The Last of Us is a phenomenal masterpiece that received high praise from critics and gamers alike. To some, like myself, it is the game of the decade for the 2010s. Naughty Dog told a compelling story in such a way that a sequel was not needed. I finished the game after it released on PlayStation 4, content with what had been presented, and I actively campaigned against a sequel when discussing The Last of Us with my friends. A follow-up to such a seminal game came with too great of risks and expectations.
For such reasons, The Last of Us Part II is my most anticipated game of 2020. The anticipation and hype leading up to the release of The Last of Us Part II puts pressure on Naughty Dog to deliver. The studio is among the upper echelon for single-player experiences already.
The Last of Us Part II has the potential to cement Naughty Dog as a truly legendary studio. The challenge the studio faces is one that brings tremendous anticipation for a sequel that, in my opinion, does not need to exist. The stories of Ellie, Joel, and the other characters gamers met in the first game came to a satisfying conclusion with its iconic ending. The bond that players witnessed grow between these two characters is powerful. Why risk it with a sequel?
By virtue of a sequel existing, the story of the first game will be forever altered, regardless if The Last of Us Part II delivers on the expectation players and critics have. Knowing that a continuation of the story exists will make it hard for me to view the first game as an experience that exists on its own. The Last of Us Part II needs to build on the world Naughty Dog has established in a way that is familiar, yet new.
However, the bar set for The Last of Us Part II is incredibly lofty. Excluding standalone experiences, the last time Naughty Dog has released a game below a Metacritic score of 90 was in 2007 with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which sits at an 88. The first The Last of Us sits at a score of 95. The string of success the studio has amassed has already made it a premier developer. Anything not in the mid-90s will be viewed as a letdown considering the success the studio has had since the launch of the PlayStation 3. The Last of Us Part II being a letdown will cause players to question why Naughty Dog would even revisit this franchise if capitalizing on the potential profit of the IP is not the studio’s explicit goal.
Everything that has been shown of The Last of Us Part II has seemed promising so far. I am genuinely curious to continue Ellie’s story and explore more of the world. However, the premier status that Naughty Dog is willing to wager on a follow-up to a game widely accepted as one of the best ever leaves me wondering if the seemingly infallible charm which Naughty Dog games carry is real. Can the studio release a game that is merely considered good? In my opinion, The Last of Us Part II must be more than just that.