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Top 5 Best Level Designs in The Last of Us Part 2

The Last of Us 2 has been praised for its incredible narrative and character development but lets take a look at some of the best level designs found throughout its world.

By Rachael Fiddis

October 5, 2021

Among the horror and death of The Last of Us Part 2 lies some of the most comprehensive level designs created that would leave many players awestruck. Let’s check out some of those designs and why I thought they worked best.

The Last of Us Part 2 has won countless awards for its gritty narrative and compelling characters and although the post-apocalyptic Naughty Dog title deserves all of those and more, its level designs, in my opinion, are some of its greatest achievements.

As much as it is a complex and intricate process to create deeply interesting and relatable characters, it’s also vitally important to design an environment fitting to the story you are telling as it too needs to tell its very own story. There are most certainly more than five great levels to show off in TLOU2 but for now, let’s take a look at the five that stood out to me the most.

The Last of Us Part II – Official Story Trailer | PS4

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The Last of Us Part II – Official Story Trailer | PS4
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Jackson

Jackson, Wyoming – the first place we set our sights on as we gaze across that stunning scenery at the beginning of The Last of Us 2 with Joel and Tommy. The Naughty Dog devs did a fantastic job at making the player feel like this was a safe and harmonious haven, away from the chaos and terror outside its walls.

Dotted with warm and welcoming lights and the soft murmur of those who live there, Jackson is a delight to explore with some of its very own easter eggs if you look hard enough. The placement of kids also allows players to really feel the security of Jackson whilst also emitting a wholesome community vibe that isn’t felt in any other part of the game making this particular area a pleasure to be a part of.

The Museum

This chapter of The Last of Us 2 was a much-needed palate cleanser after the events that had taken place beforehand. A simple flashback to three years prior to the main events of the game saw Joel and Ellie going on a surprise trip to the museum. Although many of us take places like visiting a museum for granted, this level opened up so many conversational moments between Joel and Ellie that couldn’t have happened anywhere else.

The dinosaurs and space area played their part as a talking point for these two to carry out playful interactions and do we even need to discuss that incredible scene in the capsule? The design of the museum effortlessly moved players from one area to the other without them even realising it and the clever prompts that naturally flow throughout make this level one that won’t be easy to forget, nor would we want to. It feels less like a video game and more like a work of art.

The Aquarium

When we first saw the Aquarium, Owen and Abby explored this derelict place as much younger versions of themselves but years later when Abby goes on the hunt for him, the Aquarium has been brought to life with Christmas decorations, soft music and so many interactive areas to explore. The sheer beauty of this area that includes a gigantic whale in the center is one of TLOU2‘s most brilliantly crafted places to wander around and take every little detail in.

It also serves as the backdrop for an important moment where Abby tells Owen that she has found Joel’s brother Tommy and that she’s planning on taking everyone in the group to track him down. Thus marks the beginning of their end.

Seraphite Island

Scar Island is most probably my favourite place in the entire game and this is mostly down to how much skill and thought has gone into it. From the moment Abby and Yara set foot here, you can literally feel the tension surrounding you from the thick fog that then gentling clears to expose a menacing Scar village.

Due to this particular level’s low lighting and misty rain, the red glow from inside the stunning logging camps not only invite players to want to explore it, like a moth to a flame, but it also was able to simultaneously emits a dangerous undertone. This entire aesthetic continuously ran throughout other places in the area like The Prophet’s chapel and the workbenches making Scar Island a ridiculously terrifying place to be but also incredibly beautiful to explore.

The Farm

This level follows on from the climax of Abby and Ellie’s fight where we see Ellie’s life on a farm. This gave players not only an insight into Ellie and Dina’s “happy life” but also Naughty Dog’s skilful design team. From the design of the old farmhouse with its weather-beaten wooden boards, the exposure of artfully placed beams of light that pours into its vast rooms and how everywhere you look there is environmental storytelling just waiting to be discovered, the Farmhouse is a masterclass on how to design an area that players will want to spend time in.

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Rachael Fiddis
@Irish_Soulful

Rachael, who is Deputy Editor & Head of Stakeholder Relations, has been gaming for many years. Some of her favourite video games include The Witcher 3 and The Last of Us but also loves a good indie title. Gaming Culture is where her heart lies and spends many hours sieving through gaming fan art and cosplay displays. Other than gaming, Rachael is a book nerd and music lover.

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