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Design Impressions: The Last of Us

I don’t have a whole lot to say about The Last of Us, but i enjoyed playing it for the most part. It’s a pretty amazing interactive narrative experience, where gameplay usually takes a back seat to storytelling and spectacle – which is a fine choice if that’s what you’re into. Personally, i didn’t like the forced false choice at the end, but i’m sure it was meant to be controversial.

The Last of Us cover• Melee combat is simplistic, but smooth and visually polished.
  ○ The sheer number of environmental interactions is staggering, and transitions between contextual states are seamless.
• Having to pick up the same items and crafting materials every time you die is the worst part of extended battles, especially those involving caution and stealth.
  ○ Obviously you can’t just keep those new supplies after you die and reappear at a previous checkpoint, because it would alter the ensuing battle progression and potentially muck up ammo counts.
  ○ But why not make it easier to reclaim the stuff you’ve already discovered? If showing found item locations on the map is too much, even having a checklist would save time and avoid that weird feeling of being unsure whether you forgot something the third time through.

• Not knowing how much health the mega-zombies have makes it so much harder to plan strategy and ammo usage, especially after obtaining a new weapon.
  ○ It’s even worse when you have to clear an area of Clickers before taking on a dormant Bloater, because you have to redo it all every time you want to try a different approach.

    User Interface
• DLC is integrated seamlessly into menus, which looks nice but has some drawbacks.
  ○ The Left Behind mission is shown in the main menu from the very beginning. I thought it was an included bonus game mode, until i beat the main story and tried it. Then it made me log into PSN and took me directly to a $14.99 buy screen. That comes off as pretty sneaky.
  ○ The same is true for the Grounded difficulty setting. Nothing tells you that it’s paid DLC until you try to enable it. Not the best feeling.

Disclaimer #1: This is not a review of the game. These scattered notes are just my personal impressions as a player. Please don’t take them too seriously.

Disclaimer #2: I’m not trying to say i could do better by any means. If i point out a flaw, it’s usually because i think it’s interesting; not to criticize anyone involved. There are countless reasons why a feature might be imperfect, buggy, or incomplete. Game development is a chaotic human endeavor, and it’s very rarely easy to figure out why something went wrong. Anyway it’s a safe bet that the dev team thought of most ideas or solutions i might suggest, but they couldn’t be implemented due to some unfortunate constraint.

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