I want you to imagine crossing Colorado on horseback. Now imagine a situation where you have to go THROUGH a building and can’t go around it. I can’t accept it. That’s Loony Tunes. I mean, other people cross the country, right? This university isn’t the sole choke point between east and west. Having Joel and Ellie run out of food or water and forcing them to scavenge would have made for a FAR better excuse for this than having them enter a zombie den and be unwilling to go around.
And while I’m re-writing the game, here is how I would have handled the raider fight in the last episode:
Joel would ask why Tommy’s people had been so threatening at the main gate where they first met. Tommy would reply that he was worried about a group of hunters who moved close sometime last spring. They came knocking,wanting to join up. But there were just too many of them and it seemed like a bad idea to welcome all these heavily armed men into their community. Things have been touchy since then. Tommy’s hunters have crossed paths with them and a couple of fights have broken out. Tommy figures that’s all gonna come to a head sooner or later. There’s not enough around here for both groups, and the other group doesn’t seem inclined to move on.
This would accomplish several things:
- This would stop the raiders from feeling like videogame monsters. They would have some kind of history and place in the world. They’re idiots, but at least they’re some kind of comprehensible idiots.
- This also explains where (some) food comes from – hunting.
- It foreshadows the attack so it doesn’t feel quite so contrived.
- You might also be able to piggyback some character-building on this by mentioning that Tommy was in favor of letting the outsiders join but his wife was against it. (This would show that Tommy is trusting, his wife isn’t, and that she has a lot of say in how things are run, possibly more than Tommy.)
It’s not perfect, but I think it would smooth over my major gripes with that section.
You could probably fit all this exposition into 30 seconds. I’ll admit that’s a lot. Exposition is expensive in the sense that it gets very tedious very quickly, and there’s only so much the audience will endure before they get restless, zone out, or just skip the cutscene. That scene is already pretty long, and each moment is more taxing to the player’s patience than the one before. It’s entirely possible another 30 seconds spent talking about raiders in the middle of the power plant intro would have been too much.
If the producer had vetoed my 30 seconds of dialog, I would have just replaced Tommy’s line right before the fight. As it stands, it kind of sounds like he’s saying, “Oh, raiders. Yeah, that happens.” I’d replace it with something like, “Looks like those crazy assholes have finally gotten up the nerve to come over the wall at us. Knew this was coming.” That’s only a couple of extra seconds, and it would make it feel like this fight was a storm that had been brewing for a long time instead of another round of Call of Dude-shoot.
Another thing that would have helped would be to make some kind of major changes to Pittsburgh. That part of the game was so long and we killed so many pointlessly suicidal / homicidal dudes that it really made it feel like we were trapped on Planet Mook. If Pittsburgh had been shorter, the raiders had been better justified, and most of them were replaced with zombie-fighting, then it wouldn’t feel like we were meeting vast armies of mooks everywhere we went.