This post contains spoilers for both Left Behind and The Last of Us.
The Last of Us: Left Behind DLC changed my perspective on a possible sequel to last year’s game.
A first for developer Naughty Dog, Left Behind is story DLC for a game that depends on its storytelling more than any other thing. Left Behind has to fit into a tight narrative that moves at an incredibly specific pace, and it has to assume you have played most, if not all of the main game for it to make its point. That’s hard to do. How do you make something standalone, with its own emotional arch, and still have it set within a larger story? Somehow, Naughty Dog pulled it off.
And I had my doubts. I worried that story DLC would hurt the main game’s ending, the way it wraps everything up and ends on a subtly unsettling note. Even when I loaded Left Behind up for the first time and saw that it took place both as a flashback with Ellie and Riley and right after Joel is mortally wounded, I asked myself why I needed to know what happened during a part the main game skipped over. I’m a fan of shorthand in stories, and I saw no reason why I needed to know how Ellie saved Joel because I had already seen that her devotion to keep him alive was integral to her character in the main story. I was wrong.
I was wrong about the important Riley’s relationship with Ellie was. It gives reason to why Ellie goes so far to save Joel in the future, and it adds texture that makes the final scene in The Last of Us far more affecting. It also provides a counter-point to all the action-based survival Joel and Ellie go through and lets you enjoy what little is left of the game’s savage world.
Naughty Dog avoided all my worries and made something I’m still thinking about today.
I came into Left Behind pessimistic and left proven wrong and optimistic. Optimistic about a potential sequel, which the developer says has a 50 percent chance of existing. After Left Behind I believe Naughty Dog could make a sequel that avoids all the problems people who play games assume it would have, especially when its following up such a complete story. It could also move the series to the next-generation consoles, making the game even more beautiful and detailed.
There’s tons of ways it could go about it. It could continue with Joel and Ellie or it could follow other characters in the world. As we see with zombie fiction, there’s tons of different survival stories to tell. And given Sony’s leeway when it comes to Naughty Dog and the way it took story-based DLC and turned it from something that on paper sounded unnecessary and made it necessary, I think a sequel could work. Actually, I’d go so far as to say I want a sequel. Left Behind changed me. I believe in Naughty Dog.