Spoiler Alert! I've seen the whole story now. Since the story is the most controversial and interesting part of the game I'm gonna focus only on the story in the review.
If you wanna know what all the fuss is about this is a good way to do it.
I get that people want to escape from reality sometimes. I need breaks from reality all the time too. But if you just wanna go to a happy place this game is not for you. This game is about the apocalypse it might be called post apocalyptic but really the apocalypse is still going on constantly in this world. I fel like people who are upset about this game have forgotten this.
3 Movies came to my mind when I was experiencing this story. The first one is a typical revenge story like for instance John Wick someone is wronged and stops at nothing to mow down as many foes as it takes to make the person pay.
The second one is Apocalypse Now for the reason that it starts out fine but the longer it goes on people keep losing it more and more.
The third Movie is Carlito's Way mainly because of the ending. He's this criminal doing business and after he meets this woman he wants to get out. There's a dramatic chase scene through the train station everybody is after him but he barely stays ahead of them and the woman held up the train for him but right when he gets there a guy whos life he spared earlier in the movie guns him down.
This is a theme that comes up quite a few times in the game. Once you go down a certain path you can't undo it or turn back when it's convenient for you. And just because your priorities and your mindset change doesn't mean there's not someone out there who's only goal is to take you out.
We must get revenge!
The developers have said that the first game was about love and the second game is about hate. I think in a more detailed view it's about this tribalistic mindset that is a great strength but also a huge flaw that humanity has and causes so much violence, indifference towards other peoples suffering etc. In the first game their bond that grew stronger and stronger over time allowed them to overcome incredible odds to survive and make it through this hostile world to their goal. But in the second game the developers show the dangers of having this my team vs everybody mentality, only caring about your own group and being capable of anything to protect or avenge them.
I feel like all the haters of this game are only proving Naughty Dogs point and underlining the importance of this message. Because they are team Ellie and Joel no matter what and cannot accept that they are anything but perfect and are emotionally overreacting to what they think is an attack on their ingroup. They are so attached to these characters that they have this visceral reaction and can't see what this game is actually about.
I'll put this review here because I feel like he's one of the few people that actually gets what I'm talking about in this post and he's quite entertaining as well.
Ellie is a very damaged person, she lost her first love when she was around 10. Everybody she's ever cared about has died or left her except for Joel. And then she goes through all the trauma of the first game. She has to constantly kill to survive at an age where she's nowhere near ready for that not that there's an age where we are. Then she loses Joel who is her father at this point. On top of that she finds out that she could have helped create a cure for everyone but Joel denied her that. She says her life would have had a purpose then, implying it doesn't have one now. Joel made his decision and I'm sure he just wanted a simple life for her he didn't expect her to bear the burden of not saving humanity. But Ellie doesn't believe that she's good enough the way she is she feels this huge burden constantly on her shoulders.
When I saw the last hour of the story, my first thought was that it was superfluous and over the top but soon I realised that this was actually the most important part of the story for Ellies character. She made it home safe in one piece with the woman she loves, even though she caused the death of a lot of people some her friends she got through it all. She's living a peaceful life on a farm but she throws it all away. That's when I truly realised how damaged she is inside. I've experienced this myself when I first moved to the place where I live now even though it's beautiful it actually made me sad because I had a bunch of issues I had to resolve and I couldn't enjoy the beauty it just contrasted with how I felt inside and made it worse. But I was able to resolve this over time. Ellie though I don't think she ever realy deals with her emotions, she externalises things she doesn't think about why she feels or thinks a certain way.
She can't enjoy the peaceful life not just because of her trauma, I think it's also because she's way more aware of how broken she is in this environment. There's nothing to distract her from her pain. She has become addicted to the battlefield. It's like people who have wounds from their childhood and keep seeking out people who abuse them in the same way as they were abused before. Ellie needs the danger, the violence, the survival. That's what she's good at that's where she doesn't have to think about her past wounds only what she's going to do next. Even if it only adds more horrible memories in the long run this is where she feels at home.
Abby starts out on the same path as Ellie her father was murdered and she wants revenge. She's quite tribalistic as well in the beginning she totally buys into her group the Washington Liberation Front and she's one of the top people because of her dedication and skill. But her story takes a turn. In part because of Owen who is my favorite character in the game and also because of the two kids she meets Lev and Yara. Her story becomes a contrast to Ellies obsession with revenge. There are some great lines in this part of the story. Like when she tells Owen who is the only character who's not interested in ll the fighting and is trying to find a bit of happiness in this forsaken world to grow up. And he asks her if he should go and look for and torture the people who killed his family. Or when Abby says:"They're just kids, what happened to us?" The pivotal moment of the story is when Abby gets captured by the rival group the Scars and nearly gets executed but she gets saved at the last moment by 2 kids from the rival faction who are on the run. She escapes with them and becomes attached to them she feels like she wants to do something positive because of all the killing she has done in the past. But before they escaped Yaras arm got crushed by a hammer and she needs urgent medical care. This leads her on some dangerous missions to try and get her the care she needs but in doing that she has completely shifted her mindset and purpose already. She's trying to save a girl who belongs to the other faction and risks her life and faces her greatest fear to try and accomplish this.
