The Last of Us Part Two Review: Fantastic Gameplay Ruined by an Atrocious Story.

2 and a half stars
When I reviewed my favourite video game of all time, The Last of Us, I said that, whether I loved, hated, or had mixed feelings about the sequel, I would always find myself returning to the original game because of how incredible it is.
While that is still true, whenever I do replay the game I will have to pretend that The Last of Us Part 2 never happened.
Seriously, what the hell happened with this game?
The graphics and gameplay are amazing, as expected, but the story is absolutely god awful, literally spitting in the face of Joel (Troy Baker) and Ellie’s (Ashley Johnson) relationship.
Before I get into the onslaught of terrible things about this game’s story, I’ll mention the great stuff first.
As I said, graphics and gameplay are near perfect.
There were numerous times where I was hating the story and was thankfully distracted by beautiful scenery or an amazing action sequence.
Crafting was well handled once more and I liked the more personal touch to enemies that made them feel like real people when I fought them.
The new kinds of infected are great to fight, especially the one that was teased but not revealed in the State of Play presentation.
Other amazing set pieces sees you fighting through a burning village and a car chase, both of which are thrilling.

gameplay
I can at least say that the gameplay of The Last of Us Part 2 is good.

Along with this, Gustavao Santaolalla’s score is amazing, again as expected.
As for the story, there are a couple things I like about it.
Some of the new characters like Dina (Shannon Woodward), Jesse (Stephen Chang), Yara (Victoria Grace) and Lev (Ian Alexander) are likeable.
Not to the extent that the characters from the first game are but they are enjoyable for the most part.
Also, some of the scenes during Ellie’s initial revenge quest are very compelling.
Then there are the flashbacks to Ellie and Joel’s time in Jackson, which are the best parts of the game by far.
However, the rest of the story is absolutely horrible.
Written by Neil Druckmann and Haley Gross, the story sees Joel and Ellie living in the town of Jackson.
After an act of extreme violence, Ellie leave for Seattle to seek her revenge, as the writers try to create a message about the cycle of violence.
Sadly, this is a message that falls flat over on its face.
The ending to this game makes no sense whatsoever and completely derails any notion of vengeance being a bad idea, which is what the story was trying to say.

ellie should have killed abby
The Last of Us Part 2 does a terrible job at trying to tell a story about revenge.

The build up to this ending is just as bad, with the inciting incident that causes Ellie to seek vengeance being driven by poor character decisions and feels like it was done for shock value.
A large part of why The Last of Us Part 2’s story is so bad though comes down to one, individual word.
Abby.
Played by Laura Bailey, she is the mystery woman from the trailer that introduced the Seraphites and she is, in my opinion, the worst video game character of all time.
She is completely unlikable in every sense of the word.
Naughty Dog tries to make you sympathize with her but every attempt fails spectacularly.
The story follows both her and Ellie’s struggles with revenge and the damage it causes but Abby never shows any remorse or regret for her actions, unlike Ellie.
She came across as a complete psychopath who I had no reason to care for, yet the writers try so hard to make you do so, which fails entirely.

fuck abby
I honestly cannot remember the last time I hated a character as much as I hate Abby. 

Given that she is the most important character in the game next to Ellie, this is a huge problem and that problem culminates in a boss fight before the third act of the game that left me feeling insulted.
Not to mention that the game’s trailers misled and lied to us on multiple occasions.
The Last of Us Part 2’s story is just atrocious.
The game spits in the face of Ellie and Joel’s bond, the characters’ decisions make no sense, the inciting incident is not justified, Abby is an unbelievably terrible character, and the ending completely undoes any message they were trying to create.
The graphics and gameplay may have been amazing, and some story elements may have been good, but the majority of the story is so bad to the point that I never want to play this game again.
I returned it yesterday and I urge any fan of The Last of Us to never play it.

The Last of Us Remastered Review: My Favorite Video Game of All Time.

