In an interview with Collider, “The Last of Us” co-creator Neil Druckmann revealed that once it was decided that spores would not make it into the live-action adaptation, a new solution was formed:
“Eventually, those conversations led us to these tendrils. And then, just thinking about how there’s a passage that happens from one infected to another, and like fungus does, it could become a network that is interconnected. It became very scary to think that they’re all working against us in this unified way, which was a concept that I really liked, that got developed in the show.“
The explanation given by Druckmann is thematically sound but also serves a more technical purpose. As seen in the latest trailer footage, the main characters explore fungi-ridden areas without any masks to protect them from spores. However, the sickly visual of the infection remains well-intact. Instead of covering up the faces of the actors during some of the most intense moments of the game, we see their reactions to the environment and the infected that walk (and screech) among it. The switch-up with tendrils helps convey the hive mind-like state of the infection and just makes more sense as a whole.