I really liked this part where they have to go over these very dangerous looking bridges between skyscrapers because it ws something so different and they also showed the difference in the culture between the two groups so well. The WLF with their big trucks, very militaristic and the Seraphites more like a south American tribe silently hunting in the jungle plus super religious. Lev tells her she should focus on the positives of fear like her stronger senses and her body becoming stronger as well. He says fear is just preparation for what's coming.
They manage to save Yara and they're considering all leaving together on a boat to go to a different place to get away from all the conflict. But Abby gets pulled away again because Lev doesn't want to leave without his mother and they have to run after him. They find him but Yara gets killed by the WLF during a huge battle. Lev says full of pain rage and accusation:" She got killed by your people!!" And Abby says:" You are my people." This is probably the best line in the game it shows the theme I talked about earlier in it's essence. Lev in this moment is emotional and wants to take out his anger on her but she has risked her life for both of them and is already seen as a traitor by her former group and she expresses that in such a simple but powerful way.
When they make it back to the aquarium where they started from and where they wanted to meet up with their friends and leave they find them dead on the ground. This is also one of the messages the game has in it. First you play to this point from Ellies view and what she does seems justified. But when you see what Abby is trying to do and see where she is at in her development it is completely jarring and a tragedy that those people died especially Owen who only spreads positivity in this game.
Abby tracks down Ellie and wants to avenge her friends but in the end she doesn't kill Dina who is pregnant and also doesn't kill the helpless Tommy. This kinda makes her the hero of the story (I know people won't like this but it's true) because even though she feels tremendous loss and pain and rage she doesn't continue the cycle of violence in that moment and is the bigger person.
And this divide becomes even clearer in the last part of the story where Ellie threatens a childs life to try and force Abby to fight her because she's still not over what happened to Joel.
In the end Ellie looses her love, her home, the child they were raising together, and even one of the things Joel taught her playing the guitar she can't do anymore because while she's trying to drown Abby her fingers get bitten off. I think this is symbolism about how much holding onto her grudge for so long has cost her. Even one of the good things Joel did for her is now lost because of her unwillingness to accept her situation. And throughout the game joel and Ellie play this song if I were to lose you I would surely lose myself which is exactly what happens to Ellie.
This is also a strong theme in the game Owen especially is always talking about being happy in you current situation and not always thinking about what someone else did to you or took from you or what you lost. Ellie could have lived a good life even with all the bad things she went through but she couldn't accept it. And in the end all the people she's mad at have already moved on long ago and they're not even sure how to deal with this person that is still stuck at square one. In the end I do think she did finally have some kind of breakthrough when she told Abby just leave and was sitting alone at the beach. I hope she can keep going on this path.
Why are people mad at this game?
I think it's because it's quite different from the first game the first game was about the emotional attachment to the characters and going through all their struggles with them. This game is kind of the opposite it requires a certain detachment and a more clear head to assess what's going on and why they made the choices they did.
I think a lot of people just wanted Ellie and Joel to be the heroes once again and to go on another rollercoaster ride with them but what Naughty Dog actually did here is way more creative and bold than just a retread of the first story and I'm glad they did it.
Personally I give any story I watch, play, listen, read as much leeway as I can and focus on the positive aspects of it what can I take away from this? What are interesting new ideas these creators had, what were bold decisions they made? Regardless of how well excuted they are. What are things that make me think in this story? Of ourse I do quit on tv shows or movies sometimes I do have expectations of quality don't get me wrong but I don't dismiss something that has quality because I don't like 1 aspect of it. And I think that's what people are doing with this game. They see something they don't like and they say fuck this game. In the end I think it's you that misses out if you take this approach to life.
I feel like it's also partially youtubers. I feel like any youtuber that becomes popular has to try and keep pleasing that audience and I feel like a lot of these anti SJW youtubers have to just churn out videos now to make money which is ironically what they accuse feminists of all the time. So a game like this is like Christmas for them and they have to overdramatise and create outrage over something that were just creative decisions that they don't agree with.
In the end I was super relieved that I liked this game. I heard so many bad things about it. I don't care if everyone else hates it but I would have been really sad if I didn't like it because I had high hopes for this game and it has been such a long wait.
There was a ton of things to unpack in this game even with this long review I don't think I've covered everything I think I will only be able to give a real score ater some time has passed but at this moment I'd give it an 8 out of ten for sure with the potential to reach a nine or a ten. I don't want to be hast though this game definitely has flaws and I want to get another look at it before I give it a super high score. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone though if you don't want to play it watch the story it's worth it! :)