5 stars
Naughty Dog is one of, if not my absolute, favourite video game studios.
The first game I played on the PlayStation 3 was Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and I have kept up with that brilliant series as it has continued over the years.
But, I think we can all agree that Naughty Dog’s undisputed masterpiece is their 2013 game The Last of Us, created by Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley, which was remastered for the PlayStation 4.
The tale of Joel and Ellie travelling across a post-apocalyptic America is the height of video game storytelling, with many emotional and heart bounding scenes.
There were numerous times I cried during my first play through, even in the first 20 minutes, which is something no video game has ever done for me.
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson both give enthralling performances as the two lead characters, with the game following their growing father-daughter bond in both its positive and negative consequences for the two.
This culminates in an ending that is so morally ambiguous that it makes the simple line of “Okay” crushing.

okay
The ending of The Last of Us leaves you conflicted but that’s what’s so great about it.

It is not just Joel and Ellie though because almost every other character is exceptionally written.
From Joel’s partner in crime Tess (Annie Wersching), to his estranged brother Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce), to the paranoid Bill (W. Earl Brown), to brothers Henry (Brandon Scott) and Sam (Nadji Jeter), and many more, the characters of The Last of Us are some of the best in video game history, with Joel and Ellie right at the top.
The story accompanying these characters is also enthralling, which shows how amazing the writing is because the story could have easily become very cliched.
There are so many zombie games out there, many with save the world plot lines, so it would have been easy for The Last of Us’ story to fall into this cycle of mediocrity.
However, with the game focusing on the fantastic growing relationship of its two leads, and having a new type of zombie never seen before, the game jumps over the mediocrity scale by a wide margin and leaving it completely in the dust.
Having the source of the infection be the very real Cordecyeps Fungus was a stroke of genius and it makes for some incredibly scary enemies to fight.
Speaking of, the gameplay in The Last of Us is also amazing and accompanies the brutal story well with its likewise brutal conflict.
Fighting Clickers, Runners, Stalkers, and Bloaters throughout is a constant nerve wracking experience.

clickers
The Clickers are one of the most terrifying renditions of zombies ever put to screen, be it a movie or video game.

This culminates in a flooded basement segment some time into the game that is absolutely terrifying the first time you play it.
But it is not just the infected that you have to worry about because people are even more dangerous and, whether you go in using stealth or go guns blazing, it is almost always an intense experience trying to take them out.
Although, it is probably best not to go in all guns blazing on Grounded Mode because, if you try to do that, you will die… a lot.
Seriously, Grounded is an incredibly difficult mode to beat the game on.
I must have died around 100 times in the final, brutal combat sequence of the game.
What makes the combat of The Last of Us so satisfying though is its intensity.
You can just feel every punch that Joel dishes out.
Also, when you play as Ellie during the winter segment, which is my favourite level of the game, she is realistically much weaker than Joel, making gameplay a lot harder, as you have to think of new ways to get around or kill enemies.

ellie and joel baby girl
The Winter segment is gripping, with its emotional conclusion being a turning point in Joel and Ellie’s relationship, and the point where their personalities flip.

Helping the intensity of the combat is the reward of it you feel from scavenging and then crafting from various materials, creating Molotov cocktails, nail bombs, smoke bombs, and med kits to help you throughout the game.
The supplies needed to make these things are also fairly spread around throughout, adjusting the quantity based on the level of difficulty you are playing at.
Upgrading your weapons is also fairly handled, based on how much you scavenge as well.
Materials to build weapons is not the only thing you can find scavenging though, because there are also various notes and pieces of information that create side stories about people trying to survive in the outbreak.
One of these stories is about Ish, who I didn’t find much about on my first play through but on subsequent ones, where I made sure to scavenge, he became a very fleshed out character, even though we don’t meet him in person.
Accompanying this fantastic level of story telling and gameplay is the incredible soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolla, who deserves just as much praise as Druckmann, Straley, and the rest of the creators for adding to the game.

walk in the woods1
Santaolla does an incredible job with the music for the game and I cannot wait to hear his soundtrack for the sequel.

All of this combines to make The Last of Us an emotionally intense experience that is, without a doubt, my favourite video game of all time.
Accompanying this masterpiece in the Remastered addition is the DLC, Left Behind, which mostly details the last happy moments shared between Ellie and her best friend Riley.
Just like the main game, Left Behind is fantastic and a worthy addition to the story.
So, as you can expect, I am incredibly excited for the sequel, which will be released tomorrow.
Unfortunately, a lot of story details were leaked about the game and I accidentally stumbled across one of these spoilers the other day.
I don’t know if what I saw is true or not but, even if it is, I won’t allow it to taint my experience of the game.
And whether I end up loving, hating, or even having mixed feelings about the sequel, The Last of Us will remain an incredible experience for me that I will constantly find myself replaying for many years to come.

