Spoiler alert: you should avert your eyes now if you haven’t played this game but intend to, which you should.
The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann has revealed the initial story concept for the game, which was later scrapped in favour of the ending included in the final product. The story originally revolved around Joel's partner in crime Tess chasing him across the US in a bid for revenge after he betrayed her early in the game.
"That storyline never worked out," he told the latest issue of Game Informer (via CVG). "We had a tough time understanding why Joel would take this journey - we weren't buying it. We also had a hard time buying that Tess would go on a vendetta. We could understand her pursuing Joel a little bit, but why would she go for a year around the country?
"Those things were solved by saying that Tess is going to die when she gets bitten, but her dying wish to Joel is to do this one good thing - help me do this one good thing so my soul can rest because I've done all these horrible things."
Druckmann also said Ellie was originally envisioned as a softer character than the one which appears in the game. "Ellie's arc originally was that she didn't kill any non-infected people until the end, when she was going to kill Tess when Tess was torturing Joel. What we realised is that we had to get Ellie engaged more in the combat because when she was disengaged from the action for that long you didn't care so much.”
Naughty Dog always intended for Joel to sacrifice humanity's (last?) hope for a cordyceps vaccine in order to keep Ellie around, but Druckmann said the outlook at the game’s conclusion was originally planned to be a lot brighter than that which eventually materialised. "The original ending when we pitched the game was a much more hopeful ending, where Joel and Ellie make it to San Francisco and that is a town run by people who are trying to restore society.
"Joel has killed all these doctors and lied to Ellie, and Ellie just fully buys into the lie. So, you're left with the idea that they are going to live the rest of their lives in this town. The camera pulls back and maybe everything is going to be alright for these two. I was working on writing, and it didn't feel honest any more. After everything they've done and everything they've been through, that was letting them off a little too easy - especially for Joel."
Along with game director Bruce Straley, Druckmann will co-present a PAX Prime session next month providing details about how Naughty Dog pitched The Last of Us to Sony.
Naughty Dog intends to release three The Last of Us DLC packs, one campaign add-on and two multiplayer ones. Whether the single-player DLC will feature Joel and Ellie hasn’t been confirmed.
We said in our The Last of Us review: "In terms of everything the modern action game has strived to be, The Last of Us is the full-stop at the end of the sentence, leaving no more to be said. Until next-gen. If this is our starting point for that, then the next five to ten years could be truly amazing.”