Unfortunately, before discussing the actual story, I can't not mention the story leaks that happened in the weeks before the game's release.
Someone with an axe to grind has released key moments of the story on the internet. Initially I was sceptical as well, why are they trying to take down even mentions of the leaks so badly on social media? What are they trying to hide? But now after actually completing the game, seeing the whole story unfold, I can understand why they were so aggressive in their take down attempts. The leaks really did paint a quite false image of the game.
I wasn't able to completely avoid the spoilers either. Even if I didn't come in direct contact with the leaks, seeing people's reactions was enough to deduce what was going on. And all but one of my predictions for the game based on the leaks were 100% spot on.
The one thing I got wrong, as almost everyone else did who saw the leaks: The religious fanatics were not the main antagonists of the game, they don't even play a major role in the story. In fact none of the factions do. The story is about two revenge driven girls. And any other outside affiliation is just background decoration on their stage.
The story begins with Ellie and Joel living in Jackson, the small town where they arrived after the events of the first game. But something is clearly off between the two, there is coldness and awkwardness to be detected. Many instantly jumped to the conclusion, that this is an attempt to bring down Joel as a father figure.
Some went even so far to coin the conspiracy theory that the game deliberately released near father's day as an attack on dads. And to dismantle the patriarchy.
Of course this is total nonsense. The coldness between the characters in the first act is a result of Ellie finding out about what Joel did to "save" her, from her life having a meaning. /Her words, not mine even if I'm paraphrasing/ So that's why Ellie is so distant, and that's why Joel is so awkward, and also this is why Ellie bursts out at Joel when he steps up as her protector during the dance scene.
But if this is not enough for you to believe that the game is not an attack on dads, then there is also the fact that both Joel, and Abby's father in later flashbacks are portrayed as great father figures.
Now let's get back to the timeline. We're in Jackson, it is winter, and Joel, Tommy, Ellie, and many others are out patrolling the hills for stragglers of zombies. Oh yes, this is a zombie game lest we forget. This is when they run into Abby's team, whose explicit goal is to get revenge on Joel for the massacre at the Firefly hospital. But especially for Abby's father.
This is the point in the story, and about the only point I take issue with. Namely that Abby gets seperated from her group and is saved by Joel and Tommy from the horde. But she still kills Joel with cold blood right after this. I think her thirst for revenge is warranted, but surely having just been saved by them should've made a difference? If nothing more a little hesitation on her part.
I'd have made a slight change in this part of the story. During the chaos when Joel and Tommy saves Abby, they'd get separated, and Joel dies to the horde as a hero, and saves Abby in the process. But then when Ellie and Tommy finds out why they came in the first place they don't believe Abby had no hand in his death. So everything else plays out exactly as written. I'm sure this is a more elegant solution, that is more open to interpretation, instead of going for the golf club and bashing in the head of the person, who just saved you?
But I digress, at least in the actual written version they don't hurt anyone else, despite some characters suggesting they should kill them to leave no witnesses. But Abby declines that, she only wanted Joel, nobody else needs to die, and nobody did up to this point.
Of course Ellie and the gang goes to get revenge after this. They track Abby to Seattle. It turns out that Dina, Ellie's girlfriend is pregnant. /not by her, don't worry they didn't change Ellie into a tranny/ but by her ex boyfriend Jessie, who is also on the hunt.
Ellie and co. hunts for Abby for three days, and by the end they end up killing about everyone who Abby ever loved, or was friends with. Quite a stark contrast to Team Abby not causing any collateral damage when going after Joel.
After this they abandon their quest reluctantly and want to go back to Jackson for Dina's sake. This is when control is switched over to Abby, and we see the events of the same 3 days unfold from her perspective. And also they build up her character with flashbacks as a real three dimensional person during this segment.
And I think this worked very well, my favourite was the aquarium level, but especially this scene.
Not just as a character moment, but from a techincal standpoint as well. I've not seen so realistic facial animations in any game ever.
The next important moment in the story is when Abby is captured by the fanatics, and they attempt to string her up, but she is saved by two runaway kids from the group.
Who then Abby tries to help selflessly and at any cost, which renders her an outcast from her own group. After being labelled a traitor she also finds out that all her friends are murdered, including Manny, whose head Tommy exploded in front of her with a bullet to the back of the head.
So she tracks down Ellie gang in their hideout and there is another confrontation. During which Jessie gets caught in the crossfire and dies, and Abby shots Tommy in the head, but somehow he still survives. After a fight with Ellie, Abby comes out on top, but thanks to the intervening by Lev /the runaway kid she saved/ she spares Dina and Ellie again, and lets them leave with their lives. This was the turning point for me, when I became absolutely convinced that Abby is not evil and possibly a better person than all of the others.
Since she had no friends left and her group labelled her a traitor, Abby goes on a wild goose chase with Lev to find if the Fireflies still exist. But they end up being captured by slavers.
Meanwhile Ellie and Dina get a new life as farmers, where the baby is born. But Ellie can't get revenge out of her head, plus Tommy also urges her to get revenge for Joel. So one night she just goes off again to track down Abby.
At this point I was 100% on team Abby, and during this segment what driven me to press on, was the chance that even unintentionally Ellie might end up saving Abby from the slavers. I know, I'm a traitor.
Ellie finds the slaver's camp and kills all the slavers /massacring a bunch of people never felt so satisfying/ then finds Abby as an used up scrawny shell, who has no intention of fighting her at all. But Ellie still doesn't let up, she threatens the life of Lev the kid who Abby saved, to coerce her into a final confrontation. Which was a messed up thing to do, and at this point for me the roles completely reversed with Abby being the protagonist and Ellie being the antagonist.
Of course the scrawny, broken, exhausted, near death Abby cannot win a fight, so Ellie overpowers her, but at the last moment she thinks of Joel and shows mercy. Now I don't really get why thinking about Joel being a good father caused her to show mercy, but I'll take it, thanks.
With that Abby and Lev disappears into the fog, and Ellie returns to the farm, only to find it empty, except for her personal belongings. And the final scene is as she realizes she is no longer able to play the guitar, because two of her fingers were lost in the final confrontation.
So in an effort to get revenge for Joel at any cost, she lost what was her best memory of him, the ability to play the guitar.
That is the story in broad terms, and I think you cannot declare either Ellie or Abby as the definite antagonist / protagonist of the game. It's up to personal interpretation. I'm sure I'm in the less numerous group with siding with Abby, but I always had a thing for the underdog, and girls with muscles as well. So to me what would be surprising if I didn't side with Abby. But even if I didn't that wouldn't make the story suddenly terrible.
That said, if there is a third game ever, I'd be more interested to see what comes next for Abby, than for Ellie. But if they decide to kill off Abby in the first two hours of TLOU3, I'll try to have an open mind for that as well.