Tales of Vesperia Review: A Good Way to Get Through Quarantine.

Featured

4 stars
I live in New Zealand, which is currently in lock down because of the Carona Virus pandemic.
In the days leading up to the lock down, I was bored and looking for a game that I could get lost in for hours.
So, I looked up some and came across Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, a JRPG that had been praised for its story, characters and gameplay.
I bought the game not two days before the lock down was announced, so I ended up with a great way to pass the time indoors in the experience that is Tales of Vesperia.
Directed by Yoshito Higuchi, the game is set in Terca Lumires, a world infested with monsters.
The people use an energy source known as Blastia to generate shields to protect the cities from monsters, and also to help in their everyday lives.
When a Blastia from the Lower Quarter in Zaphias is stolen, former knight Yuri Lowell (Troy Baker) and his faithful dog Repede go on a journey to catch the thief.
From there, they encounter an assortment of wacky characters who join them on their quest, including an innocent noblewoman named Estelle (Eden Riegel), a young guild enthusiast, Karol (Julie Ann Taylor), a hot headed mage, Rita (Michelle Ruff), eye candy Krytian, Judith (Alison Lees Taylor), young pirate, Patty (Sandy Fox), and the mysterious Raven (Joe J. Thomas).
They also meet up with Yuri’s longtime friend and knight Flynn (Sam Riegel), who occasionally joins you on your journey and has a great dynamic with Yuri, especially when Yuri starts to go on a dark path that is both unexpected and great.
All of these characters are fantastic and, as you spend the game watching them interact, they begin to feel like a family.

skit
The various skits across the game helped to solidify the characters’ relationships and endear them to the viewer.

Watching Yuri and Karol’s bond grow throughout the game to the point that they felt like brothers was heartwarming, and Raven’s antics and Rita’s obvious crush on Estelle brought numerous laughs.
The only downside to the party is Patty who, although a great character, doesn’t really feel like she belongs in the story for the first half of the game.
It is pretty clear that she was added for the Definitive Edition.
Not only this but, sadly, much of the villains are incredibly one dimensional to the point that I was constantly bored whenever they were on screen.
They are all cliched mustache twirlers, with the exception of the main antagonist, Duke (Jamieson Price), who is thankfully just as compelling as the main cast.

Dukey boy
Duke was the one antagonist with a solid motivation and the only one I did not roll my eyes at when they appeared on screen.

Despite my problems with the villains though, I can clearly say that, thanks to the main cast, the characters are definitely the best part of the game.
The story is also solid because, while it is nothing special, it has a nice sense of pacing, starting out with the simple goal of catching a thief, before slowly growing into a world ending situation that our characters must deal with.
And then there’s the gameplay, which, I’ll admit, I was pretty terrible at.
You want to know how terrible?
Well, you know those two comic relief characters who constantly exclaim, “I say!” whenever they talk?
Yeah, those two bozos kicked my butt on multiple occasions.

joke characters
I say that these two two idiots made me groan with anguish every time I had to fight them alone as Yuri!

Given how poorly I played, you should take what I say about the gameplay with a grain of salt.
However, despite how bad I was, I still enjoyed the gameplay, leveling up the characters, and gifting them with new Artes
If anything, my poor play style added a level of challenge to the gameplay.
There are some things that the game doesn’t tell you about how to play though, so that can be frustrating.
But, all in all, the characters, story and gameplay are all a lot of fun.
Granted, the game is pretty dated, since it first came out in 2008, and there are some inconsistencies.
For example, the speech bubbles that are displayed sometimes do not match up with what the characters are saying or are in the wrong place, and some voice actors have been replaced for new scenes.
Some have said that these new actors are very distracting but, honestly, I couldn’t tell too much.
Yet, despite the dated nature of the game, I still found that, in quite a few instances, its animation is quite beautiful.
Overall, Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition was a great way to pass the time in my isolation.
The story and gameplay are solid and the characters are fantastic, even if the game is a little dated in certain aspects

The Last of Us Part 2: State of Play Trailer and Release Date Discussion.

