Sony’s exclusive survival action game has earned plenty of praise and acclaim for its amazing dramatic storytelling, gorgeous graphics, and incredible gameplay. But what does it really take to for players to successfully navigate the danger that Joel and Ellie have to go through? With a world infested by the Infected and even more dangerous armed human groups, it will take plenty of skill and planning to get through each day alive. Resources are limited and players have to make full use of their wits and cunning to win each fight. To help you all out, we have compiled a small guide to surviving the apocalypse of The Last of Us.
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Endure and Survive
When every single bullet and scrap of fabric matters, how does one plan out a successful battle strategy? In this guide, we will discuss some of the most important and key aspects of winning The Last of Us’ encounters as well as general tips on how to best manage your inventory. Enemies are plenty, and they come in sorts of shapes and sizes –being able to deal with these threats with maximum efficiency not only ensures that you get to live to fight another day, but you will still have enough resources to fight through the next battle that comes your way. Joel and Ellie have a very tough and long road to trek in The Last of Us, and this guide will help you see them through the end.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
As much as we’d hate to spoil the story for any of you (and it is a very amazing story at that), the fact is that this guide will be touching upon many of the key encounters and major battles that you will go through in the game. As such, there will be a few spoilers –especially for those of you keen enough to read between the lines. While we will certainly not be dishing out and juicy bits of info, a few of the sequences will certainly clue you into the general direction and events of the story.
Understanding the Dynamics of Joel and Ellie
For the greater part of the game, players will be in control of Joel. This means that the the AI will be in charge of Ellie as well as any other friendly NPCs who will join you in certain segments of the game. While being around friendly NPC AI tends to create tediously frustrating ‘escort’ style missions in most games, the developers at Naughty Dog have been clever enough to create a highly competent AI system for Ellie and the others. If you hide, they hide. If you fight, they fight. Simply put, you can play the game without having to worry about them. They will never, ever, alert an enemy when you are sneaking. They will never run out of ammunition. And they will never get in serious trouble unless you intentionally leave them to die (which we certainly do not recommend).
Instead of being a hindrance, NPCs will support you. When you sneak kill a target, they will support the action by taking out any adjacent targets. When you engage in combat, they will fight alongside you.
Stop and Listen
One of the most interesting features of combat in The Last of Us is the listening skill. By holding down the R1 button, the player crouches down and moves slower –at the same time, the visuals turn into a monochromatic black and white while the outlines of all allied and hostile units will appear. Listening basically gives you x-ray vision to see enemies through walls –more importantly, it helps you avoid walking into a mob of hostiles. Being able to spot you enemies from behind cover gives you a very distinct advantage so be sure to use this often. The skill has no cooldown or limits, so do not hesitate to rely heavily on it.
When sneaking around it is actually advisable to keep listening while moving –doing so ensure that Joel moves very slowly (you can normally move at a slightly faster rate even when crouching). The slower pace ensure that you will not make sounds that will alert the infected to your presence –this is pretty important if you want to sneak around clickers at Survivor or Grounded difficulties. Do note that since you are moving slower while listening, creeping up to a target from behind will be harder since they will be moving faster than you.
When you do sneak up an enemy from behind to grab them, you will have three options. The first is to drag them to a new location. You can drag an enemy by moving the left analog stick after making the grab –just know that you can only drag a target a short distance. Dragging a grabbed target is useful for those times when you do not want other enemies to see the body and go on alert.
The other two options are for killing the target you grabbed. The first is by pressing Square to strangle the target –this creates a minimal amount of noise (but possibly enough to alert nearby Clickers), and the attack animation is a little longer (if you are spotted by armed humans during a strangling animation, they will keep shooting at you). The other way to kill a grabbed enemy is by using a Shiv. This attack is faster and causes no noise –allowing you to sneak away faster. The tradeoff is that you will be consuming a shiv in the process. Only use this option if you truly have to.
Unlike Joel, Ellie cannot grab enemies. Her only option when sneaking up behind a target is to stab them repeatedly with a knife. While this will instantly kill an enemy, the animation is longer and it will cause enough noise to call the attention of other enemies to where you are. It is wiser to do a brick/bottle throw and quickly follow it up with a knife.
Bricks and Bottles
Throughout the game, players will encounter lots of bricks and bottles lying around. These are very useful one-time use weapons that you can carry around with you and they are very useful for a good range of things. More often than not, you can use these as thrown distractions. The bottles work better in this case as they make a much louder sound.
