game Informer