The Last of Us Part 1 should feature Riley in the story
Too, The last of us is one of the best single-player experiences of all time. Joel and Ellie’s journey to reach the Fireflies across a post-apocalyptic America is littered with great story beats and some of the best character development in gaming, so when a remake was announced by developer Naughty Dog, all eyes are on how it will change such a beloved experience. The visuals have been vastly improved (although the original still holds up beautifully) and the gameplay has been honed to look more like the sequel, but with most of the franchise’s best characters found outside of the main campaign, this would be a missed opportunity not to feature some of them.
Since its release in the summer of 2013, The last of us has become more than just the sum of a game, as a polarizing sequel and often underrated DLC do well to give the world and its inhabitants more context. In the latter, Ellie received the most development she had ever had; the story of Left over follows her life before Joel got into it, frequently shifting her focus between her early years at military school in Boston and how she deals with Joel’s injury at the University of Eastern Colorado. Joel isn’t the first friendly face in Ellie’s life, however, as Riley was a friend long before the events of the first game took place.
Riley’s place in The Last of Us: Left Behind
Despite being such an important part of Ellie’s life before Joel, Riley is only mentioned in the first game and has no real impact on the story. It’s a shame considering she was one of Ellie’s biggest influences, and fans didn’t get a glimpse of their friendship until after the first game was released. The Last of Us: American Dreams is a comic that sheds light on the start of their friendship, showing Riley’s ability to work around Ellie’s trust issues to form a bond that feels strong from the start. Left over continues the story and has Ellie and Riley explore an abandoned mall, enjoying all the activity in a well-deserved break from the pressure of the world they live in.
Riley is more adventurous and carefree than Ellie, and displays a much more confident personality, which brings the latter well out of her shell. Ellie’s cautious personality at the start of Left over is drowned out by Riley’s unwavering self-assurance, and because of this, the latter feels like she’s making a big difference in how Ellie approaches danger, pleasure, and hostile situations. The friendship is short-lived, however, as the pair are surrounded by infected and both are bitten. It’s a tragic ending to Riley’s arc, but it’s only the beginning of Ellie’s unforgettable journey. The Last of Us: Left Behind is a critical development for Ellie, so neglecting it in the remake process would be a shame, and also does Riley’s superb character development a disservice.
The Last of Us 2 is Ellie’s story
Although Joel’s presence is felt throughout the events of the last of us 2, it’s basically a story about Ellie’s grieving process and her inability to cope with the death of the former. Joel’s tragic end was difficult for fans and Ellie to grasp, but the narrative focuses on the cycle of violence and his actions in the face of such overwhelming adversity. It’s his story more than any other, and it dives so well into the very heart of his character. She changed, and the context that Riley could provide if included in The last of us part 1 would be another stark reminder of how Ellie was shaped by the deaths of those dear to her.
The Ellie featured in the last of us 2 and Left over are very different, and having Riley in a game that’s so driven by Joel and Ellie’s relationship would do well to keep it grounded. When consumed with rage and vengeance in search of Abby in Seattle, she is far from the unassuming child she was when Riley had such an impact on her. Ellie’s survivor guilt has only gotten worse over time, but Joel’s death seems more important to Ellie’s story than Riley’s untimely passing, so having every feature in both main games would bring the development of Ellie’s character into a tighter, more balanced story.
Riley can make The Last of Us Part 1 even better
The last of us part 1 may not feature new content, but weave in the events of Left over in the form of flashbacks would not only be a welcome narrative addition, but might as well bring it closer to The last of us 2, which comes and goes frequently with its periods of time. The last of us may start twenty years before Joel came into contact with Ellie, but it still maintains a sense of linearity with its storytelling. The sequel doesn’t, as it includes plenty of scenes that flesh out Ellie and Abby’s story all the way to their final meeting.
So many moments in Left over would fit right into the man’s story, giving Riley the platform she deserves. The last of us part 1 promises to be the definitive way to experience one of the finest stories in the industry, and leaving out such a well-written, acted, and modeled character would make no sense, especially since no motion capture additional is required.
Riley is almost as important to The last of us as Joel is, as she had a substantial impact on Ellie during her most formative years. Riley is a friend at a time when everything seems to be going wrong in the world, and having her stay away when the franchise seeks to gain new audiences would be a missed opportunity. If Ellie, Joel, Marlene, and Tess are all going to be blessed with a makeover, then Riley deserves it too, especially since her story is still only for a DLC add-on that got lost in the time.
The last of us part 1 releases September 2 on PS5.
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