The Last of Us is still pay-to-win in 2019

Let me start by saying that The Last of Us is my favorite game of all time. Its story, presentation, gameplay, and online multiplayer are all top-tier, combining to make for an almost perfect game. At the time of writing, The Last of Us Remastered is currently available at no extra cost to PlayStation Plus subscribers. If you’ve never played it before, you absolutely must get it downloaded, play through the campaign (preferably starting on Hard, and adjusting if necessary), before trying out the multiplayer for a truly unique experience. Sadly, you can also expect to spy some jarring pay-to-win microtransactions.

Factions is the game’s online PvP component, and it provides three intense survival modes. It’s got that battle royale tension, mixed with some crafting elements that keep players moving and risking big plays. Corrupting this fun collection of game types, however, are the pay-to-win elements, which were a problem at launch, and are still a problem in 2019.

the last of us microtransactions

The Last of Us‘ microtransactions are rarely talked about, with players instead focusing on the game’s terrific campaign. To be honest, I get this, as the single-player is the main attraction and earns full marks on its own. The multiplayer, on the other hand, will likely be avoided by most. I imagine that many people will try the challenging PvP once or twice, get their asses handed to them, and then never touch it again. Factions isn’t very forgiving to newcomers, even with its skill-based matchmaking.

For those who do choose to learn the ropes and suffer through the confusing deaths, your perseverance is rewarded with a surprisingly deep and tactical multiplayer component. As you progress, you’ll unlock Custom Classes with which to load up on the various weapons and Survival Skills (perks). A surprising number of these unlocks, however, are available only to those who pay real-world money. Considering the controversies surrounding microtransactions, it’s disappointing that TLoU is still a game that boasts gameplay-affecting weapons and perks which you have to pay additional money for.

the last of us microtransactions

In the image above, you can see me using my paid-for Agility perk ($1.99) to silence my footsteps and sneak up on the enemy. Once I’m close enough, I can use my paid-for double-barrel shotgun ($1.49) to take them out. If I miss a shot, I luckily have my paid-for Enforcer pistol ($1.49) tucked into my belt. Failing all of that, I can use my paid-for “Throw Dat Money” emote to finish the fight. (That last one was a joke.)

Now, I could still succeed with the weapons and Survival Skills that come free with the game, but the point is that I shouldn’t have to. Adding salt to the wound are the premium unlock advertisements during loading screens. They take the form of “tips,” but many of the hints reference weapons and perks that you have to pay for. Below you can see the game promoting the paid-for scoped versions of the semi-auto, burst, and full-auto rifles, which have “slightly better accuracy.” Yep, you have to drop an extra dollar in order to zoom in with your chosen weapon!

the last of us microtransactions

The easiest solution here would be to make all of the paid-for weapons and perks free. Naughty Dog/PlayStation should acknowledge player standards and how pay-to-win mechanics have no place in any game, especially in 2019. Righting those wrongs would be a great gesture ahead of the sequel’s launch. The Last of Us‘ cosmetic DLC can remain monetized, as while it’s not preferable, it’s certainly a lesser evil than the microtransactions having a direct impact on multiplayer gameplay.

The discussion surrounding microtransactions has changed a lot since The Last of Us‘ launch, and while these paid-for unlocks might have been tolerable back then, the gaming community has become more judgemental, and pay-to-win in paid games is now admonished everywhere else.

the last of us microtransactions

Again, I’m a massive The Last of Us fan, and my body is very much ready for the next game, despite it not including multiplayer. I was hoping to see how the sequel would expand on the Factions component of the first, especially with regards to the microtransactions and post-launch support, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a little longer for some kind of online experience.

The good news is that Naughty Dog’s latest release, Uncharted 4, implemented microtransactions that had zero impact on gameplay, outside of changing the character’s appearance. That’s still not great for a full-priced game, but it’s a more commonly accepted practice by the majority of gamers. Here’s hoping that Naughty Dog continues to incorporate less impactful microtransactions into its games, making a ton of money without compromising its place on my “Best Game Developer” leaderboard.