This year finds the world in the midst of a pandemic. Day-to-day life is different now. Playing a game where a pandemic breaks out, albeit a more dangerous one, seems oddly reflective of current times. However, they do have it much worse in the game and that makes me have hope that we will get through this stronger.

Quarantine zones, empty roads, martial law and curfew are the norm and safe zones separate the normal people from the infected (reflecting the reality of red zones vs. orange and green zones). Normal life has come to a standstill, ration cards are the new currency and survival is the main goal.

I kinda remember the launch of Last of Us 7 years ago. I did not have the PS3 at the time but the game was so beautiful that I instantly fell in love with it after watching the trailers and gameplay. The world looked so beautiful, properly next-gen and I was mesmerized.

The day of the launch came and my friend had the got the game I remember playing the first chapter into the night, but I had to resist the urge to continue because I wanted to explore the world at my leisure and couldn't continue playing the game with my friend after that. Later, after borrowing his PS3 just so I could play the game, I never did finish the game. I got so close to the end though, a few hours from the finale.

Fast forward 3 years later and the official announcement of Part II was made. That is when I decided I was going to play the first part the month before the second one releases. After a number of delays, that date was set for June 19th, 2020 and in the end of May 2020, my journey into the Last of Us began, and such a heartfelt journey it was.

This time I was joined in the journey by my sister, who got interested from the opening scene. I usually invite her at the opening of games to see if she would be interested in the story and this time, she actually got engaged in the opening scene and we played through the whole game together. It was interesting to see her experience many of the key moments for the first time, while I already knew what was going to happen.

The emotional moments in the game, which I knew were coming, still brought tears to my eyes to experience them again. I always hoped that there would be a reversal (like Tess was not actually killed) in some cases but in others, I was not prepared for heartbreak. There is always that wishful thinking part of your mind that hopes that you are remembering it all wrong.

In Ellie, I found a symbol of hope, hope in the face of all sorrows. Through the journey, I grew close to this annoying, teenage girl, who is joyful despite all the trials she has gone through. You see her evolve and grow from making her first kill to consistently helping Joel in combat. She even survives out alone and you wish that she did not have to face these troubles. However, she is a child born in quarantine, living in a world where you literally have to fight for survival.

Her curiosity at the mundane things of our normal day-to-day life like ice cream truck and skinny models, show us her ignorance of the pre-apocalyptic world and further highlight the things we take for granted. Her habit of smiling and keeping you entertained with her jokes (No pun intended) even in the face of the horrors of the world reminds you that she is just a kid. Yet, when she brutally takes down enemies, you are reminded that she has aged beyond her years.

Then, there the antagonists of the story. Humans, who are driven to do anything to survive. One of the main antagonists, David, seems like a friendly man, out hunting for his group when you meet him. But later you find out more about his darker motives. His group was the one Ellie and Joel had fought in the university. I had sort of blocked it out until I did research about him that he and his group were cannibals. Now, I remember the scene of Ellie being captured and then watching as a body was being chopped to pieces. Maybe Ellie would have met the same fate if she hadn't killed David.

As Joel, I experienced the pain of a father who has lost his only child and is learning to cope and survive, not making any deep attachments. But his affection for Ellie transforms so much so that he starts seeing her like his own daughter. You understand through his journey that he would do anything to survive, having already been up to some immoral things in the past.

The life of a loved one far outweighs the lives of millions.

He is not exactly a good guy and his morally ambiguous choices brings up the question: How far are you willing to go to save a loved one? Marlene had to make a decision for the Fireflies to sacrifice Ellie for the cure. It does seem right to put the interests of the group over the life of one girl. But will you be willing to make that choice?

In the end, I was left feeling aghast at Joel's actions and yet it also felt justified. I believe I would do the same thing if I were in Joel's shoes even though it did not seem like a logical choice.

I can't wait to play Last of Us Part II. I hope Ellie gets the happy ending she deserves, though looking at the trailer it seems that the path is lined with the bodies of her enemies. I do hope it isn't as brutal as Joel's, who was ready to do anything to keep Ellie safe.

Tragedy makes a good story but is always bittersweet. In the end, I hope this tragedy has a happy ending.

Hope