What I Want From The Last of Us Part III
I’ll go more into this when I finally post my review of the game, but I loved The Last of Us Part II. I loved the game’s ending as well. It wrapped up the themes and events of the story rather well. What it also did was leave it open for a third installment of the series. And I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the r/thelastofus subreddit (if you’re a fan of the game and are on Reddit, go join the community). That made me want to sit down and write out what I wanted from a third TLOU game if we get one.
To answer that “if,” I’m pretty confident in saying that we will. Neil Druckmann said last April that there was an outline for a Part III, and he hopes the story can see the light of day, but it isn’t something they’re currently making. “I don’t know how much I want to reveal… [co-writer Halley Gross] and I did write an outline for a story, that we’re not making — but I hope one day can see the light of day — that explores a little bit what happens after this game. We’ll see.”
So I’ll write this article as if a TLOU3 is happening. If it happens, it’ll be a piece for me to reflect on after playing the game. If it doesn’t, it’s a cool thought experiment. For me to explore what I want from a TLOU3, I think it’s right to mention the things I don’t want first, so let’s get into that.
What I Don’t Want
I’d like to start this off with a bit of a disclaimer: this portion of the article isn’t about things that would make me not want to play TLOU3. If the third game has any of the things you’re about to read about in this section, I will not turn my nose up and refuse to play the game. I gave TLOU2 a chance after being vastly disappointed in the spoilers I saw, and it was a decision I’m happy I made. Through both TLOU games and Uncharted 4, Naughty Dog has earned my respect and I will give their games a chance, even if it seems like it’d go in a direction I don’t like. The things I talk about in this section are things that would need to be executed near perfection for me to come around on.
The biggest thing I do not want in a Last of Us Part III is a story centered on Ellie, or anyone else, sacrificing themselves for the cure. I don’t want to see Ellie die for it, and I don’t want to see other immune people pop up with the sole purpose of dying for the cure. I wrote about one reason I don’t want this back in May. Naughty Dog used the cure in TLOU as a narrative vehicle to explore their characters’ actions/motivations, as well as the themes of their story. It was never a goal to be achieved, and I want it to stay that way. This series has always been about humanity in a world devoid of it, and I think this idea has to remain through all three games.
Another reason I don’t want Ellie specifically to sacrifice herself for the cure is that doing so would unravel a lot of her character development through Part II. A huge part of the emotional pull of this game centers on Ellie’s survivor's guilt. She believes that the only way that her life can matter to any extent is to die for the cure. However, Joel and the player, regardless of your opinion on whether the vaccine would have worked, realize that her life means so much more than death. A lot of the subtext of Joel and Ellie’s last conversation revolves around that. Ellie says her life would’ve mattered had Joel let her die, and Joel says that if he was given a second chance, he’d save her again. What Joel is truly saying with this line is that Ellie’s life already matters. It matters to him; it matters to Dina, Jesse, Tommy, Maria; you name it.
And by the end of the game, I believe Ellie comes to this realization. She can finally see that she has a purpose beyond dying on an operating table for a vaccine. What she does with this newfound purpose is to be determined, but I think it would be an enormous step backward if, after realizing she’s worth more than dying for a vaccine, she goes off and dies for the vaccine or some other cure. It makes little sense, and it unravels a lot of what I loved about The Last of Us Part II.
You may have guessed the next thing I am going to talk about, but I also don’t want a story that doesn’t mostly focus on Ellie. This isn’t to say that I’m opposed to playing a TLOU game with new characters or a TLOU game focused on Abby, but I feel like the time has passed to make a main series entry that isn’t focused on Ellie. Those games would pique my interest as a spinoff game or a DLC, but for The Last of Us Part III, Ellie needs to be the primary focus. If Naughty Dog wanted to make a main series TLOU game with new characters or primarily focused on someone who isn’t Ellie or Joel, TLOU2 would have been the best time for that game. And while there is a focus on a new character, the game is still primarily focused on Joel and (mostly) Ellie.
One last thing I want to mention quickly is that I don’t want to see much of Joel in the third game. Let Ellie have her own story and let Joel’s character rest. There are some smaller things that I don’t want, but these are the main points I wanted to hit on. Let’s move on to a more positive note.
What I Want
I’d like to start this section off with a bit of a disclaimer as well: the things in this section aren’t things that’d automatically make the game a masterpiece in my eyes. Nor is this a list of demands that Naughty Dog must put in their game. No, this is more or less a collection of things that would excite me the most.
This item seems small, but the number one thing I want more than anything else is more time in the Jackson settlement. I’d like to explore more of the settlement. What daily life is like, how it operates, the economic system of the settlement, the different jobs and roles, how patrol training works, etc. I said earlier that the game has always been about humanity in a world devoid, and exploring the Jackson settlement in more depth could be a great way to explore how humanity is adapting to this world that disincentivizes humane acts.
Next on the ledger, I want to mostly stay away from any previously seen factions. In this series, we’ve seen the hunters, bandits, David’s men, the Fireflies, FEDRA, the WLF, the Seraphites, and the Rattlers. Some of these factions we definitely won’t see. However, I’d like to stay away from the factions that we could still see. I don’t want a story dominated by the Fireflies, although I recognize that’s easier said than done given their place in Ellie’s life. I was never that interested in FEDRA, to begin with, so I am more than okay with staying away from them.
A faction I would be interested in seeing is the Ravens, a group from New Mexico that Dina mentions in an optional conversation during Seattle Day 1. We don’t see them at all. Dina mentioned that this group of “ex-FEDRA types” broke away from the military and fancied themselves “protectors of the constitution.” She mentioned they ran protection rackets and “took multiple wives.” There’s not a ton of information given about them, but it could be an interesting faction to explore more and a nice call back to the second game.
