The Last of Us was not my favorite game of 2013, but it easily secured the second spot, and recent evidence almost has me revaluating that ranking again. That is important to know for when I say how much I am against DLC for most games, especially when so much of it is not story based anymore, consisting of a few quickly designed weapons, costumes, or side quests at best. Also, fifteen dollars seems like a lot to pay for a little over two hours worth of story content, which is what fans will be paying for the Left Behind DLC. The Last of Us was so good though, that I had to bite the bullet, just so I could have a little bit more.
“She wears that mask well.”
This new portion of the story centers on Ellie as she fights to find medicine and other supplies for Joel, who at this point in the story has been hurt from his fall at the University of Eastern Colorado. As she searches and fights off several enemies, Ellie is having a series of flashbacks involving her time with the other character in this story, Riley. Ellie’s friend has returned after joining the fireflies, and the two young girls want to go on one final fun romp together before Riley ships off. The two different times/settings act as a divider in a way, where most of the exploration and combat can be found in the present period and the story and interaction are in the flashback.
The portions of the DLC occurring in the present play just like the main game with a few tweaks, adding more of the rewarding combat and crafting elements fans loved so much in the extended game. What really adds to the main story and ups the level of the overall experience is the story the flashbacks build. Ellie and Riley’s interactions feel natural and engaging. This is not just a story based off of references from the main story, or something to fill in Ellie’s gaps, but a personal story that shows a real relationship, much like Joe and Ellie’s—just on the opposite end of the spectrum. There are notes and recorders to find in the present parts as well that give insight into others from Ellie’s past, as well as show how they view her from an outside perspective.
The environments in the flashbacks are much more interactive with Riley, with everything from throwing bricks at car windows for a challenge to taking pictures in a photo booth, these are the last bastions of enjoyment after the world has ended and everything is broken. There are two other very fun sequences: one in the costume store which is cute and has references to Naughty Dog’s other games, Uncharted and Jak and Daxter. The other part is a scene that drives home the theme of imagination and not truly needing all of the comforts of modern technology for entertainment. When the two girls find a broken arcade machine, Riley narrates Ellie to victory, introducing the Angel Knives character/comics, and creating an almost truly beautiful moment of childhood, imagination, and friendship.
The bigger overall theme however is death, and no matter how much Ellie and Riley try, the indications of that are unavoidable. The time that these two characters share is not always great, but at several moments, it feels like they are on the best date ever. The instance they share just before everything goes to shit is rewarding and brave. Naughty Dog touched on this in the game, especially with Bill and Frank, but this shared kiss in the Left Behind story brings things to the forefront in an almost unavoidable edifice. By the bitter end, I felt a mix of emotions from a conclusion that came across as strong; if not stronger, than the ending for the full game. If more DLC lived up to its source material like this, I might buy more.