How Well Would You Survive Living in The World of The Last of Us Part I?

How Well Would You Survive Living in The World of The Last of Us Part I?

By  Ben Perry - 29th Mar 2023

Spoiler Alert for The Last of Us Part I and parts of the HBO TV series The Last of Us.

How Well Would You Survive Living in The World of The Last of Us Part I?

There’s a point in everyone’s lives where they’ll be watching (or playing, in this instance) disaster/post-apocalyptic media and think “I would survive that”. Well, why shouldn’t you be able to survive a tsunami, or zombies, or even a global pandemic — which you most certainly did. But how “well” did you do during the pandemic? I won’t assume the worst few years of the 2020’s didn’t hit you like a dump truck, but it could have been worse. The world could have been overrun with a mushroom virus that the majority of the world’s leaders could mismanage as well.

For context, The Last of Us’ pandemic and destruction of the human race is based on a cordyceps virus that turns the host into a violent, transmissible being — that gradually overwhelms the body — transforming them into abominations of the mushroom variety. The virus is based on the zombie-ant fungus that hijacks certain species of ant with the sole objective to spread itself to the colony.

For the sake of respect for both versions of The Last of Us, I will refer to the game, with what I know about the HBO TV series as I haven’t seen in its entirety prior to writing.

The Outbreak:

Whether the virus comes from monkeys, or mutated spores in the air, or your wheat-filled breakfast, anyone exposed to the cordyceps will have a hankering for flesh before dinner. The spread of the virus will happen fast, and the moment Tommy, Joel, and Sarah know something is terribly wrong, it’s too late to make a long-term plan for survival. But in this instance, you are well aware of the dangers outside and barricaded yourself inside your home.

Do you have a fire plan? Any safety precautions set up against home intrusion? How much canned goods do you have (if any)? Basic questions but in the reality of the series, crucial to know if you have to stay inside for some time. If the infected don’t bash down your weak door like tissue paper like Joel’s neighbour did to him. If you need to escape, trying to get to street level would be a bad idea as countless people are getting grabbed by the infected, so staying up on high ground will be the best bet to ride out the storm.

If the military rolls in and attempts to control the situation, the majority of survivors will flock to them for help. However, in relation to the final moments of The Last of Us’ prologue/first episode, if the military can’t tell who’s infected, they will chalk innocent casualties up as just following orders. Unless you can be 100 percent sure they will help you, keep clear of them.

The outbreak will be a chaotic experience and will last for months before anyone can create stability via settlements, nomadic groups and the remnants of pre-pandemic authorities maintaining strength inside quarantine zones.

Quarantine Zones:

Congratulations, you survived the outbreak and now live in a quarantine zone, where the protection of strong walls and armed guards of the FEDRA keep you safe from the infected or opportunistic people… for a while. You have a job, either given to you or related to your past life, but you’ll have something to do while acclimating to the new status quo.

After a while, the choice to either be chewed out by an overzealous FEDRA checkpoint guard asking you too many questions — the same guards that don’t police the gangs that will rob you if you pass through their turf — or make it on your own outside the walls which can end with FEDRA finding you and placing you in detention might make the heartiest individual give up. But, if you keep your head down and do your mandatory work hours, you’ll get enough food rations to live off of but just enough to keep you working.

Which is where side jobs and back alley deals for luxuries are required to live. Joel and Tess have to take on side jobs — most of them against the law — to get necessities and supplies when travelling outside the zone to keep a steady stream of supplies from Bill.

Although, in many instances in the game and show, the evidence of people doing what Joel and Tess are doing that ended with them dying or being infected might lead to someone attempting to get back into the quarantine zone — where they would turn and infect others like how the infection works with ants.

Overall, your protection and safety depend on the effectiveness of the guards. Between the inevitable dwindling resources and need to keep people inside the walls (don’t forget the incessant attacks by the Fireflies), the guards are likely on edge. Then there’s the fact that — in game — some of the guards patrolling in the outskirts can easily be killed without alerting anyone inside, which drastically shows cracks in the fortress. Especially as executions being done to extreme offenders shows how fragile the legal system is living there.

Location, Location, Location (and all of them are trouble):

With overgrowth and the ruins of cities firebombed during the outbreak, it would be the most dangerous place to live in. Besides the constant need to avoid the infected and buildings slowly collapsing from time, your basic needs (food, clean water, shelter) have to be met. After 20 years of degradation, it will be hard to find any of the three, let alone be able to set up camp.

Your best bet is to avoid the cities in general, either living nomadically with a small group of people you can trust, or if you’re lucky like Joel and Ellie to find a utopia like the town of Jackson. But first, you’d have to make it there.

Small towns can be a place to scavenge and rest up in. While most likely picked through and could be home for something, they could be the difference between another day (not to be a drama queen). However, the amount of travelling would leave you tired which will encourage you to stay too long. The best way to live is to avoid any encounters with the infected. If you tip off a straggler, they will let everyone of their ilk right to your doorstep.  With enough experience or a book on wilding, the ability to live off of the land will give you an advantage on those who rely on canned food and can easily evade detection.

You might think to yourself “I could just settle down and farm my food”. You’ve been playing too much Stardew Valley to have a realistic perspective on farming. Without manpower, equipment, and materials, knowing what type of soil you have and the type of seeds that will grow in the seasons — not to mention the amount of water and fertiliser just to promote growth — and the time it would take for a yield would only be useful for long-term plans. On the other hand, you can find a farm or a vineyard that hasn’t been claimed and live for some time, as long as you can keep a low profile, while creating plans to be able to defend your new home.

Other survivors:

The final thing to consider when weighing up your survivability is how well you tackle other survivors. In respective, if the infected don’t invite you to the mushroom kingdom, other survivors you encounter may bash your skull in for your belongings or — in the case of David and his crew — sucker you in with friendliness only to eat you later.

Groups like the Fireflies are a good representation of a militia that works together to fight against the virus and FEDRA, while also remaining hidden and sustainable in the world. The influence of a community that wants to save people from an aggressive authority seems to come from a good place. However, their blinded ambition to bring people out of a “darkness into the light” leads to them putting people’s lives in danger for the greater good. For example, blowing up trucks in attack-and-flee fighting, having a single person to traverse the cities, and untrained squads make the Fireflies look more like an unorganised movement.

Roaming gangs like The Hunters Joel and Ellie encounter will create traps and ambush unsuspecting people. Unlike the gangs from the quarantine zone, they’d rather kill you outright than do a shake down. While deadly, Joel was able to see through an ambush, leading to the duo crashing their only car into a shop front.

On the other side of the moral scale, the residents of Jackson are head-strong, armed but will help you if you are deemed as non-threatening. Placed in their shoes, any stranger that winds up in their area or at the gates could be scouts for raiders or innocent survivors looking to trade. For them to stay alive, only the most capable and friendly people can gain residence in Jackson.

Finally, there are people that can survive almost by themselves. Bill was able to booby-trap an entire town, stock up on more than just the essentials to be able to trade with people like Joel and Tess, as well as scavenge either by himself or with one other person. Unfortunately, people like Bill survive because of their antisocial behaviour which leads them to live the lives they have. Trying to live with him or take him with you would break his status quo. 

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