Naughty Dog originally envisioned a much bigger game than the one they ended up making.
WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for The Last of Us Part 2.
The Last of Us Part 2 is the biggest game Naughty Dog have made to date, but it is not, of course, open world. It still very much follows a linear, at times wide linear approach, with the exception of a semi-open world section that built on things that Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy toyed with. However, earlier on in development, The Last of Us Part 2 was originally going to be a much bigger game.
Speaking during IGN’s Beyond podcast (via PlayStation Lifestyle), creative direction Neil Druckmann said the The Last of Us Part 2 was originally going to be open world with multiple hubs. Players would start the game as Abby, and after she gets rescued by Joel and Tommy, she would spend some time in Jackson, which was supposed to be the first open world hub environment.
Here, Abby would spend some time doing missions, before revealing her identity at a critical point in the story. Though struggling with what to do, she would ultimately kill Joel as she did in the final game, following which Ellie would set off on her revenge quest to Seattle, also much like the final game. Seattle was intended to be the second open world hub, and players here would be focused on tracking down and killing every member of the group that killed Joel.
However, Druckmann explained that Naughty Dog ultimately decided the game’s open world ideas were “too much in conflict” with the story they wanted to tell, and the way they wanted to tell it. According to Druckmann, around this time, co-writer Halley Gross joined the team, helping determine the game’s “high-level ideas”, which also led to Naughty Dog deciding that it would be best for the story to get to the moment of Joel’s death in the earlier hours of the game.
The Last of Us Part 2 is available now on PS4. Selling over 4 million units in its first three days, it’s become the fastest-selling PS4 exclusive to date.