By Andrew Dodson on February 21, 2014 at 11:45am
Naughty Dog's "Last of Us" was my favorite game of 2013. It was a solid game with a beautifully-crafted story, characters that I still think about, and an interesting and intense multiplayer that has yet to bore me. We've already seen one DLC for the multiplayer game, so when the next installment was announced that an actual story DLC, I was definitely on-board.
I'm going to talk in this article a little bit about the story of "Last of Us" and how it relates to "Left Behind." I don't plan on revealing any significant details, but if you haven't played through the main storyline yet, you should probably stop reading and go do that. I'll wait.
"Left Behind" jump between two different stories, both centered on Ellie at different points in her life. The first takes places during the winter of the "Last of Us" main campaign, after Joel gets injured. It reveals a little of what Ellie was doing while Joel was incapacitated and how she struggled to keep him (and herself) alive during the harshest of seasons. This Ellie is armed, knows what she has to do, and willing to do anything she can to get it done.
The second story is much lighter and showcases a younger Ellie still at a military school in Boston and the reappearance of her friend, Riley, after she had been gone for a while. To make up her disappearance to Ellie, Riley invites Ellie to sneak out into the city and to an abandoned mall to "show her something." This Ellie, while still not stupid or naive, is significantly more innocent than the older Ellie in the main campaign.
The first story plays very much like the main game, only you are once again put in control of Ellie as you sneak around infected, solve puzzles, run, and occasionally fight your way out of dangerous situations. While you basically have all the same actions that Joel had during the game, "Left Behind" does a great job of making you feel much more vulnerable playing as a 14-year old girl (even if that girl is Ellie). You are smaller, and you aren't nearly as strong as Joel is. Sneak attacks take forever and seem messy and loud. Playing as Ellie forces the player to deal with situations with great deal more grace, intelligence and stealth than they would necessarily have to with the tank-like Joel.
Though, the game is not afraid to throw Ellie to the wolves (metaphorically) and force her to fight or die.
One of the interesting bits that "Left Behind" adds to the gameplay in this section of the game, is the ability for the player to force confrontations between the infected and hunters. Why personally deal with both groups separately when an expertly thrown bottle could bring both groups together to fight one another while Ellie sneaks out the back door?
The second story, focusing on the younger Ellie for the most part, is much less life-or-death. It plays out as a little movie, digging into the life of Ellie while she explores an abandoned mall with her friend. And that's all it really is. Danger seems very fall away as two children play with masks in a Halloween store, have brick-throwing contests, and hunt one another with water guns. When you walk through a door and see a lit-up merry-go-round and Ellie has her first ride, you almost forget that she is living in a world that all but ended.
Naughty Dog also did something interesting with the DLC by having Ellie and Riley find a working photo booth. You're given the opportunity to have them make different poses (all silly and fun), and at the end there is a funny exchange where the photo booth asks if they'd like to share the photos with Facebook. Obviously, both children have no idea what Facebook is, but if you press 'yes,' the game will post the roll of photos to your Facebook Timeline, which will definitely confuse some of your friends.
Clearly, this section of the game isn't all photo booths and merry-go-rounds. The duo get into some pretty seriously conversation about why Riley left the academy in Boston and about her own future. Then of course, it wouldn't be the "Last of Us" if the infected didn't decide rear their ugly heads for a thrilling climax followed by some hard reality.
The "Left Behind" DLC is a short adventure featuring two very different Ellies - one still mostly innocent and carefree, and the other in a stressful, life-or-death situation. After exploring almost everything and only having to reload a few times, I probably wrapped "Left Behind" up in about two hours. Is it worth it? $15 seems steep for two hours of game-play, and it is, but as a fan of the series and the character, I had it purchased, downloaded and installed on the first day it came out. It seemed too short, but I absolutely loved being immersed in the 'Last of Us' universe one more time and seeing the drastic change in Ellie between her time on the Merry-Go-Round and her time trying to save a dying man in the dead of winter.
According to Eric Monacelli (in the comments of this blog post), a community strategist at Naughty Dog, "Left Behind" is the first and last story-based DLC that they have planned, and the next DLC will be focused on the game's multi-player. This may be the last time we get to see Ellie for a while (until "Last of Us 2," maybe?). So if you're a fan of the series, the "Left Behind" DLC is definitely a piece of story that you do not want leave behind.