[Editor’s note: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Last of Us: Part II.]
Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated sequel to their 2013 acclaimed hit The Last of Us is now available to play in some places in the world. And you know what that means: SPOILERS. Some folks out there have broken embargo, so the story spoilers are already out there if you’re not careful. But if you are intentionally seeking them out — whether it’s because you’re interested in the story but don’t plan on playing it, or just can’t wait to get to the end of the 30-hour trek to find out — you’ve come to the right place.
I wasn’t able to go into any real detail about The Last of Us: Part II in my review, but now that the embargo is up, all bets are off. Again, if you don’t want to be spoiled, turn back now. I’m going to walk you through the story and its many, many acts, including character reveals, deaths, and parts to play in the story. I’ll also focus on the enemies, both new and returning, who pop up in the telling of the tale and how they affect the narrative. I really do strongly encourage you to simply play the game to find out all of these details because the experience is truly something else. But if you simply cannot wait, here’s how The Last of Us: Part II plays out:
The Story So Far
If you haven’t played the original The Last of Us, that’s actually okay. Part II does a solid job of catching you up on what you need to know, at least as far as playing the sequel goes. But the broad strokes of the 2013 award-winning game are these: You play as Joel, a gruff and capable survivor of the post-apocalypse that was brought about by a parasitic fungus that attacks and mutates people, turning them into monsters. Joel ekes out an existence as a smuggler, ferrying weapons, ammunition, drugs, and supplies wherever they need to go. He’s recruited by the Fireflies, a militia group seeking a cure. His cargo? A young girl named Ellie who may be the only human alive to have an innate immunity to the fungus.
Joel escorts Ellie across the wild and dangerous country to the waiting Firefly facility where doctors are prepared to experiment on Ellie in order to develop that cure. The problem is, the cure that saves humanity will definitely kill Ellie. Joel, having developed a strong surrogate father/daughter relationship with her through their journey, can’t allow that. Instead, he kills dozens of Firefly soldiers, personnel, and even doctors in order to spirit Ellie off to safety. Doubling down on his sins, Joel keeps this secret from Ellie for years, telling her that there are dozens of people out there with an immunity. While Joel thinks he’s doing what’s best for Ellie, the lie not only makes her feel like she lost what made her special, but will ultimately fracture the relationship between them.
And that’s where The Last of Us: Part II picks up. SPOILERS ahead; ye been warned.
- Prologue – Were you expecting a bit of Red Dead Redemption 2 to get you started? No? Us either. But you get to enjoy a nice horseback ride into Jackson as Joel, riding along with brother Tommy to deliver a guitar to Ellie. Joel tells Tommy the whole tale that played out at the end of The Last of Us. We then see Joel playing “Future Days” on his guitar (which you can actually play, in a surprisingly fun minigame that pops up throughout the narrative) for Ellie. This scene definitely sets the tone for what’s to come…
- Waking Up – Here we get a four year time jump. As Ellie, obviously older and more capable now, you wake up late for your early morning patrol with Dina; it’s Jesse pounding on the door who actually wakes you up and gets you moving. This is a great opportunity to get to know the controls, chat with Jesse and Dina (who had just broken up a week or so earlier), and explore the peaceful and civilized town of Jackson. This is also where you learn that some flirtations and a kiss between Ellie and Dina at the town dance the night before led to a bit of a scuffle between the homophobic bar owner Seth and the over-protective Joel. But as players, we won’t get to see what happened here for a long, long time.
- The Overlook – In the first big surprise of the game, we’re introduced to all-new characters, Abby and Owen chief among them. (More surprising still, you take control of Abby at this point.) They’re part of the Washington Liberation Front, or W.L.F., or simply Wolves. You don’t know much about them at this point — beyond some romantic friction between Abby and Owen — except that they’ve taken up temporary residence in a ski lodge and have eyes on the town of Jackson, because they’re looking for someone…
- Patrol – The first real level puts the player back in control of Ellie as she and Dina continue their patrols. This is a great place to get comfortable with the mechanics, including a Clicker fight, but it’s just baby steps before the adventure to come. (There are some great Naughty Dog Easter eggs to be found here, like Uncharted and Jak & Daxter video games by a PS3 in the town library, plus a cheeky nod to Crash Bandicoot.) Great character moments between the super-cute Ellie and Dina here, a theme that continues throughout the game.