Anyway, if you throw a bottle or a brick, it will force certain enemies to move away and go where you threw the item. A distracted enemy is easier to fight than one that is alert –take human targets for example. When a raider is doing a sweep, they will quickly look at the left and right sides of a doorway, thus preventing you from having blindsides to hide in. If you throw a bottle inside the room, their focus will be on where the bottle landed –completely ignoring the areas on the sides of the doorway. This is a very useful tactic in the Hotel after Tess leaves the party.
When thrown directly at an enemy, it will stun them. A stunned enemy will not be able to instantly grab you, and more importantly, they will be left open to a special grab attack (if applicable). This is very useful when you are playing as Ellie as her melee attacks are easily countered. You can also use this to prevent an armed enemy for firing at you as you close in on them.
Resources are (Kinda) Rare
The Last of Us is undoubtedly challenging in any difficulty –and more so at the highest versions. But one thing remains certain, you will never be stuck in an unwinnable fight –the game will intentionally spawn new ammunition caches in the event that you end up wasting everything you have got. So let’s say that you got clumsy in a previous battle and ended up shooting too many bullets –the game will automatically force a few extra bullet drops so that you would still have something to use in the next part of the game. While these extra bullets will not top off your dwindled supply, they will be enough to help you bring down a couple of targets or more (just start using them wisely).
Also, the game does give players hints about what tactics are best employed in a particular engagement. If you notice that the game is dropping flamethrower fuel, then it would be a good idea to use the flamethrower since you are sure you can replenish it. That said, it makes perfect sense to not instantly pick up ammo the moment it appears. Most of the time (but not always), you will be allowed to run around and to loot the immediate area before the game forces you out with a custcene or a one-way drop/climb. In the case of the first Bloater battle, be sure to go around the court for items (and the room where the Bloater came from) before pressing the prompt that will get them moving to the next area.
When playing as Ellie, there is not as much need to conserve resources as Joel. The items she gains and uses will not matter much after her sequence, so be sure to use the weapons you get as needed.
Craft as Needed
Crafting is a key part of the game, it allows you to create shivs, medikits, explosives, and even modify Joel’s melee weapons for extra killing power. In a nutshell, you can only carry three of each kind of raw material, so are carrying too much, you cannot pick up more of the same. When you are prompted with the ‘full’ icon, be sure to check your crafting window and see if you can make use of the materials you have to create important tools.
In the case of shivs, make them as often as possible and never hesitate to use them to open locked doors. The payoff of opening these shiv-exclusive doors is that it will always reward you with a substantial amount of resources and gears.
Note that when picking up resources, the circles will sometimes be half, a third, or even just a quarter full. This means that if you picked up ‘half’ a scissor, you will need to find another half worth’s more to have a full scissor for crafting.
Melee Up Close
Melee combat is one of the most efficient and powerful ways to deal damage in this game. While you cannot possibly win against a bloater with melee (it will insta-kill you with a grab if you attempt it), you can use it to practically bring down almost any other target –even clickers. The key is in knowing which melee abilities are efficient against which.
Joel’s bare fists are pretty strong (and fast), but they can only kill uninfected humans and stalkers/runners. To deal with clickers, you will want to have a melee weapon with you –like a bat, an iron pipe, or similar things. It takes about three to four hits to kill a clicker.
For other targets (humans, stalkers, etc), keep an eye out for the Triangle action prompt that will allow you to grab them for an instant kill (or a counter hit if you are the one being assaulted). It is important to remember that when an enemy is grabbing a friendly AI, interrupting the attack will always have a Triangle prompt which you can use to quickly kill an enemy. Do note that other enemies can still circle around you during the attack animation –so be especially wary of doing this when a Clicker or Bloater is closing in.
Bladed weapons, like the hatchet and the machete, will allow you to instantly kill a target with a single strike. The tradeoff is that they have less durability than the iron pipe (though if used tactically, the hatchet will kill more targets than an iron pipe). It is possible to upgrade Joel’s melee weapons to add an instant-kill animation –this can be very useful during battles where you have to face a lot of hostiles and hiding is not an option.
Ellie can also perform melee attacks, and unlike Joel, her knife can be used infinitely. The tradeoff is that Ellie’s attacks have zero stopping power and will not ‘stun’ an enemy during a combo. This means that you can be easily hit back. It is preferable for Ellie to avoid using direct melee attacks. In the sequence where Ellie and David are attacked from multiple sides, it is best to rely on weapons –only use Ellie’s melee to get David out of grabs and for the Triangle prompt attacks. Be sure to grab the explosives on the table above the stairs as these will help during the encounter.