Speaking of Dina, I’d like to see her and JJ return to this third game. There is a lot of unfinished business between Dina and Ellie, and I think it’d be cool to see how that’s resolved. Whether they get back together, remain friends, amicably part ways, etc. And I think having Ellie mentor an older JJ would be a nice way of showing Ellie take on some of Joel’s more positive traits. We saw her try to emulate his more violent tendencies in the second game, so having her try to emulate his caring and parental tendencies in the third game would be a nice thing to see.
The major theme I want from a TLOU3 story is one of closure and peace of mind. It’s something that Ellie finds to some extent at the end of the sequel, and it’s something that Abby finds to some extent during her sections in Seattle. However, there’s still a lot more to be found. Ellie needs closure in her relationships with Dina and Tommy, and possibly Maria as well. There could be a delicate moment between her and Jesse’s parents that brings closure to his death. If Abby and Lev are in this third game, I’d like to see their work with the Fireflies to bring them peace of mind and closure for the events of Seattle. Another theme many people bring up is one of redemption, and I’d like to see that too. I do feel like this is a lot trickier to do than closure, but I think the two themes can also co-exist if that’s the route Naughty Dog goes.
One last thing I’d like to quickly mention here: I want The Last of Us Part III to (1) be the last game of the main series, and (2) end with Ellie alive and not dead. This series does not need more than three games, and I don’t think it needs to end with Ellie dying. I know the game hammers home no one gets a happy ending, but Ellie doesn’t need to die for that point to ring true. Maybe Ellie doesn’t fully reconcile all of her relationships, maybe not everyone can forgive her like she was willing to forgive Joel. The game doesn’t need Ellie to die.
General Predictions/Final Thoughts
I want to end this piece with some general, sort of vague predictions for what we could see in TLOU3 before giving a few final thoughts on what I’ve written. I don’t want to go into massive story theories, because look at how that turned out for the sequel. I do have some theories, though. I’d like to examine a few trends I’ve noticed in recent Naughty Dog games, make predictions based on those trends, and examine a way in which this prediction could work.
The first prediction I will make is that there will be multiple playable characters in The Last of Us Part III. To what extent they will make each character playable, I won’t venture a guess. This seems to be something Naughty Dog enjoys doing. In Uncharted 1, you play mostly as Nathan Drake, but there is a level where you control Elena Fisher as she and Nate are heading up a river on a jet ski. In The Last of Us, there are three playable characters: Sarah, Joel, and Ellie. Uncharted 4 has you play with another three playable characters: young Nathan Drake, adult Nathan Drake, and Sam Drake, Nate’s brother. TLOU2 has you play as Joel, Ellie, and Abby to round out this trend.
I don’t know if TLOU3 will continue this three-playable characters trend, but there’s no reason they couldn’t. They could have us play as Ellie, Dina, and JJ. It could be Ellie, Tommy, and Dina. Ellie, Tommy, and JJ are another possibility. Abby, Lev, and Ellie are another one if the former two are in this game. The point I’m making is that I expect Naughty Dog to play with this idea of multiple playable characters again for the third game.
My next prediction, and one I’m a little less sure of, is that the farm sequence of TLOU2 will be a major part of the story for the third game. The only precedent I have for this is how big the end of TLOU1 factored into the sequel. I think it could work, though. One possibility could take advantage of the bracelet theory. The bracelet theory is a theory in the fandom that Ellie and Dina have already reconciled by the time Ellie goes to the farmhouse for their stuff. The fandom derived the theory from the fact that Ellie isn’t wearing Dina’s bracelet while in Santa Barbara, meaning she left it at the farm. If this is true, the only way Ellie could get it back is through some sort of interaction with Dina.
The game could pick up a few months to a year after Ellie returns from Santa Barbara, and the story could follow Ellie trying to repair her relationships with Tommy and Dina, with a major obstacle in between Ellie and Dina being the events on the farm. After they reconcile, Dina suggests that they both go back to the farm, but Ellie decides she needs to face her demons alone. That’s when Dina gives Ellie the bracelet back, “for protection” she says, and then we go back through TLOU2’s ending again but from a different lens and perspective than the first time. This idea of having the player go through a level after receiving a new perspective is something they did in TLOU2 with the WLF hospital. This idea for a third game isn’t a prediction, because I don’t think this is exactly the way they’d take it, but it’s a way to have the events of Part II influence Part III.
My last prediction is that TLOU3 will be a lot less dark and depressing than TLOU2. I came to this conclusion, given that the end of the first game was hopeful on the surface, but tragic underneath. And the second game began with hope before quickly becoming tragic. I think it could stand to reason that, given that TLOU2 ends tragically on the surface but hopeful underneath, the third game could start tragically before becoming more of a hopeful story. And the tragedy that we see at the beginning of Part III doesn’t have to be a death.
We could see Ellie being treated as an outcast. In The Last of Us Part II art book, it’s mentioned that Maria was originally supposed to tell Ellie where Abby was, not Tommy. Maybe in Part III, Maria blames Ellie for Tommy’s spiral and that she doesn’t see Ellie as family anymore. She sends Ellie to live in a shack within the walls, and she has to work her way back into everyone’s good graces. This is a tragic start because we expect Maria to be more receptive to Ellie than she is, but it becomes more and more hopeful because Ellie has a chance to make up for the wrongs she committed, and she has a chance to find the family she lost.
I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know if they will even make this third game. And I know many people will disagree with some things I’ve put in this piece. I’d love to hear from all of you. If you agree, let me know. If you don’t, let me know. If you’re from Naughty Dog and somehow read this piece, also let me know because that would be insanely cool. Thanks for reading!
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Featured Photo Credit: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment