Environment and Art Design in “The Last of Us”: Creating a Unique World

“The Last of Us” is a post-apocalyptic video game that takes place in a world overrun by a fungal infection that has turned most of humanity into mutated creatures called “infected.” The game stands out for its immersive and unique environments that create an authentic and believable world. The environment and art design techniques used in “The Last of Us” play a crucial role in making the game’s fictional world come to life and provide a memorable experience for players. This article will delve into the elements of the game’s environment and art design that make it stand out and create a unique world.

Environmental storytelling

The environment in “The Last of Us” tells a story of its own, giving rich details and adding layers to the broader narrative. The game’s environments reflect a world that has not seen human activity in years; rusted cars litter the streets, buildings loom over the ruins, and nature has begun to reclaim the land.

Moreover, the different environments in “The Last of Us” not only serve as visually stunning backdrops but also serve the narrative as well. The urban sprawl of once-bustling cities versus the vast, open wilderness helps relay the transition humanity went through after the catastrophe took place. The game’s environments reflected the collapse of civilization as we know it, with remnants of the past that hint at a rich, detailed backstory that influenced the fate of the world.

Detailed Environments

The art design in “The Last of Us” is a masterclass in environmental detail. Many of the scenes showcase small details that contribute to the overall world-building experience of the game. Everything from overgrown ivy vines to discarded items left around the environment gives the world added realism and depth.

The game designers spent a vast amount of time researching the world and its post-apocalyptic environment. They went out exploring abandoned and forgotten places and took inspiration from areas they came across, including a research facility in Colorado and a hydroelectric plant near Atlanta.

Artists and designers used this inspiration to develop overgrown city ruins, tunnels, and cordyceps fungus-infected nature in the game, leaving the game world feeling much more authentic, grounded, and easy to believe in. Every room, corridor, and even outside area seems like it was designed with a story and a purpose in mind, which gives the environment a sense of life and character.


The tone in “The Last of Us” is dark, gritty, and often melancholic. The game’s art design reflects this masterfully. The colour palette is predominantly grey, with washed-out greens and muted browns that enhance the feeling of decay and loss.

The use of lighting, shown through the environment design, has also played a huge role in the game’s visual impact, creating an overall bleak feeling that, although depressing, helps bring the world to life.

Additionally, the game uses an unsettling soundtrack of eerie music and foreboding silence to emphasise the game’s mood, resulting in a world that feels both authentic and fully immersive, with every element of the environment, cooperates to create a realistically dark and depressing world sure to stick with players for time to come.


The environment and art design in “The Last of Us” blend together to create a cohesive world that stands out from other post-apocalyptic games. The game’s art design, detailed environments, and the artful use of lighting and sound create a unique and believable world where every detail seems to have a story to tell.

The game’s success in creating an emotionally charged post-apocalyptic world lies in the combination of all these elements. By grounding the environment in a realistic portrayal of life after the apocalypse, with an immersive design and an intense tonality, “The Last of Us” gives players the experience of not just playing a game, but also exploring an entirely new world.

In conclusion, the art design and environment elements in “The Last of Us” are not only visually spectacular, but they also play a crucial role in world-building and creating a unique, memorable world for players that immerses them in a gripping story, authentic gameplay, and an experience that never quite leaves them.

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