Naughty Dog could make a credible claim at being the best video game studio in the world. The Last of Us Parts 1 and 2 are some of the most revered games of all time, and unlike other beloved masterpieces like Tears of the Kingdom and Elden Ring, TLOU is also noted for its moving characters and deeply thematic narrative. In between those two legendary games, the studio casually pumped out Uncharted 4, maybe the best action game ever made, and has a storied history through Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter. I hope Factions 2 and its multiplayer ambitions don't throw that reputation away.

Of course, there are strong arguments against Naughty Dog holding the position of numero uno. It is a heavy supporter of crunch culture, has been accused of tokenism in its diversity (particularly its heavy-handed approach to politically charged topics), and was recently accused of overselling the features of the TLOU 1 remake on console, which then launched completely broken on PC a few months later. It’s these downsides which appear to have combined into a perfect storm for the studio’s live-service game.

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Way back in 2020, The Last of Us Part 2 was originally supposed to ship with a sequel to Factions, the multiplayer portion of the game which had been present in the original. When it was announced that Factions 2 had been delayed, the overriding emotion was relief that the main game was going to keep on trucking. Since then, it has ballooned from being an add-on into a standalone title. More than that, it has become the face of Sony’s move into live-service, and has been hit with delay after delay.

25-Where Is The Last Of Us Factions 2

Sony is planning on ten live-service titles, we’ve been told, perhaps thinking that a reliance only on prestige solo titles is unsustainable in this world of longer development cycles. While it has acquired Bungie to assist with this, there are no plans to make Destiny exclusive, and the studio’s newly announced Marathon will also be on Xbox, as will pretty much everything else announced at PlayStation’s recent Showcase. However, insiders say Bungie was asked to give an eye over Factions 2 (which has still not even been officially titled, let alone given a release date or shown to the public, three years after it was meant to arrive), and found it wanting.

Going from single-player to multiplayer is always a big ask, no matter how accomplished the studio. All those points made in the first paragraph about Naughty Dog, being critically acclaimed, untouchable, praised for heralding a new narrative dawn, also apply to BioWare. Then along came Anthem. To a lesser extent, you might say it for Arkane Austin - enter Redfall. And then there’s Rocksteady, jumping from the foundation-shifting Arkham series to Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. Factions 2, or whatever it is called, could be the same for Naughty Dog.

joel in the last of us part 1
via Naughty Dog

In some ways, it is worse to make this transition while being on top of the world. If doing it your way has always worked, you have no reason to stop doing it your way even when faced with difficulty. And Naughty Dog, despite its untouchability, has been faced with difficulty recently. It was not supposed to remake The Last of Us Part 1, but picked it up midway through development to perfect it - many at the time said it seemed like a vanity project, and with only minor improvements added to the game, that seems to have proved to be correct.

The Last of Us Part 2 had a drawn out development cycle which involved heavy crunch, but with work continuing on Factions, and the remake, not to mention Druckmann and others being tied up with the TV show, there has been little sense of relief - just more work, more deadlines, more targets. Add to that the pandemic, the switch between console generations, and the move from prestige and curated single-player experience to constantly evolving multiplayer title, and it’s easy to see why there were bumps in the road before you even get to the fact this was Naughty Dog’s first foray into live-service.

It’s not that Naughty Dog, or other studios, should never stray from their comfort zone. The studio isn’t wrong for taking a risk on a multiplayer title, and when it eventually arrives, it could be incredible. It just seems that the way this has been built is woefully inefficient for a studio that has been a consistent hitmaker. The apology for the lack of news on Factions, which seemed to be an attempt to get out in front of a report into the development chaos, also noted a new solo game coming up - rumoured to be a new fantasy IP. This is a studio stretched desperately thin whose unhealthy development practices are finally biting back.

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