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An MDA Analysis for The Last of Us

The Last of Us is an action-adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic United States. Players take control of Joel, a grieving father who’s tasked with a mission to accompany a young girl and deliver her to an infamous organization — all in the hopes of finding a cure to a debilitating deadly virus that has come to plague humanity.

In terms of core mechanics, The Last of Us creates a number of systems that allows players to come across and use weapons, scavenge for ammo and supplies, craft useful items from picked-up supplies, and earn abilities such as enhanced listening. 

Crafting System - The Last of Us
The crafting mechanic allows players to create useful items (such as Health Kits) from the supplies they’ve scavenged.

Together, these core mechanics form a comprehensive dynamic of fighting against unfriendly forces. As Joel, players confront frightening enemies, from virus-infected contagious beings to guerilla armed forces and even cannibal tribes. The game’s mechanics combine together to allow the player to stealthily move past hordes of enemies or confront them, when necessary, with the limited resources they’ve managed to pick up or craft on their journey. This dynamic of fighting for survival lends itself to one of the main aesthetics of The Last of Us: narrative. 

The Last of Us has been widely acclaimed for creating an environment and story that truly represents a world that has plunged into post-apocalyptic darkness. I think one major way it achieves this is through this dynamic of fighting that is heavily focused on using scarce resources to survive in dangerous situations – a feel that makes sense in a world that has lost all hope. This survivalist dynamic compliments and enhances the game’s narrative, which in turn creates an immersive aesthetic for the player.

In short, these core weapon and inventory mechanics create a survival and fighting dynamic that makes me feel for Joel’s narrative as he makes his way into this world. This narrative aesthetic is what makes the game so engrossing and fun for me.

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