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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Note: Contains some content and plot spoilers for The Last of Us.

Also trying a new format to see if this is easier to read than the wall of block quotes.

Butch:

So after a long day, nothing better than fighting through a graveyard, a house, a school and all. I’m just about to leave Bill’s Town (I hope). Ellie’s sitting in a car.

Small thoughts:

Some programmer, somewhere, probably several, had issues about high school gym, putting that thing in a gym. Therapy, dude. That thing sucked. Though not as bad as killing it, then getting killed by the three runners that came in after it.

I can’t yet tell if the “finding empty houses/moving diaries of people watching lives fall apart” bits are just mood or if they have something to say. So far, all I’ve got is mood, and I get it, ok?

Here’s a good thing: The load screen tips are actually helpful. At least for now. They seem to link right to the mistake that just killed you. Got killed by that clicker? The tip was “punching doesn’t hurt them, use a melee weapon.” Got killed by the big gym thingy? “Some monsters have fungal outgrowths that are armor.” Helpful. They probably won’t be later in the game, but still. Helpful. Better than getting killed by a gang of Solarii and getting “forage for berries to find salvage” as a tip.

Feminina:

Yeah, after the high school you’re ALMOST ready to get the hell out of Dodge. I mean Lincoln. Which it turns out is way more like Dodge than you would have expected.

The bloater in the gym, and then the runners charging in as you’re trying to get out the window, was pretty tense. I remember it being one of those “I’m not sure where or if a cut scene takes over so just keep pressing gogogogogogo” moments.

The sad reminiscences are…mostly mood, honestly. I mean, sometimes they have information about the combination to the safe or the road to wherever being clear or something, but for the most part they’re just depressing. But you gotta read ’em, in case they mention the combination to the safe. There could be valuable ammunition and molotov cocktail ingredients in that safe!

One thing I thought the game did pretty well was loot: since the loot is often stuff you can use to make things that you actually desperately need, it really means something to find a stash of gears or some rubbing alcohol or whatever.

Butch:

Those moments seem to come up a lot. What gets me is that I never know if I should gogogogogo or turn and shoot. Which is good design. Not knowing if fighting is a choice/or the right choice is kinda nice.

Re: sad moments. Hmm. What I’m hoping for is some sort of narrative theme/contrast.

Indulge me: gonna go FO3 here a minute:

That game was depressing, yes. But each little depression nugget was looking at a theme (that is, the American dream) in a different way (they were pretty negative, ergo the depression). They had more to say than “Life. It sucks.” Or “When life is falling apart, that sure sucks” or “When people you like die, pretty much sucks.” FO3: thought provoking. How did America come to this? Can we save it? Is it worth saving? TLOU: Just depressing. And that isn’t really….. good. Or great. It’s not great. Good art makes you feel. Great art makes you think. Not thinking about TLOU yet. Feeling it, not thinking about it. Not a good sign.

Loot: Indeed. And then the strain of making stuff (which is more tense and satisfying than, say, Skyrim). If there hadn’t been alcohol in the gym (which I’m sure is an accurate rendition of Lincoln Sudbury High) I’d still be fighting that bloater.

Feminina:

Yes, not knowing if running or fighting is a better option does make it interesting. There’s a place later on where I forgot that both can be valid options in this game (unlike, say, DAO, where once you got into a combat scene you didn’t even have the option of leaving), and I don’t know how many times I died trying to fight before I thought “wait a minute…I’ll just run for it!”

Which turned out to be sooooo the right answer. The fact that there are times when running can be the right answer, and times when fighting is, and probably times when either one would work if you played it right (not that I ever went back and tried again once I succeeded once) makes for more complex game decisions.

There is some found-document-related narrative later on…you can see what you think in terms of compare/contrast etc.

I agree about the tension of crafting items. In Skyrim, say, it’s either fine to craft, or not, so there’s nothing really there: it takes place outside of the main game timeline, in a way. As does eating food mid-battle! But in TLOU, you CAN craft in the middle of a battle, and maybe you really want to (“man, I need this first aid kit!”), but the rest of the game continues around you, and so it’s a definite risk. Makes it very tense sometimes, trying to find a place to hide long enough to heal up while people hunt for you on the other side of shelves, or whatever.

It’s a well crafted game. We can debate about whether it’s the best game ever in terms of story, but there are a lot of mechanics-type things it does well.

