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The Last of Us Part II: 5 tips to survive the hardest difficulty

The Last of Us Part II
(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

The Last of Us Part II is upon us, but before you jump into the fray of the latest Naughty Dog masterpiece, I have some tips that’ll help you survive the hardest difficulties. 

Like its predecessor, The Last of Us Part II is an action-adventure, survival horror game, so almost every move you make will be the difference between getting caught and killed, or catching your enemy off guard and literally ripping their throat out.

Don’t worry, these tips are spoiler-free and will aid you in your ventures no matter which difficulty you play on.

Explore and scavenge everything

The Last of Us Part II is all about letting the player feel immersed in the world, so much so that there’s a ton of exploring you can do. Exploring and scavenging are some of the core mechanics of the game, but on harder difficulties, it’s critical that you search every corner of the area you’re in before progressing.

You can miss weapons, bombs, upgrades and entire training manuals if you’re not careful. Training manuals give you access to an entire skill tree of abilities. Imagine missing a whole skill tree on the hardest difficulty. You don’t want to be caught in that position when you’re up against a ton of clickers and dudes with rifles gunning for you.

Everything I found while exploring has been invaluable to me as I’ve made my way through Survivor mode, so you don’t want to miss out.

Don’t waste resources

In The Last of Us Part II, resources are limited. You’re going to pray to find even one bullet for your pistol at times. So, my recommendation is to hold onto your resources unless the situation absolutely calls for it.

The Last of Us Part II

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

Whether you’re stealthing up on some clickers and runners to one-shot them, or you’re in close-quarters combat with some schmuck with a machete, your best weapons on the hardest difficulty are your knife and your fists. That’s right -- to avoid using precious bullets, you’re going to have to become a pro at stealth and learn how to dodge.

The best part about using the knife or your fists is that it costs nothing. I only ever resort to my limited resources after I’ve died multiple times and recognize that it’s close to impossible to do it without some sort of help. When melee won’t cut it, the next step is utilizing the bow (when you unlock it). If you get a headshot with your bow, there’s a good chance that you’ll pick the arrow up again, which makes conserving resources a lot easier.

What skills to get first

If you’re taking heed of the first tip, you’ll find a bunch of training manuals, which give you access to quite a few skill trees; But which ones should you get first? Well, that depends on your play style.

The Last of Us Part II

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

I recommend maxing out the very first skill tree you start off with (Survival) because the very last skill in that tree (Endure) allows you to negate instant-kill damage. So, if you’re low on health and an enemy hits you with a blow that should’ve killed you, you’ll be sent to one health point instead of dying. This can give you the opportunity to either bum-rush the enemy or duck out of the way. From what I experienced, this skill will be triggered more than once during an encounter. So as long as you heal up, you can get the skill to trigger again, which will maximize your survivability.

When you get further into the game, you’ll find a training manual called Covert Ops. The very first skill will give you the ability to craft shivs, which are incredibly useful because they’ll allow you to instant-kill certain enemies and even get clickers off of you when they pounce.

Take out the dogs first

Apparently, you don’t have to kill the dogs in order to progress, but then you’d have to flee every battle they take part in. That’ll make the game that much harder, if not impossible. If you’re going for a dog-pacifist run, power to you, but that’s not the life for me.

The Last of Us Part II

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

For my non-pacifist people, feel no sympathy for these little devils. Yes, they’re adorable, but the cute kind of wears off around the 50th time they bite your face off. A little bit of your soul will die when you hear one whimper and cry after you kill it, but it’s either you or them at that point.

The dogs are not only brutal fighters, but their incredible sense of smell will easily sniff you out no matter where you’re hiding. Once a dog finds you, they’ll pounce and then alert the others. As you’re getting mauled by a dog, you're liable to get shot two seconds later. So, my pro tip is to stealthily take out the dogs first by using a silent weapon, like the bow or the suppressed pistol. This’ll allow you to take care of the rest of the enemies without being hunted down every second.

Learn about my favorite menu option: Restart Encounter

The Last of Us Part II’s checkpoint system is quite unique. There are technically two different types of save points: Checkpoints and Encounters. Checkpoint typically pops up after short or long battles, while Encounters put you at the very beginning of an encounter and won’t renew until you’ve made it to the next one.

The Last of Us Part II

(Image credit: Naughty Dog)

So, when you check your menu, you’ll find the Restart Checkpoint and Restart Encounter buttons. If you just went through a fight that you know you could’ve managed better (health-wise or resource-wise), you can hit the Restart Encounter button to give yourself a redo. 

I take advantage of this in almost every battle, especially ones where I needed to use bullets and missed three potential headshots. If you lose three bullets because you missed, you should probably restart the encounter. Bullets are precious in this world. Do not waste them on enemies that you can easily kill with your knife or fists, and definitely don’t waste them by flat out missing. Of course, only after playing the game for 24 hours did I discover the manual save option (this is only based on checkpoints, mind you, so the tip still applies).