The following contains complete and total spoilers, so if you even intend to play this great game - look away now!
In an interview with creative director Neil Druckmann in the September issue of Game Informer, he discusses the narrative development of The Last of Us. Originally the story centered on a revenge plot where Tess becomes a villain who hunts Joel across the wilds.
"What's interesting is that, originally in the story Tess took more of a villain role," says Druckmann "Tess was betrayed by Joel and took on a mission to pursue him across the country. That storyline never worked out. The storyline shifted and Tess took on this role where she became more of a believer and she helped motivate Joel."
Tess was meant to be a villain that eventually redeemed herself in a dying wish to Joel. Ellie was originally cast as much more innocent than came out in the final story.
"Ellie's arc originally was that she didn't kill any non-infected people until the end, when she was going to kill Tess when Tess was torturing Joel," Druckmann continued. "What we realized is that we had to get Ellie engaged more in the combat because when she was disengaged from the action for that long you didn't care so much. So that changed pretty early on. We decided it wasn't going to be about the first time she killed someone, it was more about this coming of age story of the impact that the horrors of violence has on her over the course of the game."
The original game ending was pitched as being open ended with the threat of happiness; where people in San Francisco are trying to restore society. "The camera pulls back and maybe everything is going to be alright for these two. I was working on writing, and it didn't feel honest anymore. After everything they've done and everything they've been through, that was letting them off a little too easy - especially for Joel."
Druckman says the final ending was initially poorly received. Focus testers were confused, feeling it was anticlimactic, unsatisfying and many developers at Naughty Dog felt the same way. “But then, as time passed and they thought about it, they came around and really appreciated. I think that happened with other people, too."
Ultimately we feel that the ending of The Last of Us was perfect; one of the best of this generation. What do you think? Would a happier ending have made you feel better about the darkness of the game or do you, like us, feel that the grittiness of the story would have been betrayed?