When reports surfaced of a PS5 remake for The Last of Us in April, there was a mixed reception, mostly due to backlash towards a small studio that was cannibalized to create the game. We write both the case for and against, as well as the case why writing the case for and against might not get the point: we like to have our bases covered. People don’t want Sony to give up its more experimental games and come down to a blockbuster farm, but unfortunately, Sony will do whatever it wants, and whatever makes the most money. For that reason, I’m not going to get involved in the argument as to whether or not The Last of Us should be remade. Instead, I mean if the game gets the remake treatment, it should learn from A Plague Tale: Innocence and make Ellie a more controllable sidekick.
In A Plague Tale: Innocence, you take control of a teenage girl named Amicia as a horrible infestation of rats takes over her idyllic slice of the French countryside. Unfortunately, the illness coincides with the arrival of the bloodthirsty Inquisition on the estate of her knight father, and the combination of the two events leaves the young woman and her younger brother sick, Hugo, orphans and on the run.
A Plague Tale is a stealth game. You sneak into the shadows and tall grass, like the rats that terrorize nearby villages. Amicia is quite capable on her own, but she has to take care of Hugo, who is scared and slow. Rather than just turning Hugo into a ball and chain, developer Asobo Studio implemented a very simple command system that gives you more freedom and makes Hugo’s AI feel much more believable. It also beautifully blends the narrative elements of the game with its gameplay mechanics.
Hugo spends most of the game holding Amicia’s hand and ducking behind her as you sneak away. However, he can tell her to stay put while he goes to explore an area or create a distraction, and then call him back. This simple mechanic is enriched by Hugo’s character: if you leave him alone for too long, he will freak out or start having a fit brought on by his mysterious ailment. This noise will alert the guards, so you can’t just abandon it and speed your way through a level.
What does this have to do with The Last of Us? Well I’m sure everyone who played it remembers how you can be in a room, full of clickers or hunters, and Ellie would run past them so she could safely hide under Joel’s arm. Somehow, everyone in the room would lose all sensory perception as she rushed forward without alerting a soul. Sure, this was a great way to avoid the most annoying thing about companions: ruining stealth. But it also completely takes you out of the tense game from one moment to the next.
In A Plague Tale, Hugo can alert enemies if they see him. This is not annoying, because it is never the fault of the game, it is yours. He is encouraged to think hard to make sure that both you and his most vulnerable brother can get through an area safely, something he will never have to worry about with the seemingly invincible Ellie. I love the way she will come to Joel’s aid in combat and she is not a damsel in distress, but I also wish she was bound by the same rules as Joel.
A new stealth system where Ellie can be detected as Joel, combined with the fantastic open levels from The Last of Us Part 2 that allow you to re-enter stealth once you’ve been discovered, would make combat a breeze. remake was much more exciting than it is currently in the original.
In addition to improving the tension, this change would increase the emotional risks of The Last of Us. Joel comes to love Ellie as if she were his own daughter. Sure, her love for her makes him do terrible and unforgivable things, but what father wouldn’t burn the world to ashes for her son? Instead of Ellie being invincible, implementing A Plague Tale’s add-on mechanic would put you more in charge of her safety, allowing you to experience more of Joel’s state of mind; this would give the remake a completely different feel and encourage people who had already played. the game on PS3 and PS4 to give it another try.
Gameplay mechanics that strengthen the link between narrative and gameplay are hard to pin down, which is why it’s so helpful that Asobo Studio, the developer behind A Plague Tale, has already done it for Naughty Dog. All the latter has to do now is implement his own version to completely reinvent the feel of the modern classic tale.
Like all artistic media, video games are in constant communication with each other. They repeat ideas and learn from past mistakes, unless you are Warner Bros. and decide to patent your game mechanics. Redoing games like The Last of Us and implementing improved mechanics would give them the Taylor Swift remastering treatment, making the experiences richer and more nuanced, rather than just producing easy cash shots. If the noise and rawness of old games is your thing, guess what? They will continue to be available. But for new fans, or people who quickly get used to modern gameplay, remakes and remasters learning from other titles is a good thing.
The Last of Us Part 3 already has a plot outline, so even if there’s never a remake, a sequel could still use A Plague Tale’s companion system. Any game that has stealth and an escort or follower mission could work with it, actually it’s simple, effective, immersive and it means the only person I can blame when shit hits the fan is myself.
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