When The Last Of Us was first released in 2013, I thought it would be a standalone game. Looking back, I was so wrong. The game was remastered, birthed a controversial sequel, and remade. Now we are right off the heels of the critically acclaimed TV show premiere and Sony’s biggest multiplayer endeavor, The Last of Us Factions is looming on the horizon.
In this Last of Us universe, Factions is a mystery that is largely absent from the public eye, but we are consistently reassured of its development progress. With The Last of Us popularity at an all-time high and promises of forthcoming news about the title, all signs point to Factions getting released this year, so I wanted to run through everything we know and what that could mean for the ambitious title.
First, let’s look at the origins of Factions. The game studio, Naughty Dog, was largely known for its linear gameplay and blockbuster storytelling, so any multiplayer addition was perceived as tacked on. However, when I actually played Factions, which was the multiplayer mode in the original The Last of Us, I realized that it captured the stressful, intense, and methodical gameplay from the campaign.
You play as either the Hunters or the Fireflies and each multiplayer match is roleplayed as a supply run. Your squad is tasked with gathering supplies to help your camp survive another day. Essentially, you have multiplayer matches with the added dimension of survival. If you don’t gather enough supplies, by picking up loot from fallen enemies or completing challenges, then your camp will slowly start to crumble.
The extra dimension of multiplayer added to the intensity of each match. You were always trying your hardest to win, no matter the cost, an incentive to work with your team and not mess around. Additionally, the multiplayer gameplay itself perfectly translated the stealth-focused, careful combat of the campaign. You would sneak around, gather supplies, coordinate with your teammates, and strike at the opportune moment. Unlike other multiplayer titles, ammo was limited and a couple of shots could be fatal. It was one of the most unique and underrated multiplayer experiences I’ve seen, so, naturally, I was excited to see its evolution in The Last of Us Part 2.
However, as development progressed, Factions seemed less and less likely until eventually the team at Naughty Dog officially announced that The Last of Us Part 2 would not launch with a multiplayer component. That’s all we knew, but eventually, the clouds started to fade and we got a better glimpse of what was to come. Factions would be a huge multiplayer title that’s released separately from The Last of Us Part 2. We also have some additional information from two pieces of concept art and statements from the developers.
First, during the 2022 Summer Game Fest, Neil Druckmann confirmed that the game would introduce original stories and characters to The Last of Us universe. Even though this is a multiplayer title, it won’t deviate from Naughty Dog’s storytelling roots. I don’t know how the story will be presented, but I can definitely speculate. One option could be an evolution of the survival component from the original mode. Instead of seeing the status of your camp through numbers, I’m envisioning an actual camp you can visit in between matches. The camp will have new characters hanging out with rich backstories and an evolving story as you progress through the multiplayer ranks.
More realistically, though, I foresee something akin to Apex Legends where new operatives are announced with each upcoming battle pass. These operatives (or in this case, survivors) would have unique introduction cutscenes and storylines. Of course, this is speculation and I look forward to seeing how exactly Naughty Dog will infuse an in-depth story into multiplayer.
We can also gain information from the concept art, especially the first one we’ve seen. It shows two individuals on a rooftop in what looks to be San Francisco. One holds a Molotov cocktail and another holds a rifle, ready for battle. We see a large city stretching across the image, indicating a massive play area.
The most notable feature is what looks like a cloud of destruction closing in on the area. If you look closely at the cloud, you will see the infected running through the smoke. Could this indicate a Battle Royale mode where the enclosing circle is a horde of the infected? It sure makes a lot of sense. Furthermore, the focus on looting in the last multiplayer component and the slower strategic gameplay would fit right into a Battle Royale mode. It’s like a match made in heaven.
The second screenshot shows a massive beached boat and two people walking toward it. This could indicate squad-based gameplay and it implies an upgrade system. One person has heavier armor than the other. In the previous game, you could buy armor to gain more health. This could be a similar situation, or armor could represent your shield, which absorbs incoming attacks. The concept reinforces a loot-based battle royale, or at the very least, a loot-based death match.
Neil Druckmann did confirm, during the Summer Game Fest that the game would be huge, potentially more so than their past single-player games. It sounds to me like it will be much larger because it will be infinite. Yes… a live service game. Sony has recently pushed into the online space by acquiring several developers with multiplayer expertise, like Bungie, so it makes sense that they would initiate the online phase with their most prestigious studio: Naughty Dog. I see Factions as a huge free-to-play live-service game that’s seeking the same amount of success as Fortnite.
If this is the case, I foresee some fans grimacing at the live service approach. However, it would probably be a big hit, especially if it’s free to play. Logically, it makes sense for PlayStation to use the popularity of The Last of Us to launch their own exclusive live service game. I fully expect all of our speculations to come to a head when Naughty Dog fully reveals their new game this year.
Whatever it ends up being, I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a massive hit that will put PlayStation on the map when it comes to online live service games. At this point, The Last of Us is way more than a one-and-done set of games. It has turned into a whole universe that appeals to gamers and nongamers alike. This multiplayer title is another addition to the universe that will continue to perpetuate PlayStation’s most prized franchise.