- The Horde – You’re back in control of Abby as she tries to find (and fight) her way through a blizzard and a horde of Infected. She just so happens to run across Joel and Tommy during their own patrol. They help Abby out of a tight spot but are almost overrun themselves, so she offers them sanctuary with her group, holed up in the overlook …
- The Chalet – Ellie learns that Joel and Tommy haven’t relieved the other patrol teams, so she goes out looking for them. What she finds is Joel and Tommy in captivity of the W.L.F., with Abby apparently leading the group. We don’t know why just yet, but the thread back to the events of the first game are starting to become a little clearer. Abby, who was just saved by Joel, blows his leg apart with a shotgun blast. Mel, another member of the W.L.F. group pistol whips Tommy into unconsciousness. While they tourniquet Joel’s leg to stop him from bleeding out too soon, it’s not out of concern, it’s to keep him alive long enough for Abby to beat him to death with a golf club. Ellie, as the player, is forced to watch all of this play out, unable to do anything about it. Though Ellie and Tommy are left alive, they plan to head to Seattle to hunt each of the W.L.F. down and seek vengeance for the murdered Joel …
Seattle Day 1
- Packing Up – Ellie and Dina gear up for the trek to Seattle, only to find that Tommy went out ahead of them. So now it’s not just a vengeance quest for Ellie, but a task to return Tommy home safe and sound. It’s worth taking time here to make sure you talk to everyone you’re able to and find all the collectibles you can, because you won’t be coming back here. Consider this a one-way ticket to Seattle from here on out; the game is very linear and doesn’t allow for much back-tracking unless you restart checkpoints or full chapters.
- The Gate – After a lovely ride through a fern-filled Pacific Northwest forest, Ellie and Dina will encounter one of the first puzzles in the world. It’s your basic security gate, powered by a gas-fueled electric generator, that restricts access into Seattle’s quarantine zone.
- Downtown – Opening that first gate reveals the most sandboxy aspect of the entire game: Downtown Seattle. It’s not a huge area but it’s big enough to offer a checklist of side quests, loot rooms, and plenty of enemy encounters. Feel free to roam about in relative safety while on horseback; it’s when you’re on foot exploring beneath crumbled buildings or clearing out standing ones that you’re really in danger. But high risk, high reward here. You may even get some cute cutscenes, like Ellie playing guitar for Dina in a music shop, if you explore every inch of the city.
- Eastbrook Elementary – Throughout the downtown area, you’ll find a ton of lore; there’s so much of it scattered across the game that it’s impossible to capture it all here. But with those scraps of paper and, just as important, the well-crafted and beautifully designed set pieces themselves, you’ll learn a lot more about the world, its history, its people, and even those who succumbed to either the violence of skirmishes that play out on a daily basis or the infected themselves. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful.
- Capitol Hill – The main purpose of these buildings is to walk you through a gas-finding sub-quest that’s needed to power another generator, but the journey offers you time to get to know Dina a bit better. We learn that she’s Jewish, that she had a sister who was killed, and that she spent some time in New Mexico where a militia group called the Ravens staked out their own territory. Possible spin-off? Upcoming DLC? Who knows!
- Channel 13 – Collecting scraps of lore and paying attention to any human enemies that pop up will eventually lead you to this news station where one of the W.L.F. members was last seen. This is the start of Ellie’s vengeful journey, though Dina is more than happy to lend a hand when needed; it gets much bloodier from here on out.
- The Tunnels – It suffices to say that anytime you see red lighting, find yourself in a red room, or just see a lot of red on the screen, watch out. That’s a literal red flag that things are about to get ugly, intense, bloodily violent, or absolutely terrifying … perhaps all of the above.
- The Theater – Having survived all of the conflicts at the news station (and below it), Ellie and Dina seek refuge in an old theater. It’s fun to explore, but you get to do a bit more of that later. Take the time to head into the theater itself and tune up that ol’ guitar one more time.
