Ellie vs. Elizabeth: Who’s the Better Companion?

Who is your favorite?
This is spoiler free.
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Both Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us are in contention for best game of the year and it’s easy to see why. Each game brings something unique and completely original to games. And both are well written, well scripted narratives with interesting and complex characters. And yet they are dissimilar from one another, except for one thing: their companions.

Ellie and Elizabeth follow each game’s protagonist throughout almost the entirety of the game. And the plot of the games was both driven by their significance. I couldn’t help but see a similarity between the two. Young, intelligent, quick-thinking, they almost never leave your side.

But then I thought, which one’s better?

Elizabeth (Bioshock Infinite)

Elizabeth is the girl in the tower. You are tasked with saving right from the beginning of the game. Imprisoned in Columbia since infancy, she’s naïve and optimistic. But this doesn’t make her weak. Elizabeth is also intelligent and powerful. And expresses those traits in the form of “tears,” which basically means she can rip open a portal into other, trans-dimensional universes.

During gameplay, Elizabeth will provide tactical help with her tears and toss you supplies – though it is a bit jarring when the screen jerks aggressively towards her. This skill makes her invaluable in combat and she quickly becomes your wingman. The best part is that you never needed to protect her and the game lets you know it.

Elizabeth is charming. You can’t help but love her. Because of her sheltered life, she is constantly amazed by the world. As you discover Columbia, so does Elizabeth. Quite often Elizabeth will be gazing in wonderment at the sites. But she never clings to the player. Elizabeth is constantly interacting with the citizens of Columbia and at one point even gets herself some cotton candy. Also, through her searching she constantly finds money for Booker (the main protagonist, voiced by Troy Baker) and Columbia is an expensive place.

Elizabeth is designed for a male audience. Earlier verison of her were more buxom and alluring. But this was quickly toned down and instead of focusing on sexuality, the designers focused on emotional appeal. She plays upon the instinctual need to protect.

The game also tricks you into liking Elizabeth. The fact that you start the relationship by rescuing her from a tower references so many fairytales. Looking at her big blue eyes, long skirt, and gentle nature, it’s obvious her character design was clearly inspired by classic Disney princesses. She’s basically made into the player’s little sister.

This unfortunately makes her character flat on a few occasions. Her naivety was also tiresome. She will chastise Booker about murdering some men, but then immediately toss you guns and ammunition.

One of the most annoying moments in the game is after a dark, character developing scene, Elizabeth goes and picks a lock, exclaiming cheerily, “oh, that little thing”? It ruined the seriousness of the moment and just showed how Elizabeth’s character lacks realism.

Ellie (The Last of Us)

Like in Infinite, you are tasked with protecting Ellie. But right from the start, your relationship with her is strained. She doesn’t always listen to you and she’s argumentative. But yet this is somehow endearing. Her mannerisms and movements are all thoughtfully put together to create a very believable character.

Although only 14, her language is comparable to a sailor. Growing up in the post-outbreak United States, she has become mature beyond her years. She knows how to handle herself and isn’t afraid of violence – though she may need some protecting during combat. But unlike Elizabeth, when the player commits acts of brutality she doesn’t seem fazed. In fact, the only acknowledgement is a muttered curse.

Ellie becomes the avatar for the player, just like Elizabeth. Since she has no knowledge of life before the fall of society, she’ll ask Joel (coincidentally also voiced by Troy Baker) questions about how things used to be. In fact, some of the best moments in the game are the ambient, optional dialogue. The best example of this is when you stumble upon an old arcade machine prompting a discussion on videogames between the two.They serve to show that Ellie is still a child, and it reflects her innocence that she tries desperately to hide.

During combat, Ellie will assist Joel first hand. She knows how to shoot a gun and isn’t afraid to use her switchblade. The Last of Us also allows you to briefly play as Ellie, something that Infinite did not have. Playing as Ellie gave more insight into her character. It showed just how independent, yet fragile she is. It also revealed how much Ellie relies on Joel, even though she tries to hide it.

Her relationship with Joel is complex. They start off strained, but you can tell they both try to not get too close to one another. This is because Ellie represents both hope for the future but also a constant reminder of Joel’s past experiences with loss and sacrifice.

Furthermore, Ellie is a strong female character who can handle herself, yet manages not to be sexualized. Even more so, she’s a child. Children in videogames are rarely noteworthy. They either have no personality at all or are overly precocious and wise. Ellie accomplishes both roles successfully. She is truly a well realized character.

Conclusion

Throughout the history of videogames almost everyone can agree that escort missions suck. They are almost uniformly terrible and quickly become a chore. The sidekick is always stupid and always manages to get in your way. These characters very rarely add anything to the game’s story or progress the plot in any way (look at Ashley from Resident Evil 4 or Natalya from GoldenEye 64). But both Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us include two very impressive companions who show us where games can go in terms of storytelling and character development.

While Elizabeth was sheltered from the world, Ellie was too exposed to it. One is rough and unforgiving. The other is kind and delicate. Both characters are equally memorable and significant. But to me, Ellie was the more much in-depth character. She felt like a real person and her actions were understandable. Because of this she has become my favorite companion in any videogame.

But tell me, who is your favorite?


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Author
Image of Leah Augustine
Leah Augustine
Just a college student studying animation with a love of games. Feel free to talk to me!