The Last of Us Part II‘s Ellie has been upgraded from her role of AI companion in the first game to the role of controllable protagonist in the sequel. This apparently means she’ll be getting her own AI companion, according to the game’s director.
In a recent BuzzFeed interview, game director Neil Druckmann touched on how Ellie has evolved in her gameplay role from the previous game, and what it means for her as the lead protagonist. Druckmann confirmed that an NPC will join her on this new adventure, just like she accompanied Joel in the last game, but he didn’t specify who.
“Well, so, Ellie used to be an NPC, but she’s the protagonist in this story, so the player is controlling Ellie,” Druckmann said. “It’s safe to say with the game that we made in the past that there will be some NPC with you in this story, even though we’re not showing [the NPC] in this demo. And our general approach is to say, again, ‘How do we treat them like people? How do we get them to behave honestly as those people? How do we give them interesting characteristics so that they can navigate the world, make meaningful actions, and surprise you in the way people do?'”
The obvious question that Druckmann raises with this reveal: is this mysterious NPC Joel? We know Joel will return in the sequel in some capacity, but Naughty Dog has yet to elaborate on exactly what his role will be. Following his appearance in the game’s reveal trailer, many speculated that Joel had finally died and was following Ellie around in her mind, but Druckmann has made it sound like Joel’s involvement will be grander than this.
In the original game, players took control of AI-companion Ellie for one extensive mission, and whether or not this strategy repeats itself in the sequel, fans should expect to play as at least one other character aside from Ellie, in spite of developer comments. Some strong evidence currently points to other characters being playable over the course of the game, including developer comments alluding to a second playable character, as well as early trailers of the game establishing scenes that almost certainly end with someone other than Ellie getting controlled.
The Last of Us Part II still does not have a release date for its PS4-exclusive launch.