- The Birthday Gift – The first of many flashbacks, we get to return to a time three years earlier in which Joel share a birthday surprise with Ellie. (This clever sub-plot also teaches you the necessary swimming mechanics. Hilariously, when Joel pushes Ellie into the water to teach you how to swim, you can actually let Ellie drown … maybe “hilarious” is the wrong word, but I sure laughed at ol’ Murderin’ Joel.) What’s the gift? Well, after a swim, Joel and Ellie happen upon an old museum featuring everything from dinosaurs to astronauts. Take your time and explore here (and feel free to climb on the dinosaurs, and to put hats on them) because it’s one of the sweetest storytelling moments in the whole game, even if there is a scary side to it.
Seattle Day 2
- Hillcrest – Having learned that Dina is “sick”, a.k.a. pregnant with Jesse’s child (a fair trade considering Dina now understands Ellie’s own immunity to the spores), Ellie goes off on her own to continue her vengeance quest. That leads her to the suburb of Hillcrest. On the down side, it’s crawling with W.L.F. and their tracking dogs, and you’re solo this time. On the up side, you do find a bow here, so that’s a big bonus to my fellow Sneaky Archers out there.
- Finding Strings – Another flashback to two years earlier finds Tommy sniping Infected from across a mountain valley, keeping the patrol lines clear and documenting them in log books. Ellie takes a turn at the task (giving players a lesson in how to use scoped rifles) before heading off with Joel to look for new guitar strings. There’s an increasing tension between Joel and Ellie here, one borne more out of overly protective parenting than anything else. (There is also a fantastic sequence for Joel and Ellie here that feels like one of the cinematic / combat moments from the original game.)
- The Seraphites – Back in the Hillcrest neighborhood, Ellie meets another set of new enemies: The Seraphites. The introduction here is a violent one: Ellie takes an arrow to the shoulder (which teaches you how to remove an arrow before bleeding out, a skill that doesn’t really come up again) and must dispatch a small group of self-scarred and mutilated fighters wielding somewhat primitive weapons. It’s clear they’re not interested in Ellie beyond eliminating her as an intruder, but they are in an ongoing turf war with the W.L.F. Don’t think that the enemy of your enemy is your friend though; they’ll kill Ellie on sight just like anyone else.
- St. Mary’s Hospital – In the present, Ellie finds another member of the W.L.F. here, Nora. The confrontation ends in a chase, Nora getting infected, and a decision (or not, since this game’s narrative seems to be based on the illusion of choice) to torture Nora for information on Abby’s whereabouts. It’s brutal, and tinged in red… Another flashback, just one year earlier, finds Ellie exploring the hospital where she should have died to save the world but was saved by Joel instead. She finds evidence from the doctors’ research that confirms she would have had to die in order to develop a cure. This leads to a confrontation with Joel in which Ellie tells him to tell the truth for once; if he lies, she’s gone forever, but if he tells the truth, she’ll go back to Jackson with him. Joel finally confesses everything he’d done, and Ellie clearly isn’t happy about it. That’s what leads to their fractured relationship back in Jackson.
Seattle Day 3
- Road to the Aquarium – Back in the present, Ellie has learned that Joel’s killer is likely hold up in the aquarium. Dina’s been monitoring the radio broadcasts of the W.L.F. from the safety of the theater. A helping hand pops up along the way to get Ellie through the worst of it as Jesse appears to assist in finding Tommy. And while the Ferris wheel that marks the aquarium’s location is always in sight, it is very, very far away, so settle in.
- The Flooded City – The aquarium is so far away, in fact, that Ellie will need a motorboat to get her there. That adds a bit of speed to the game along with a new perspective on the flooded city and some new puzzles to solve along the way. In the process, you might just run across a pack of Stalkers, a Bloater, and even a Shambler or two, who will throw a cloud of noxious acid at you in order to set you up for combos from Runners … thanks, Neil.
- Infiltration – Having finally reached the aquarium, Ellie runs through the dark (and is attacked by a dog) until she finds two remaining members of the W.L.F.: Owen and Mel. A dramatic stand-off ends with Ellie killing the both of them, unintentionally and unknowingly killing their unborn baby… It’s just one tragic moment among many in this game. Having run out of leads, Ellie returns to the theater where Dina, Jesse, and now Tommy wait for her. While the four of them prepare to head back to Jackson, a commotion draws Ellie’s attention. Out of nowhere, Abby arrives, shoots Jesse through the head and kills him, and holds Tommy at gunpoint. She forces Ellie to get rid of her own gun and looks like she’s about to kill them all … which is when the scene fades to black…
Yep, so here’s the first big surprise of the game: You thought Ellie’s journey was almost over at this point, roughly 12 – 15 hours in. Nope. You’re maybe 40% of the way through at this point. Why? Because you’re now going to step into the shoes of perhaps the most-hated character in video game history. That’s right; it’s time to play as Abby.
