While Geoff would disagree with me, I think The Last of Us was a brilliant game – possibly my best game of the console. However, it could have followed a very different track. Warning: spoilers within!
Creative director Druckmann explained recently that the roles of Ellie and Tess shifted over the course of development. Originally, Tess was written as a villain. Yup, rather than being the motivation to go on the journey with Ellie, in previous ideas for the game, Joel betrayed her. This led to her pursuing him across the country, eventually torturing him. In this version, Ellie was more innocent, making Tess her first non-infected kill (to save Joel).
“We decided it wasn’t going to be about the first time [Ellie] killed someone, it was more about this coming of age story of the impact that the horrors of violence has on her over the course of the game,”
However, the decision changed when developers decided that they didn’t want Ellie to seem so helpless. This meant making Ellie more capable, also avoiding the classic “escort mission” pitfalls. Personally, I loved the parts of the game when I got to play as Ellie – she was fantastic with her bow!
Oh, and here is the concept art for this alternative ending. I really prefer Tess as yet another tragedy in Joel’s life. Much more realistic, and adds to the idea of him being so emotionally shattered while keeping a strong facade.