The wait is finally over for The Last of Us Part 2 news.
There were so many leaks and rumors over the past few years, both true and untrue, that I was just dying for more details on the upcoming sequel to my favourite video game of all time.
Well, this morning we got the details and then some with the latest State of Play, which included a trailer for the game, along with the much anticipated release date.
It is official; the rumors about February were correct because The Last of Us Part 2 will be released on February 21st 2020.
And now begins the slow, agonizing wait for the game to come out.
Not that I think that February is too far away, it really isn’t, but whenever you badly want something the days just seem longer until it comes out.
In any case, the trailer gave us all lots of juicy details to analyse before the game is released.
The biggest of these is that we finally got a look at Joel, alive no less!
He appears right at the end of the trailer and the graphics for him are fantastic.
He has had quite an update from the previous game to the point that I actually think he looks like an older Troy Baker.

Joel better shot
Joel looks incredibly different from how he looked in the first game with the updated graphics.

Along with the appearance of Joel we also get the basic plot of the game, with Ellie (Ashley Johnson) going to get revenge after a personal loss.
While the person Ellie loses is not shown, all signs point to Dina (Shannon Woodward).
Their relationship is just too happy at the beginning of the trailer for it to end well.
With Ellie losing Dina in a snow storm and then stumbling across a cabin where she walks in on something bad, only to be attacked and forced to watch as someone is shot, Dina seems like the most probable person to die.
Unless, of course, this is Naughty Dog wanting us to think it is Dina who dies and they actually kill someone else.
However, the only character I can think of whose death would be enough to get Ellie to go on a journey of revenge is Joel.
This would mean that Ellie is hallucinating him at the end of the trailer but I have never really liked this theory so I hope this is not the case.
Another thing that has me concerned is the people Ellie is after, the Seraphites.
In other trailers we have seen that their method of killing people is to hang them and then disembowel them, and this could make the deaths of Joel or Dina especially horrifying.
Granted, we do hear a gunshot so whoever is killed could die quickly but, again, that could be a part of the trailer intentionally used to mislead.
Also, part of me thinks that it is possible Naughty Dog would do something so dark.
No matter who dies, though, the moment from where Ellie first walks into the cabin to where she is sitting looking broken, with her bare back covered in bruises, is chilling, and sent goosebumps going up my skin.

state-of-play.jpg
The scene with Ellie in the cabin looks to be the most harrowing moment of the game.

From here, Ellie is shown to begin her revenge quest with Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce) advising her against it, only for her not to listen.
She almost seems suicidal as she expresses that she doesn’t care how many people the Seraphites have or how well armed they are.
Ellie appears to be solely focused on getting her revenge, not matter what happens to her, and this is translated well through the brutal combat.
I praised the gameplay in the last trailer for how cinematic it all looked and the new trailer continues this.
Ellie pulls an arrow out of her shoulder after getting shot, and even snatches an ax out of an enemy’s hands before killing him with it.
We also get a look at new Clickers and Bloaters, both of which look especially terrifying.
Speaking of the infected, we get a few shots of Ellie going through a spore infested area when she is still with Dina, and she is wearing a gas mask.
This makes me think Ellie is hiding her immunity from everyone else and this could backfire quite a bit if she loses that mask and someone notices.
Back to the gameplay, we also get a quick look at Ellie fighting a dog, which appears to be owned by the Seraphites because it does not look wild and has a collar.
I could honestly talk about how great the gameplay looks forever but I will finish by stating how fantastic the graphics are.
They are downright stunning with both the environment and character animations being awe inspiring.

landscape the last of us
The graphics for The Last of Us Part 2 are absolutely stunning with great landscapes.

The opening moments of the trailer give off a real Red Dead Redemption 2 vibe with the snow effects.
All in all, the latest trailer for The Last of Us Part 2 has got me even more hyped up for the game, if that is even possible considering how hyped I already was.
It looks to contain an emotional story, immersive and brutal gameplay, and beautiful animation.
Now we just have to wait a few months for what looks like the next masterpiece from Naughty Dog.