Butch [after playing some more]:

Yes. One preorder bonus I got (cuz I preordered) was “increased crafting speed,” which, when I got it, thought “Oh, who cares?” but that is HANDY. The other bonus was increased reload speed. Also handy. And it is nice that there isn’t the unrealistic “pause while you eat 18 courses” gameplay element.

It is well crafted, I’ll give it that. And pretty. The inaccurate details of Lincoln were very well rendered.

So I got out of Lincoln (finally), got to Pittsburgh, killed some dudes, upgraded, there I am. So the last thing Ellie said was “They weren’t even infected,” and Joel: “Doesn’t matter.” THEME! Theme right there.

Thing I did like narrativewise: Bill asserts himself as a loner. He says, early, “I had a partner, that sort of thing only gets you killed,” leading you to believe that he did the leaving. Then you find he didn’t, he loved the guy, and the guy wrote the nasty letter to him saying he always hated his guts. His sadness was, narrativewise, the best thing thus far. And, as you’re leaving, Joel trying to apologize and Bill’s “Get the fuck out of my town,” sort of implied that, despite the violence, and the risk, and the eating of food, the worst thing Joel did was break Bill’s heart. Which was interesting. And unexpected.

Joel never does tell Bill that Tess is dead, either. Interesting.

Finally, I get to say interesting.

Feminina:

I agree, they don’t really tell you up front “this is a running situation” or “you better stay and fight here,” so it’s always an open question as to how you want to approach it and whether or not that’s going to work. Which is well done–adds to the uncertainty of the game.

Yeah, the not-infected/doesn’t matter bit is a big part of the Message in this game. As we said before, it’s the old question of “who are the real monsters?”

Helpless shells of humans doing what they’re forced to do by genetic programming (not their own), or fully conscious humans preying on the better natures of other humans? (Or, to get meta, are we all equally monstrous, since those conscious humans are still programmed by their own genetics to do whatever it takes to survive?)

Butch:

Hmm. It’s a theme. A theme for sure. Or how about “can we/he/she be redeemed?” Was Tess redeemed? Was Bill?

I do find myself disliking the Solarii (I mean the hunters) more than the clickers. The clickers were, in a way, victims. Now, they’re trying to paint the hunters as victims (the government didn’t give them food, so they HAD to rise up), but I’m not buying it. Yet.

Feminina:

I think that edge of human betrayal was a crucial touch in that scene: not just that this band of humans is trying to prey on other bands of humans (we already discussed the “every tiny band for itself” theory), but that they’re specifically using the remnants of sympathy and pity in other people against them. Not only do we repudiate all human sympathy ourselves, but if YOU have any left, we’ll use it to trap and kill you–suckers!

This makes them seem especially repugnant. And yet, walking around talking to each other, they come across as basically just dudes trying to survive in a totally screwed up situation. They’re horrible people, they’re trying to kill you, you have to kill them…but how different are they from you? Joel, at least, basically says he’s no different than they are.

Butch:

Joel even admits he’s done the same thing. Ellie asks how he knew it was an ambush, and he says that he’s been on both sides of ambushes like that. And, as you are Joel, that’s some sort of indictment. I think.

Feminina:

But Ellie is different, if only because of her youth and inexperience. So is EllieĀ the last lingering remnant of humanity, in the sense that she has some moral instincts, some ‘innocence’ left? Is that what we’re trying to save? Is Ellie the Last of Us?

Butch:

And does Joel know it? I mean, Ellie keeps asking for a gun, and Joel keeps not giving her one. There’s some sense there of trying to preserve her innocence.

Feminina:

Redemption is a good question. How CAN one be redeemed in this situation? I mean, yes, obviously, by sacrificing for a better cause (getting Ellie to the Fireflies, curing humanity)…but IS that even a better cause? Is there even anything worth saving, in curing humanity?

I think we can certainly argue that in a way, Tess and Bill redeemed themselves for past actions, and Joel is in the process of doing so (consciously? or just out of obligation to Tess? or just because, with Tess dead, he’s got nothing else important to do?). Whether or not that redemption actually means anything in the larger context of the game is, I think, questionable.

Butch:

Indeed. Humans seem a bit useless. I haven’t met one I liked. Except Ellie. But it’s interesting that she was born AFTER the plague. Did the plague scrub the earth to make room for the next batch of potentially innocent/better people? Is this some Noah’s ark shit?

 

Only time will tell. Time, or reading ahead on the game wiki. But we never advocate that.

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