- Tracking Lesson – While forcing players to take control of the major antagonist you’ve been hunting the entire game so far is a bold decision (which I fully expect will divide some people and perhaps even get some to put the controller down entirely), it’s by design. The point of this game is to find a way for players to develop empathy for a character they 100% wanted to kill for the last 15 hours. How do you do that? For starters, put gamers in the shoes of a young Abby learning how to track from her father. The scene plays out, a little strangely, in a local zoo that has been overrun by the wild once more; we also get a bit with Owen, revealing that he and Abby were, if not childhood sweethearts, then at least interested in each other from a young age. But more importantly, who’s her father? None other than the lead doctor of the Firefly group who was preparing to perform surgery on Ellie … Yeah. So when Joel killed him, Abby’s world crumbled…
Seattle Day 1
- The Stadium – Get ready for a completely different playing style here, or at least the opportunity to do so. Abby is a powerful character, which you can tell from her build; the reason for that is developed over the course of her story here. You spend time with her in the W.L.F. at their stadium headquarters, gathering collectible quarters (which her dad used to love doing; nice emotional touch, Naughty Dog), meeting her fellow members of the squad (who have yet to meet their fates at the hands of Ellie), and even getting to play fetch and give head-scritches to the team’s dogs. Yeah, even the dogs have names. Feel bad yet? You should, and you’ll feel worse soon enough. Abby gets the gang together for a jeep ride to their forward base, but they’re waylaid by a Seraphite ambush.
- On Foot – Abby, Manny, Mel, and Alice the dog make their way through the backstreets and trainyards of Seattle to make their way to the distant forward base. You’ll get to know Abby’s abilities and capabilities here as you continue to upgrade her skills and weapons, just like you would for Ellie. Those skills and upgrades, and even the weapons themselves, are slightly different here, tailored to Abby’s more powerful build. She absolutely trucks through both enemies and obstacles, and is a blast to play as.
- The Forward Base – Once you reach the base, you’ll soon get a chance to meet the top brass of the W.L.F. But before you do so, Naughty Dog has some serious story they want to lay on you. Ellie’s murderous rampage throughout Seattle comes into full clarity from the other side here as Nora reveals the dozens of body bags of W.L.F. members heaped up in their cold storage facility. It’s not yet apparent to Abby and the others that the girl from Jackson is systematically killing them for revenge; they’re more concerned with the immediate threat of the Seraphites. Abby also has a personal conflict: Owen has gone A.W.O.L. and the W.L.F. leadership suspects him of killing one of their own…
- The Aquarium – Four years earlier, Abby and Owen are goofing off at the Ferris wheel at the aquarium. It’s here we learn of Abby’s crippling fear of heights, which Owen teases her about. (It’s worth mentioning that Abby isn’t as physically fit here, a nod to the many years of training that she underwent in order to be self-reliant and keep up with — and surpass, in most cases — her fellow soldiers.) They explore the vacant aquarium and Owen decides to make it his headquarters, including plans to fix up a yacht moored in its inner harbor. Cut to a scene that’s just two years and four months earlier than the present time and we return to the aquarium once more. Owen is talking about rumors of a Firefly regroup in Santa Barbara, which is why he’s fixing up the boat, and wants Abby to come with him … and Mel, his current girlfriend. This is our first nod to what is a tragic and toxic relationship, the worst sort of love triangle, and it’s intended to shift your hatred from Abby to Owen; it works!
- Hostile Territory – After navigating an area overrun by Seraphites, Abby ends up getting captured by the scar-faced group in an unskippable cutscene sequence.
