Left Behind is the first (and apparently only) single player DLC expansion to 2013 game of the year, The Last of Us, focusing on Ellie and her best friend Riley, who was in the “American Dreams” prequel comic and mentioned briefly in the main game. The timeline of this DLC alternates between sometime before Ellie meeting Joel, and around the halfway point of the games main story. I won’t mention anything about the latter part of the timeline to avoid spoilers, but Ellie and Riley’s storyline begins when Riley returns to the military school she and Ellie resided at post-outbreak, a few months after she ran away.
Expanding on the storyline of a game as acclaimed as The Last of Us is most likely an extremely daunting and intimidating challenge, which it would seem Naughty Dog has met and completed with ease and pride. The storyline in Left Behind is every bit as memorable and touching as the greater plot it snugly fits into. Every line of dialogue does exactly what it means to, whether it is in an impactful cutscene or during gameplay, where Ellies consistent murmuring to herself fits perfectly to her character, and often helps accurately communicate the fear she is feeling in the situations she’s put into. Even the Fireflies that show up have seemingly been given more purpose through their dialogue, delivering the motivation that makes the kills you get on them that much more satisfying.
The newest (but also oldest) addition to the cast, Riley, is somewhat unlikeable at first. That being said, I’m not sure if the audience is supposed to like her, given that her main reason for returning to the military school and reuniting with Ellie is to try and patch things up with her after running away. Granted, Riley’s character grew on me as the story progressed, but there’s still a part of me that finds her untrustworthy, which may or may not just be the “what would Joel think?” part of my brain that is hard to ignore when playing The Last of Us.
This chapter of The Last of Us is a bit more action oriented, with very few stealth segments, and even fewer of them where stealth is a necessity. Although, just as with the original game, there is still just barely enough ammo to make it through the action sequences, keeping tensions at the high standard fans are used to. There are a couple small puzzles that aren’t anything I would call particularly challenging, but are still great dividers for some of the more intense gameplay.
One thing that stands out in particular about Left Behind is that there are a couple segments where it is truly a fun game. That’s not to say The Last of Us is not an enjoyable game, because that’s far from the truth, but it’s not exactly by definition, “fun.” The main priorities in The Last of Us are survival, and ensuring Ellies survival. The whole game has this cloud of delightful dread looming over it, in a world where every step only brings you closer to another dangerous situation. But in these short scenes, you’re encouraged to forget about the dangers of this world, and play as a character just trying to have a good time with her best friend. These are easily a few of the most optimistic and memorable moments in the overall story of The Last of Us.
This is a perfect addition in story, and in gameplay, to my 2013 Game of the Year. Naughty Dog has managed to tell a beautiful, engaging, albeit short story that feels fresh in a familiar world, as well as realigning our understanding of a central character. This DLC reminds me why bringing DLC to the game industry was a good idea in the first place, and is more than worth the $15 it costs, despite being relatively short.