How The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered’s Lost Levels would have offered further insight into Ellie’s trauma

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered released last week, giving players a native-PS5 version of Ellie and Abby’s harrowing experiences.

Along with this rerelease, developer Naughty Dog included some extra bits and pieces to entice players back, such as its roguelike survival mode No Return (see first video below). However, the extra that piqued my interest most when I dived back in this weekend was the game’s Lost Levels.

As a reminder, there are three Lost Levels included with The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered: Jackson Party, Seattle Sewers and The Hunt. Each offers an interesting bit of background for each level, such as why it didn’t make it to the final cut and other development insight. But the bit I want to talk about specifically is how two of the three Lost Levels would address Ellie’s trauma. Please note, there will be spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2 below.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered’s Roguelike No Return Mode Explained: TLOU2 No Return Gameplay PS5. Watch on YouTube

As you are likely aware, The Last of Us Part 1 protagonist Joel is beaten to death with a golf club by Abby, relatively early on in the game’s sequel. The fatal blow happens in front of Ellie’s eyes, as she lies pinned to the ground by members of the WLF. It is a harrowing watch even as a player and Ellie is understandably left traumatised by the incident. After Joel’s death, she sets out on a quest of vengeance that takes her to Seattle.

This takes us to the second Lost Level, Seattle Sewers. During this section, Ellie has to deal with water puzzles and dead ends before she can make her way back to the surface. This exploration takes Ellie through a tight pipe complete with a Clicker enemy obscuring part of the way forward. There is no option but to squeeze past the Clicker, and in this moment the fungal corpse momentarily changes into an alarming vision of Joel.

“It was great to see people who user-tested this area become increasingly worried as we forced the player to squeeze past the fungus and inches away from the Clicker’s face. All the time, not being sure whether the Clicker might be alive or attack them,” Naughty Dog developer Pete Ellis explains in the game’s commentary. “Although we aren’t as cruel as to force a Clicker attack in such close proximity, we do have a payoff for this moment. This Clicker momentarily turned into Joel to show Ellie’s PTSD from what happened to Joel at the start of the game.

“Ultimately, we decided to save this moment for the farm level as it was more impactful there because it could become the centre-piece of that experience. Whereas in the sewers we weren’t able to make much of a narrative point and give it the breathing room and reaction time that it deserves given the tight space.”

You can see this moment in play below.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Lost Level: Seattle Sewers gameplay (captured by Eurogamer).

This section in The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered’s Lost Levels is not the only other time Ellie’s trauma would have been addressed. The final Lost Level also leans into Ellie’s PTSD, and how the events of The Last of Us Part 2 have left a lasting impact on her.

Known as The Hunt, this level sees Ellie tracking an injured boar. This particular section was intended to happen towards the end of The Last of Us Part 2, before the farm. Players would be unsure where or when Ellie is, who or what she is hunting, and what has happened to Dina (who was last seen bleeding out).

“This was another opportunity to show how the violence that Ellie has experienced, the violence that she witnessed being afflicted onto Joel is still sticking with her. She’s still experiencing these PTSD moments,” Neil Druckmann explains while introducing the Lost Level.

Naughty Dog developer Banun Idris elaborates on this further. “The boar kill was supposed to be anything but glorious, with the boar whimpering at the back of the gas station after Ellie’s relentless hunt,” Idris says during The Hunt’s commentary.

“After this, hearing the drone that we kind of come to associate with Ellie’s trauma, we would hard cut to the stream where she’s washing her hands and holding rabbits that she hunted, about to return to Dina. There would be no mention of the boar.” As within Seattle Sewers, an image of Joel flashes in Ellie’s mind as the boar lies dying on the floor.

You can see how this would have looked in the video below.

The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered Lost Level: The Hunt gameplay (captured by Eurogamer).

While this section was cut from the final release, there is still a reference to it in the game.

One of Ellie’s journal entries describes this moment of hunting the boar. “It happened again,” Ellie writes. “I was hunting this boar and I’d cornered it in this old gas station. It was bleeding out, screaming. Sounded like him. Then I couldn’t get the images out of my head. I left it there, dying. My skin hurts.”

Ellie's journal entry about the boar in The Last of Us Part 2
Ellie’s journal entry about the boar in The Last of Us Part 2. | Image credit: Naughty Dog/Eurogamer

While these levels ultimately never made it to The Last of Us Part 2’s final release, I find it interesting to hear more about how the developers planned on building on Ellie’s trauma through other gameplay moments.

For more on the game and its No Return roguelike mode, be sure to check out Vikki Blake’s The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered impressions.

“I can’t pretend to see a jaw-dropping difference in the graphics – it was jaw-dropping in the first place – nor bring myself to care much about the haptic feedback,” she wrote following her time with the game. “But there’s no denying that even with a tale as bleak as this one, I need no excuse to justify spending a little quality time again with one of the greatest games of a generation.”

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