Escort missions have garnered a negative reputation throughout the years. Players would look away in disgust when they suspect that they would have to babysit an artificial intelligence-controlled character throughout the battlefield and look after their personal safety while protecting themselves. With the recent release of The Last of Us and BioShock: Infinite (back in March), however, I began to wonder if escort missions can become more widely accepted as oppose to resented.
Having seen how Naughty Dog and Irrational Games have succeeded in implementing such a fantastic escort character that they have gained or surpassed more popular support than either Joel or Booker DeWitt. Elizabeth and Ellie have definitely shown that escort objectives can be fun and even beneficial for the player. But which of them is the best?
Let’s start with Ellie, a hot-headed and naive 14-year old orphan girl born into a world where bandits and the infected now inhabit once healthy cities, and co-stars alongside Joel. Ellie is unaware of life besides the quarantine zone and was raised in world where fear was endless. Despite this bleak upbringing, Ellie still holds on to small amounts of hope and is highly interesting in past cultures such as collecting relics, such as music and books (especially comic-books), and hates cliff-hangers.
It’s easy to mistake Ellie for a real-life person. She asks elaborate questions about the past and promptly responds, other times during quiet situations she hums and whistles as Joel explores the environment looking for usable materials. This doesn’t mean she’s unable to handle herself. Throughout the game Ellie shows that she’s more than able to do what is necessary to survive. While escorting Ellie throughout the desolate wasteland of the United States, she killed and distracted enemies, and aiding Joel throughout one live or death situation after another. Although Ellie would often stand in plain sight and alert the guards, it would immediately follow with this 14-year old girl jumping on the back on this man and stabbing him to death.
Elizabeth is a 21-year old woman who has been imprisoned in the floating city of Columbia since she was an infant. She is the deuteragonist of BioShock: Infinite and Booker DeWitt, the protagonist, is sent to Columbia to bring her back to New York. When sprung from her prison by DeWitt from Monument Island the founders, Zachary Comstock, and her monstrous winged guardian, The Songbird, make it their goal to recapture her at all cost.
Elizabeth is smart, strong, and naive. Everything she knows about the outside world comes from books, and throughout Columbia Booker relies on Elizabeth’s abilities to survive, whether it’s lock-picking, finding supplies, or opening tears in the environment. As you travel with her through time and space she grows and quickly accustomed to the terrors within this new world she joined into. Just like Ellie it’s easy to mistake Elizabeth for a real person, always offers her own opinion and experiences, elaborating on everything.
Ellie and Elizabeth do share common qualities. Both are essential to the protagonist’s survival and offer aid prudently without going so far as being an annoyance for the player. While Elizabeth requires no aid from Booker and will avoid taking damage while gathering supplies from the battlefield and opens tears for Booker, Ellie needs Joel. She’ll avoid enemies and hurl blunt items, but sometimes she requires Joel’s help to prevent becoming a snack for the infected. Yes, Elizabeth does bring Booker medical kits, Salts, and even revive him during intense fights. But it wasn’t as intense as Ellie saving Joel by picking up a gun and shooting a man in the head.
But this isn’t a bad thing. Requiring Joel to aid Ellie during certain tasks strengthens the connection between them. Ellie needs Joel to cross a river or to shoot an infected off her, as Joel needs Ellie to save her from similar life and death situations. Booker and Elizabeth do the same thing for one another, but these situations usually happen within cutscenes or scripted events. Joel and Ellie need to constantly be aware of one another at all times.
It’s how these character grew individually that left me smitten with them. Whereas Ellie’s relationship with Joel grows, she does tend to act the same way throughout the journey. Verbally assaulting people and resorting to violence is Ellie’s primary way of acting. While she does exhibit small changes throughout The Last of Us, it’s nowhere as close as Elizabeth at the end of BioShock: Infinite. The first time Elizabeth see’s Booker kill, her entire world collapses. She runs and attempts to place all the blame on Booker only to realize that she was the reason it happened, and things wouldn’t get better from there. Elizabeth’s transformation from a naïve, innocent girl to a hardened woman happens as a series of grueling and exhausting physical and mental battles. Elizabeth was no longer the same person she was by the end of BioShock: Infinite, and that’s what makes her stand out from Ellie.
Who is better: BioShock: Infinite’s Elizabeth or The Last of Us’s Ellie? For me, it’s Elizabeth. Seeing her evolve and develop was a fantastic experience that Ellie couldn’t replace. Although Ellie’s performance throughout The Last of Us what nevertheless outstanding, I felt that she was, albeit slightly alter due to her relationship with Joel, the same foul-mouth girl from the beginning of the game. Because The Last of Us is a fresh release, I’m sure that Ellie has currently garnered enough popular support to debunk my opinions, but I still see Elizabeth as the better escort character.