The world of The Last of Us is a desolate place filled with savagery and violence – entering it unprepared is a sure-fire way, in the words of Bill, of “getting’ ya killed.” But it is worth entering – if you need more proof, read Jon’s excellent review. Joel and Ellie’s journey can be difficult, so hopefully some of the advice below makes it a little easier. I will avoid story spoilers so the guide is safe to read before your first play-through.
This may seem obvious but exploration is the most important aspect of this game. Collecting weapons, crafting materials and supplements make the game much easier and as you progress through the difficulty levels, this increases exponentially. While always being vigilant of stray infected, make sure you have combed each area you enter for supplies. If you enter an area, after a cut-scene or just from some other part of the map, make sure you check out the opposite area to where the game is leading you. For instance, at the beginning of a level, immediately turn around and check behind you for hidden nooks and crannies.
If you encounter a safe and do not have a combination, know that a note or some other piece of information is nearby with the details. Scour the area thoroughly as normally safes contain really useful supplies.
Shiv doors are also dotted across the game. They are locked doors that require you to use up a shiv to open them. Like the safes, they normally contain a bounty of supplies, so are well worth the expense.
Avoid it! Unlike most other protagonists you have played as, Joel is not a superhero – an enemy group as small as three can cause major issues. Normally, the best approach when taking on hunters/other humans involves staying hidden, drawing your target away and out-of-sight from the others before silently taking them down and moving to the next victim. Bottles and bricks become invaluable in these situations, either to distract or disable enemies temporarily. Every now and then, combat is unavoidable but stealth should still be used even when an enemy knows where you are. Moving around can give you the extra few seconds or position you need to grapple with a hunter and turn them into a human shield.
Tackling the infected requires a lot of the same skills. Stealth is more of a requirement though as facing even two clickers [read: bullet-sponges] almost always means death. The trickiest situations tend to involve multiple types of infected inhabiting the same area – for example, runners with clickers nearby or a bloater amongst them. I find the easiest approach is to always have a bottle or brick handy, use it to draw the creatures away from each other and then pick them off one by one, starting with the runners. Despite being the only form of infected that do not cause insta-death the majority of the time; they can still see and can scupper your chances more quickly.
I love shivs – they give you instant, quiet takedowns and, once the Shiv Master skill is purchased, they are quite literally life-savers against clickers. The supplies needed to craft them (blades and bindings) are relatively plentiful so they are always a good option.
Outside of the mandatory combat sections, I always find that if I am using firearms, I am doing something wrong. If I do need to use them, I tend to go with the shotgun or the El Diablo as they usually mean one-hit kills. Outside of those situations, the bow is handy. Not only is it silent, but the arrows are be reused (so long as they don’t break on impact).
Finally, I never use smoke bombs as there always seem to be enough cover to use. However, Molotovs can be devastating. My best advice is to save them for the bloaters. If you use a bottle or brick to get the creatures near to each other, a Molotov can take down a bloater and several clickers all on its own.
One of the best lessons you can learn in The Last of Us is to always be prepared. Opening your backpack to craft new items costs valuable seconds as the game does not pause. Before going through any door, make sure your guns are reloaded, you have enough medkits, shivs and Molotovs to survive any encounter and pray you do not need to craft something during combat.
As mentioned above, shivs are vital. Always have a handful ready to go. I never find the blade attachments to the melee weapons particularly useful, as when they need to be called into action, a gun is always the better option. Molotovs are also more useful than smoke bombs so always give them priority when crafting.
You can also find workstations throughout the world where you can use supplies you find to upgrade your items. The first upgrades should be made to your holsters. The ability to double-tap an arrow key when you run out of ammo to take out you next weapon is invaluable when in a tight spot. Increasing your reload speed is not particularly helpful as it is easier to simply switch to another firearm, but increasing the clip size of some of them is very helpful, like that of the Shorty.
Collecting supplements allows you to upgrade some of Joel’s skills. You may be tempted to go straight to the health upgrades but if you play the game the right way, you will never need them. The same goes for the healing and crafting speed upgrades as they majority of the time, crafting will be done before encounters.
The best skill to max out as soon as you can is the listening ability. The upgrades increase the distance Joel can detect up to, making encounters easier as you can tell if you will be spotted by other enemies.
The final item on the list is the Shiv Master ability, which gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card when you get too friendly with a clicker. The majority of my deaths earlier in the game were caused by clickers so this skill is more than worth the time to upgrade it.
I hope this guide is useful to you. If you want to share any of your own words of wisdom, feel free to do so.