The diverse difficulty levels for The Last of Us, its remastered edition, the DLC Left Behind, and The Last of Us Part II change how hard it is to complete mission objectives and to progress through the game, requiring different tactics and changing the way one plays.
The difficulty also changes how many supplies are found. The higher the difficulty, the fewer healing items, ammunition, crafting supplies, and melee weapons will appear. Also, the enemies become tougher to kill, requiring more gunshots to both infected and non-infected hostiles. However, supplements, parts, and collectibles are unaffected by the change of difficulty.
The Last of Us
There are five difficulty levels in The Last Of Us. To unlock the Survivor difficulty, one must beat the game once on any difficulty. Grounded must be bought as a DLC on PlayStation 3 but is already unlocked in The Last of Us Remastered on PlayStation 4.
- Easy: For beginners. A lot of ammunition, crafting supplies, melee weapons, and healing items are spawned in the world. Also, the enemies are quite easy to kill.
- Normal: For casual players. Supplies spawn at a normal rate. Enemies are moderately strong. Sharp melee weapons spawn late in the game.
- Hard: For experienced players. Supplies are rare to come by, and non-infected enemies are more aggressive and use cover often. Powerful melee weapons, such as the Machete and Hatchet, are almost never seen.
- Survivor: For players that want a considerable challenge. Supplies are extremely rare to find. Game hints, prompts, and Listen Mode are disabled. All enemies do double damage. Powerful melee weapons appear rarely. Plus, all pickup-able items no longer flash to indicate themselves to the player.
- Grounded: For the toughest of the hardcore. Supplies are next to non-existent. Listen Mode is disabled. All enemies do triple damage. The HUD is disabled. On the remastered edition, the controller's light-bar no longer changes color to indicate Joel's health. Enemy AI is extremely sharp; more so than Survivor. Multiple mid-combat and mid-stealth checkpoints have been removed. Allies do not grant the player ammunition or health kits, except David. The revolver, however, does instantly kill non-infected enemies without armor, something which it does not do in easy. Pickup-able items do not flash to the player either.
New Game Plus
Once the game is completed on any difficulty, the player may start the story again by selecting the unlocked "Continue New Game Plus" option to keep all supplements, parts, tools, training manuals, skills, and weapon upgrades they had acquired prior.
However, the player's backpack will be empty (apart from the automatically given Military Pamphlet and Boston QZ Map, plus any Training Manuals acquired previously), and they will need to collect all of the collectibles and weapons again. When acquired, weapons will however retain any upgrades from previous playthroughs.
The difficulty selection for New Game Plus is limited to the highest difficulty the player finished their previous New Game save on or lower.
The Last of Us Part II
In The Last of Us Part II, there are seven different challenge levels that adjust the overall difficulty of the game: Very Light, Light, Moderate, Hard, Survivor, Grounded, and Custom. Unlike in the first game, all difficulties are initially unlocked and there were originally no trophies based on difficulty. The Grounded Mode update introduced two new trophies, one for beating the game on Grounded and one for beating the game with Permadeath enabled. The Last of Us Part II introduces the ability for the player to customize the game's difficulty with the Custom option which offers a much higher granularity of control over the game's difficulty. As with the first games, the player unlocks New Game Plus once they have completed the game on any difficulty.
- Very Light: "Explore and experience the story with a lighter combat challenge. Camera and aim assistance settings are enabled by default."
- Light "Less challenging than Moderate. Resources are more common and enemies are less dangerous."
- Moderate: "Provides a balanced experience. Resources are limited."
- Hard: "For those looking for a greater challenge. Resources are very limited and enemies are more dangerous."
- Survivor: "An intense, demanding challenge. Resources are extremely scarce and enemies are deadly."
- Grounded: "The most challenging and realistic experience. Listen Mode, HUD, and other gameplay elements are altered in this game mode." "For veteran The Last of Us fans, Grounded difficulty represents the ultimate test of skill. This difficulty raises the stakes by not only making enemies deadlier and ammo, upgrade, and crafting materials incredibly scarce, but also removing invaluable tools for survival, such as disabling Listen mode, deactivating elements of the HUD, and more."
As part of the accessibility options of The Last of Us Part II, the player can customize specific aspects of difficulty to their needs or desired experience. Players can individually tweak difficulty settings related to incoming damage, enemy and ally effectiveness, stealth, and resources. Each of the settings come with the options of Very Light, Light, Moderate, Hard, Survivor, and Grounded.
- PLAYER: Adjusts difficulty settings related to:
- Amount of damage the player takes from enemies
- Frequency of mid-encounter dynamic checkpoints
- ENEMIES: Adjusts difficulty settings related to:
- Accuracy of enemy gunfire and frequency of projectiles
- Aggression of enemies advancing and flanking
- Complexity of enemy melee combos
- Movement speed of certain high-threat enemies
- Custom tuning to specific combat encounters
- ALLIES: Adjusts difficulty settings related to:
- Aggressiveness of allies in combat
- Frequency at which allies kill enemies
- STEALTH: Adjusts difficulty settings related to:
- Enemy's perception through vision, hearing, and smell
- Length of grace period before enemies will alert others
- Conditions for grabbing enemies from stealth
- RESOURCES: Adjusts difficulty settings related to:
- Quantity of ammunition and supplies found in the world
- Durability of melee weapons dropped by enemies
- Yield of certain crafting recipes
The Last of Us part II introduced a new difficulty modifier as part of the Grounded Mode update known as Permadeath Mode. With this custom mode enabled, there are no second chances; you must complete the entire game without dying or start over from the beginning. However, players have the option to enable Permadeath mode with checkpoints on a per-chapter or per-act basis as opposed to the entire game. Permadeath can be enabled on any difficultly from Very Light to Grounded, but can only be enabled when starting a new game. The player is unable to create manual saves of a game with Permadeath settings enabled. Furthermore, "quitting the game or exiting the application while in a dangerous position will be treated as a death."
- Whole Game: "Your saved game will be completely reset on death."
- Per Act: "Progress will be reset to the beginning of the act on death [approx. 2-5 hours of game time]."
- Per Chapter "Progress will be reset to the beginning of the chapter on death [approx. 30-60 minutes of game time]."
New Game Plus
New Game Plus also returns in the sequel. This allows the player to play through the game again with all of the previous upgrades they unlocked in the first run-through, including skill tree progress, crafting recipes, weapons and modifications, and collectibles. The only caveat is that while skill tree upgrades and crafting recipes will be available from the beginning, the players existing weapon arsenal will only unlock once Ellie has arrived in Seattle. Further, the difficulties increase in toughness, essentially making (for example) Survivor+ more difficult to complete that the traditional Survivor difficulty.
- While difficulty selection is limited on New Game Plus, it is possible to play The Last of Us on any difficulty by utilizing a glitch.
- Owen, Michael and Sims, Kenny (June 14, 2013). The Last of Us Official Strategy Guide (Signature Series Guide ed.). Brady Games. ISBN 978-0-7440-1458-7.
- quaddo (May 20, 2018). The Last Of Us: Pickup-able items (blinking vs non-blinking) (Video), YouTube.
- "Accessibility Options For The Last Of Us Part II". PlayStation. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
- Gallant, Matthew (June 9, 2020). "The Last of Us Part II: Accessibility features detailed". PlayStation Blog. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
- Gallant, Matthew (August 11, 2020). "The Last Of Us Part II Update Adds Grounded Difficulty, Permadeath Mode, And More". Naughty Dog. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
- swotam's games (August 9, 2014). The Last Of Us - New Game Plus Glitch on PS3 and PS4. (Video), YouTube.