- The Forest – Abby ends up bound, stripped of her weapons and gear, and hung in the forest of the Seraphites as their local leader prepares to gut her. A so-called apostate Yara, one of their flock who has strayed from the path, is dragged into the firelight. On the Seraphite leader’s orders, her followers “clip” Yara’s “wings”, ie they smash her arm with a hammer. It’s just moments before Yara and Abby are killed that arrows fly out of the dark forest surrounding them, giving both Yara and Abby a chance to fight for their lives. The stealthy archer is Lev, the young brother to Yara. Despite the Seraphite distrusting the Wolf, Yara, Lev, and Abby work together to escape the Seraphites and fight through the waves of Infected that rush them from the dark forest, including a mini-boss fight that squares Abby up against an opponent who’s even bigger than she is. It’s an intense sequence and one that stands out as an example of how The Last of Us: Part II changes up the pace from time to time.
- The Coast – Abby takes it upon herself to rescue Yara, attempting to heal her broken arm, and finds her and Lev a safe place to stay from both the Seraphites who are hunting them as outcasts and the W.L.F. patrols that are looking to exterminate them altogether. She eventually makes her way back to the aquarium once more.
- Return to the Coast – Checking on Yara and Lev the next morning, Abby finds Yara in great distress; she’s suffering from compartment syndrome in her shattered arm. She brings them back to the aquarium, where it becomes apparent that Yara needs medicine and supplies if she’s going to survive through Mel’s surgical amputation, so Abby takes it upon herself to do so. However, when she returns to the W.L.F. base to sneak supplies off to the waiting Seraphites, she’s apprehended as a deserter. Nora helps her escape the base and also tells her to make her way to the hospital where the rest of the medical supplies are waiting. It seems that the W.L.F. is gearing up for a massive, all-out assault on the Seraphites’ island, so time is of the essence.
Seattle Day 2
- The Shortcut – Here, Abby teams up with Lev to take a shortcut across the city to the hospital. We learn that the Seraphites have constructed a series of wooden bridges, ladders, and passes high above the city in order to avoid W.L.F. patrols on the ground. They can move freely just about anywhere … as long as the passages hold, and as long as, say, Abby’s fear of heights doesn’t cause her to fall from the icy bridge span into a ruined building far, far below.
- The Descent – In what I consider to be the most harrowing series of levels in the entire game, Abby and Lev make their way down 20-some floors of an apartment building. The problem is that it’s full of spores and they only have one mask. Abby must clear the floors to find a mask for Lev before they can descend further. Each floor holds waiting surprises, like Stalkers, Clickers, Runners, Bloaters, and the like. But the worst is yet to come…
- Ground Zero – Having survived to make it to the hospital, Abby encounters Nora once more, who leads her to the unexplored floors of the hospital where some medical supplies might yet remain. The problem? The area was Ground Zero for the infection, the place that all of the very first infected victims were brought before the medical staff knew anything about it. That means that the infected who remain down here have been there since the beginning, so who knows what mutations have afflicted them in their time left alone … Except, you’re here for spoilers, so that’s what you’ll get! The red-lit hospital garage should be a clue that shit’s about to go down. Stage 6 of the Infected is the newest enemy here, and it’s dubbed the King Rat: It’s a hodgepodge of a Bloater embedded with at least two Stalkers, a many-handed, many-headed monstrosity. Yep. It’s a relatively large Infected species that extracted itself from a bloody, fleshy, Cronenbergian wall of fused infected, tunneling its way out through their merged bodies. It’s fast, it hits with a one-shot kill (which will happen when it rips your head in half), and it is defeated in stages: Once you knock it down past the first stage, the first Stalker will pull itself from the body and start doing its Stalker thing. Kill that, return focus to the King Rat until it goes down to its next stage; another Stalker will pop out; rinse and repeat until you can get the hell out of there and catch your breath.
- Return to the Aquarium – With supplies in hand, Abby returns to the aquarium. Mel is able to successfully amputate Yara’s arm, though Lev isn’t taking things so well. The love triangle among Abby, Owen, and Mel continues to deteriorate.
Seattle Day 3
- The Marina – With Yara on the mend, Lev feels the need to take action. He steals a boat from the aquarium’s marina and plans to head back to the island to exact a revenge of his own for his maimed sister. Abby and Yara try to head him off but they are caught up in a W.L.F. battle. There, Abby finds Manny pinned down by sniper fire. She and Manny methodically work their way up through cover (don’t waste your ammo here) to get to the sniper, only for Manny to be taken out. It’s up to Abby to take the sniper down. And when she does, you find out that it’s Tommy. A quicktime event saves Abby and Yara but pushes Tommy into the raging water.
