When The Last of Us was released last year it was barely on my radar. I knew what it was, and had watched a couple of previews. Yet, for some reason, it just didn’t resonate with me previewing it in that medium. It looked beautiful and I love Naughty Dog as a game maker but I still waited for a friend’s copy to become available to be borrowed. The first 5 minutes of the game gripped me like none other had done previously, after that opening sequence I was completely hooked. Being a father of 3 young daughters and a gamer myself, I was precisely the target audience for this type of story. As each hour of the game progressed I found myself feeling increasingly connected with Joel, and empathized with his feelings of loss, grief, trepidation and eventual love for Ellie.
After my initial hesitation, The Last of Us landed itself on my personal Top 5 games of all time. So, like many other gamers, I have been (im)patiently waiting for Naughty Dog to provide us with more stories from this universe. With the release of Left Behind DLC, I was not disappointed. Left Behind takes place while Ellie is attending a military boarding school in the Boston quarantine zone, prior to meeting Joel and the events in the main campaign of The Last of Us. The story is a blend of “flashbacks” that tie up two instances in Ellie’s journey that we had not been privy to previously. Not only is Left Behind a welcome return to this beautifully told story, it also ties up questions many have had about Ellie that had only been alluded to previously.
Before playing it I had heard that it was a love story, making it an appropriate release for Valentine’s Day. Having young daughters, learning this gave me a brief moment of concern as to how they were going to portray this. Not because it was a love story of two girls, but because it was the love story of two very young girls. The storytellers at Naughty Dog handled this aspect of the story brilliantly. With an innocence that was appropriate for the characters ages but a strength that made it very apparent how deeply they felt for one another. Let’s be honest, Left Behind is short, it can and most likely will be completed by most players in a single sitting. Instead of being angry about this, it left me feeling satisfied because it was told the right way.
I know I have hammered away at story here and talked very little about gameplay, but gameplay really is ancillary to the story. It’s the same amazing gameplay from the main campaign, with small changes to how Ellie plays pre-embattled warrior. If you want an amazing story, with characters you can and will connect to, pick up this DLC. If you are a nightly COD player who prefers sniping and tea bagging other players, then for you this game would be better Left Behind.