While Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II is massive in scope, the game's scale was almost significantly bigger. According to director Neil Druckmann, the team once considered an open-world approach to the game, rather than the linear take that was inevitably settled on. Appearing on IGN's Podcast Beyond!, Druckmann laid out the original vision for the game, and it seems rather detailed. However, in the end, it seems that the open-world concept just didn't fit with the story that Naughty Dog wanted to tell with the game. Warning: major spoilers for The Last of Us Part II ahead!
The game's open-world would have featured multiple hubs, with Jackson being the first. The Last of Us Part II would have originally opened with players controlling Abby following her rescue by Joel and Tommy. After some missions, Abby would have struggled with whether or not to kill Joel, but would have inevitably followed through on her initial plan. This would have kicked off Ellie's journey for revenge, making Seattle the game's second hub.
The approach was scrapped for multiple reasons. According to Druckmann, the team wanted Joel's death to occur in the game earlier, and that would have been difficult with the original version. An open-world also would have conflicted with the game's narrative.
It's interesting how the game's central storyline would have remained mainly intact; clearly, the team had the foundation of the story from an early point! Still, it's hard to imagine how an open-world would have thematically fit with the storyline. After all, open-world games offer players a significant amount of control over when certain events take place. It feels like that just wouldn't have worked with a narrative like this one, where the actions of Joel, Ellie, and Abby had to be set a certain way for the tale to play out the way that it was planned. At the end of the day, it seems like Naughty Dog made the call that fit best with its original vision.
Are you happy that Naughty Dog avoided using an open-world for the game? Do you think that was the correct decision to make? Let us know in the comments or share directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!