- The Island – Abby and Yara head to the Seraphite island in search of Lev. It’s a harrowing journey that takes place as the W.L.F. is just beginning to launch their own attack on the island, but the game gives you enough time to learn some interesting things about your companion Seraphites. The “kids”, as Abby refers to them, were under the thumb of a devoutly religious mother as part of an ultra-conservative religion that enforced cruel practices and delivered severe, deadly punishments for anyone who broke their rules. Yara was assigned to be a soldier due to her archery skills, but Lev, who was born Lily, was assigned to be the wife of a high-ranking member of their order. Lev rejected this idea, wanting to be a soldier like his sister, and shaved his head to appear like one of the men. This act of rebellion was punishable by death, marking the siblings as apostates. That backstory plays out as you and Yara sneak (or shoot up) the vast island of Seraphites and the thousand-odd fighters and civilians who live there. You find Lev in their family’s house, having accidentally killed their mother in an altercation. What happens next is perhaps the most insane sequence of the entire game…
- The Escape – The full force of the Wolves attacks, and the full force of the Seraphites respond. The island is soon engulfed in flames, gunfire, the sounds of death and battle … Abby and Yara have to flee through all of it in order to find Lev. (Enjoy that frantic horse ride through a flaming village or two because it is absolutely bonkers!) In the end, the trio is just about escape when a huge beast of a man attacks and kills Yara before turning his massive bladed hammer on Abby. It’s a gnarly fight that forces you to not only dodge the man’s blows, but to carve up his face so that his jaw is mostly hanging off … and still her persists. It’s a brutal fight, one or not just Abby’s life, but for Lev’s too …
- The Confrontation – As Abby and Lev row back to the aquarium, you might think that all is well … but remember that Ellie has been out there this whole time. Abby happens upon the corpse of Alice the dog, a kill you’re forced to make as Ellie. She then sees Owen and Mel, dead in a pool of rapidly spreading blood. Abby is able to track Ellie back to the movie theater because Ellie left the map laying there with a big ol’ circle around their HQ… It’s worth mentioning here that not only does Abby leave most of her gear behind, but that she wouldn’t have been able to get into the theater without Lev’s help. You literally have to have these two working as a team to get inside, and without each of them saving the other’s life throughout the story, things never would have gotten to this part. What transpires is much the same as it was earlier, only through Abby’s perspective now. And … can you really blame her for wanting to kill them all? Joel killed her father, a fact that she’s haunted by in PTSD flashbacks as a kid walking the bloodied halls of the hospital, and now Ellie has killed her friends and allies. It’s self-preservation when Abby kills Jesse, and revenge when she wounds Tommy and forces Ellie to toss her gun aside. But then, we see what happens next: Abby shoots Tommy in the back of the head, leaving him for dead. Ellie runs off behind the theater stage which is where a climactic battle plays out. Now, as Abby, you have to fight a geared-up and skilled-up Ellie; it’s not a tough fight, per se, but pitting your played protagonists against each other is a real headtrip. Ultimately, Abby gets the upper hand (to put it lightly) but a pregnant Dina intervenes. Abby is about to slit her throat when Ellie calls out that she’s pregnant. Lev, arrow nocked and bow drawn, pleads with Abby not to do this because she’s better than this. Abby lets them go, saying that she never wants to see Ellie’s face again… Abby and Lev leave the theater together as Dina and Ellie are left to clean up the mess…
Congratulations! If you made it this far, you’re roughly 80% through the game. Hang in there!
We flash forward about a year. Ellie and Dina are living peacefully in a farm outside Jackson, raising little J.J. together. This chapter is easily the slowest of the bunch, but that’s by design. Yes, there are shades of RDR2‘s “farm chores chapter” here, but it’s not all that long of a section and it’s actually quite nice and pleasant to play through. We learn that Tommy is, in fact, alive, but disabled by Abby’s gunshot. One of his eyes is permanently slumped and closed, and one leg doesn’t quite work right. He pays a visit to Ellie, Dina, and J.J. to tell them that he’s tracked down “a girl built like an ox and a kid with a scarred face” to Santa Barbara … he wants Ellie to finish the job because he can’t. (Tommy’s also dealing with his own demons back in Jackson as his quest for vengeance and frustration at his inability to achieve it caused a romantic break-up back in town.) While Tommy’s request is turned down by Ellie and flat-out rejected by a mad-as-hell Dina, Ellie’s own PTSD haunts her. She’s not eating, she’s not sleeping, she’s experiencing Joel’s death over and over again.
