In a recent podcast appearance, Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann and The Last of Us Part 2 narrative lead Halley Gross discussed many of the changes the best-selling game underwent over years of production.
Most notably, Gross revealed that the original ending was quite different from what we eventually see in the finished game.
Note that the rest of this story should be considered spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2.
Speaking to Ben Reeves and Alex Stadnik on The Game Informer Show, Gross said that though much of the story was in stone when she joined the game's production, such as Joel's early death and the revenge tour Ellie goes on, one major story beat played in a totally different direction. "We did a lot of iterations on what that last act would look like, but the final beat was that Ellie would kill Abby." Gross said that it was only when the game was halfway through production that they decided Ellie would "let go at the last second."
Druckmann and Gross both added that this change meant a shift in the game's theme but that they ultimately saw it as a more uplifting ending than one where Ellie is "totally gone" and kills Abby on "Scar Island."
Druckmann also revealed some interesting gameplay changes, such as an early idea where Ellie would have a dog companion that could help her through the game by doing things such as crawling under otherwise blocked off fences to retrieve items for Ellie. Eventually, though, the dog idea was shifted to Abby's WLF crew members, and Ellie unavoidably kills at least one of them in the story.
The pair didn't shy away from the controversies surrounding the game either. Druckmann said he expected some pushback regarding story beats in the game, envisioning a Team Ellie and Team Abby split, but "not in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated the scale of it. That it wouldn't just be a handful of people, that it's been dozens if not hundreds of people" that have sent hate and death threats to him, his crewmates, and the cast.
You can catch the entire hour-long conversation in your preferred podcast feed or on GameInformer.com.