The Last of Us has been at the top of all our Most Anticipated charts ever since it was announced in December, but we haven’t really been given much details on the story, which, considering this is a Naughty Dog game, is paramount. We do know that it’s set in a post apocalyptic world where an infection has infected most of the population, and that it focuses on the relationship between the two leading characters- Joel and Ellie, but that’s all we basically know.
However, thanks to a new video interview posted at Game Informer, we have some awesome new details on the story, the characters, their dynamics, the situation of the world, and how the events of the game are triggered.
The game takes place 20 years after the zombie apocalypse broke out. Society is breaking down in factions, with no real hierarchy of governments. The military has started building quarantine zones with checkpoints where they check if anyone’s infected, and you will come across these checkpoints several times throughout the game.
The quarantine zones are protected by huge concrete walls and barbed wires and stuff, to keep the infected out. Supplies start running low soon, and people, well, go nuts, and anarchy breaks lose as the infected start infiltrating them.
Anyone who’s detected with even the slightest of infections is immediately executed by the military. This is going off a vibe very similar to 28 Days Later. “Our story picks up in one of the last remaining quarantine zones,” Creative Director Neil Druckmann explains. “”If you scan positive for infection, you’re taken off to the side and euthanized.”
Joel, the main character, is in his 40s, and is a “ruthless survivor”. He’s basically a mercenary who’s grown harder over the years, and ND describes how, as he tries to survive over the years, he loses most of his morals and becomes this cold, ruthless character. “What he wouldn’t do in the past is almost a daily occurrence at this point,” game director Bruce Straley says.
Ellie, a fourteen year old girl and the other protagonist of the game, is very curious in the world and what it was like before the apocalypse, and is constantly getting herself into trouble. “All she knows is this one quarantine zone,” explains Naughty Dog. She never saw the world prior to the infection outbreak.
Joel operates in a black market in one of the quarantine zones. He deals in drugs and weapons and other not-so-legit activities. One such job requires him to smuggle Ellie, a fourteen year old character, the other protagonist, out of the quarantine zone. No details yet on why she has to be smuggled- “That’s something we’re not ready to talk about,” Druckmann says. But whatever it is, it somehow results in the military hunting for both Ellie and Joel, and now that they’re outcasts, they cannot go into any of the quarantine zones and have to survive the world themselves.
But because Joel promised the only friend he has got in his life that he’d keep Ellie safe, he has to live up to it, and he can’t leave her behind. He knows someone who lives outside the quarantine zones, and he plans to drop Ellie off there and move on. But things obviously don’t go an planned.
“Being a Naughty Dog story,” says Druckmann, “things aren’t always what they seem.”
The game will always promote the sense of abandonment and isolation, says Naughty Dog, and will focus on how Nature is taking over the world, with trees and grass growing ever, water flooding the cities and building crumbling. ND have properly studies “ruin porn” and will be representing it vividly in The Last of Us.
Druckmann also confirmed that they will leave no threads of the story open, and the ending will be a conclusive one, making The Last of Us a self self-sufficient game. Thus, they’re not promising a sequel, but they say they’ve built a strong IP and they will probably want to build it further.
The story and the setting sound awesome. Looks like we’re finally going to get a zombie game that isn’t mindless. It seems to have a great story and a wonderful focus on the characters. But let’s not get hyperbolic. Let’s wait and watch.