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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.”

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10 comments

  • CitizenWolfie - August 13, 2013 12:58 a.m.

    While I enjoyed the ending of the Last of Us, I think it would have given the game a lot more urgency if you thought you were being chased across the country. I don't believe it would have worked in the game as it is, but as an idea I would definitely be interested in playing as a different set of survivors with a similar story behind it. One of my most vivid gaming memories is from the final level of Manhunt - when you're stripped down to only the most basic of weapons and being physically hunted down by Piggsy. It was incredibly tense and TLOU had a similar moment with David hunting down Ellie in the burning diner. I can just imagine how nerve wracking it would be to get hunted down relentlessly now that AI has improved since Manhunt.
  • BaraChat - August 9, 2013 9:32 p.m.

    The ending they chose is perfect, I'm glad they stuck with it. It's one of the best stories ever written for a video game and arguably the best game of the seventh-generation (it is for me, at least). Naughty Dog hit a home run with The Last of Us. Truly epic stuff.
  • WrathLord03 - August 9, 2013 6:03 p.m.

    I always wondered what the story'd be like if Tess survived a little further into it. If you guys still do that feature where you imagine a game universe where one thing has been changed, I would love to see Joel having gotten bitten and dying and Tess having to be Ellie's companion for the rest of the story. You haven't done one in a while, though, so I think they're dead. I also like how the idea about giving the audience what they want was never a question in Druckmann's mind, or at least not one voiced in this interview. Some stories suffer so much just because that's a factor.
  • tyler_14_420 - August 9, 2013 3:27 p.m.

    The ending they chose was just perfect. It completely emphasized how Joel had tried to keep himself distanced from Ellie because he still had issues from losing his daughter, but eventually came to be close to her, and couldn't bear to let her go (Both in taking her to the final destination, and saving her). Regardless of whether his choice was right or wrong, it still made sense and felt human.
  • Xtapolapopotamus - August 9, 2013 1:57 p.m.

    This wouldn't have been a bad ending, but I really, really liked the ending they went with in the game. It was dark, showed SOME hope, but perfectly fit the rest of the game's tone. It was ambiguous and open, and showed just how far the characters had gone in this journey. Man, what a great game.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 9, 2013 11:25 a.m.

    I truly did enjoy the ending. It was one of the few ambiguous ones that I really bought into. Very glad they chose what they did.
  • F4G1TR0N - August 9, 2013 11:29 a.m.

    I hear yah man or gal! The ending didn't seem cliched or forced, but rather a perfect end to the ambiguity of morals that the game always seemed to set

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