Use Your Guns
Throughout the game, the players will find various firearms. These weapons are split into two basic categories: handguns and heavy guns. It is very easy to switch from a handgun to a heavy firearm, so use this as an option instead of trying to reload in the open. Only reload when you are in cover.
As we mentioned, ammunition spawns in the game at a pretty decent rate. While this is not enough to justify running headfirst into battle with guns blazing, it allows you to use your guns when other options are not available. Using guns is pretty straightforward –you point the targeting reticule in the direction of the enemy and then shoot. Obviously, do not use guns when sneaking as these will cause a lot of noise and alert enemies to your location.
When sneaking, it is best to rely on the bow and arrow as it is a silent option to your guns. Using the bow is a little different as it has an arcing trajectory, and you will want to lead the shot on a moving target. It is best that you practice with it, and then reload to recuperate any arrows used. Note that with Ellie, the bow is a much stronger weapon –she is able to take down enemies with fewer arrows than Joel. When playing through Ellie’s sequence, it pays off to practice a bit with it when hunting the deer –practicing with Joel is different since Ellie holds the bow differently and that changes the way you can see trajectory of your attack.
Extremely long ranged weapons, like the scoped rifle and scoped handgun, will allow you to accurately target enemies from a long distance. These are perfect for picking off enemies that are likely to snipe you. There is one sequence in the game when you are with Henry and Sam, that an enemy sniper would force you to use cover. Do not try to fight this enemy in a sniping battle since he cannot be targeted at all, simply follow the game’s prompts and close in using cover.
The flamethrower is exceptionally useful against the bloater, clickers, or against groups of enemies clumped together. Just be careful of the limited range that it has.
Explosives are very useful in the game –be it the nail bombs or the Molotov bottles, these can be used to instantly take out targets. The basic rule of thumb is to use these when enemies a grouped together at a small chokepoint, the more you can hit with a single explosive, the better. Note that as you progress in the game and pick up bonuses that extend the blast radius, the visual display will still show the older, smaller radius. It actually pays off to sneak around an area being patrolled by enemies, watch their movement and then keep note of key moment when several of them are bunched up together.
Ideally, use the nail bombs for human and stalker/runner type targets. The additional fire damage of the Molotov is best utilized against bloaters and clickers –it does a lot of damage and you can get extra shots on a bloater panicking in the fire.
Aside from crafting items, Joel can also use workbenches into order to perform upgrades on his equipment. To do this, simply walk up to a workbench and press the Triangle button (Protip: a workbench is a good sign that the area you are currently in has no hostiles, so explore the immediate area for resources). Workbench upgrades will consume those little gears that you would have been picking up all over the game. These will improve the performance of your weapons as well as allow you to put up to four different guns (two firearms and two heavy weapons) in your immediate inventory (this is useful as it will cancel out the longer animation of switching a weapon with one from your backpack.
There are two more forms of upgrades. One comes from the medicine based power-ups that Joel can use. These will provide permanent passive bonuses such as larger health bars or longer listening ranges. Make use of these as soon as you can (the faster crafting and faster healing skills are the least useful of the upgrades). The other kind comes in the form of books –there are special books in the game that once you obtain them, they will instantly provide you with a bonus to your abilities (such as larger blast radius for explosions, stronger shivs, and more).
The Final Push
The last stretch of the game will have Joel facing off an entire building full of armed humans and no infected enemies. In this fight, there is no point in conserving your weapons. What pays off is being able to take down your enemies one at a time. It is inevitable that you will be detected and they will try to charge you in groups –this is a good time to make use of your scoped weapons. The bow is not much help here as the attack speed is far too low. Also, keep an eye out for when groups of enemies spawn –they are clustered together before they split up. A well thrown explosive can take out an entire group before they can get into position.
One of the best things about the Last of Us is that you get to explore a completely decimated world –there’s a lot of Easter eggs and interesting sights to see (such as what the developers think a house would look like if it has been abandoned for many years. Aside from these, there are also a couple of Trophy-related collectibles: Firefly dog tags and Comics. Finding these items takes a bit of effort and searching –they are usually located in out of the way areas. Getting them is worth the effort, not only for the Trophy, but also because they are usually near other resources as well.