She thinks back to the dance in Jackson: Dina, dancing with some of the guys, prefers to dance with Ellie instead. She kisses her, leading to Seth telling them that this is a family event and to keep that in mind; as they leave, he says that they don’t need “another loud-mouthed dyke” in town, which causes Joel to step in. That’s the moment that pisses Ellie off, but it’s also the impetus she needs to talk to him…eventually.
Ellie makes the hard decision to go after Abby one last time. Dina tells her that she’s not going through this again, and the two part on hard terms.
- Pushing Inland – Playing as Abby, which we learn is a few months later, she and Lev track down a lead for a supposed reunion of Fireflies in a Santa Barbara suburb. The change in scenery is drastic here, and the dry, faded-out landscape even messes with your Listen Mode a bit more than usual. Ultimately, their quest gets Abby and Lev captured by the Rattlers, a group of thugs in stolen federal and local law enforcement gear. From there, we pick up with Ellie again as she tracks them down, but she, too, falls victim to the Rattlers’ traps. Mortally wounded, Ellie is able to fight back against her captors thanks in part to her immunity against the Infected. She tortures them into telling her where the other captives are being held, just before killing them.
- The Resort – If you were expecting a severely wounded, sunburnt, and emaciated Ellie to go on a one-woman mission to clear out a gang compound, complicated by the fact that the gang is heavily armed and armored, and keeps Infected chained up as “guard dogs”, then I salute you. I never saw this coming. It’s a real trial to get through at the end of the playthrough, but it’s not exactly difficult assuming you’ve got enough gear and grit remaining. There’s a little background story here — the gang rounds up prisoners as slave labor (and possibly as a food source, as a nod back to the cannibals in the original game) — but Ellie is able to free them for their own small rebellion in exchange for information on Abby’s whereabouts. The freed prisoners tell her that she’s, “At the Pillars. Down on the beach … you can’t miss it.”
- The Beach – You quite literally can’t miss this. Ellie’s wounded trek to find Abby plays out while explosions, gunshots, shouts, and the like take place in the background. As Ellie’s vision dims and her guns drop to her sides, you happen upon the Pillars: A series of crucifix-like posts hammered into the beach, each with an emaciated and sun-blasted prisoner strung up on them. Soon, you find Abby and cut her down. She’s seen better days, for sure, but she has enough strength to cut Lev down. At the shore, you see two boats (one of which is the boat moored in the game’s title screen), giving you the glimmer of hope that the two protagonists will go their separate ways. But it’s not to be. Ellie threatens Lev’s life to force Abby to fight her one last time. This time, as Ellie, you’re armed with the switchblade against the unarmed but still fit Abby, who manages to bite off the pinky and ring fingers on Ellie’s left hand. It’s not much of a challenge but it is a brutal fight, especially since the game essentially pits you against yourself once more. Ultimately, Ellie lets Abby live, and tells her and Lev to go. Then, Ellie looks to the remaining boat…
- Epilogue – We see Ellie returning to their farmhouse only to find Dina and J.J. gone, along with everything in the house except for Ellie’s old things, like her journal and guitar. She plays “Future Days”, rather poorly, owing to being two fingers shorter than she used to be. Obviously, this makes her think of Joel one last time. We learn that she has a heart-to-heart with him in which she tells him that she doesn’t forgive him yet, but that she wants to try to do so. In other words, Joel and Ellie parted on good terms and were just about to start making amends, so while it’s tragic that Joel died the way he did, and that Ellie feels cheated for not getting to totally forgive him, at least she didn’t leave things between them forever unhealed.
- Ellie leaves the guitar behind as she packs up her meager possessions and heads back outside, walking towards the forest, for parts unknown…
And that is where The Last of Us: Part II ends. It’s been a brutal journey with twists, turns, ups and downs, divisive decisions and plenty of philosophical material to chew on for years. We hope you enjoyed this read-through, but even more so we hope you’ll check out The Last of Us: Part II for yourself and experience the epic story that Naughty Dog has given us all.