Elden Ring’s Nontraditional Narrative Intrigues The Last of Us Director

The narrative in The Last of Us is mostly told traditionally and guides players from beat to beat. However, it appears that Naughty Dog is experimenting with being less direct.

Neil Druckmann, The Last of Us Creative Director (and writer, co-creator, and executive producer on the upcoming HBO Max series), discussed nontraditional narratives in games in an interview with The Washington Post. When asked how he thought video game storytelling had evolved, he mentioned Elden Ring and Inside, both of which have puzzle-like narratives that require players to work to reach their own conclusions. Druckmann stated that he enjoyed this less structured approach.

“I’ve recently become interested in stuff like Elden Ring and Inside that doesn’t rely as heavily on traditional narrative to tell its story,” Druckmann said. “I think some of the best storytelling in The Last of Us is in the cinematics, but a lot of it is in gameplay and moving around the space and understanding a history of the space by just looking at it and examining it. Right now, games that trust their audience to figure things out don’t hold their hand are giving me some of the most joy. That’s what I’m most interested in moving forward.”

That’s not to say that the hypothetical The Last of Us Part III would be all about the environment and have no dialogue. Druckmann stated that everything is just a tool and hinted that there was a way to incorporate less overt storytelling into future Naughty Dog games.

“And, once again, this does not imply that we will never have dialogue or cutscenes,” he added. “Those are tools in your toolbox, and it’s about how you use all these different aspects, some of it from other mediums, some of it found notes and environmental storytelling. And I believe there is a way to move that forward, at least for the type of games we make at Naughty Dog. I’m very interested. Again, never resting on our laurels and are always trying something new and different that not everyone will like, but that’s fine. And, once again, I can tell you that the teams are very excited about the various projects we have at the moment.

According to reports, Naughty Dog is still keeping those various projects under wraps because revealing games too soon causes work-life balance issues. Both Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and The Last of Us Part II were announced three to four years before their respective releases, and the studio was chastised for fostering extreme crunch conditions during development for both titles. Regardless, one of its current games is a story-driven multiplayer The Last of Us game, while the other is a complete mystery.

Druckmann also lauded roguelite survival game Vampire Survivors, naming it one of his favourite titles of 2022, along with Color Gray Games’ The Case of the Golden Idol. He praised the way the murder mystery game used puzzles to tell its story to the player, calling it “hard not to be inspired” by it.

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