The Ladies Have It in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Can a major video game franchise survive without its main character? For so many years, Uncharted has been Nathan Drake. What does a Drake-less Uncharted look like, and why should we want to play it?
I was a latecomer to Uncharted. It’s only within the past year that I powered through Uncharted 1-3 (via the remastered collection on PS4) and moved on to what I consider to be the highest point of the series, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The influence of Neil Druckmann is apparent in the way Uncharted 4’s story is told, its willingness to slow down to let an emotional beat land, and its focus on love and family. Knowing we’ve said farewell to Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4, I approached Uncharted: The Lost Legacy with a bit of trepidation. I needn’t have worried. The Lost Legacy is a beautiful story well told, and full of all the action we expect from an Uncharted game.
This time around, you control Chloe Frazer, Drake’s occasional partner in crime. She’s in India, attempting to sneak aboard a truck bound for a war-torn city. Interestingly, Chloe is working with Uncharted 4 antagonist, Nadine Ross. Their relationship doesn’t get off to a great start, but each woman has a reason for relying on the other, and watching their relationship develop from initial mistrust to friendship is one of the highlights of the story (even if some of their conflicts seem a little too quickly resolved). Staying true to formula our heroes are after an ancient artifact. This time it’s the Tusk of Ganesh, though a man named Asav stands in the way and wants the Tusk for mysterious reasons. There are plenty of surprises–very pleasant ones–and the pacing is excellent. I clocked about six-and-a-half hours on my first playthrough, though I made no effort to find all 100 collectibles hidden throughout the world. It’s shorter than the other Uncharted titles, but the pacing is so good that the length feels right. No padding: this game tells its story and ends when it should.
“The Lost Legacy is a beautiful story well told, and full of all the action we expect from an Uncharted game.”
Her story may not fill the same runtime as Nathan Drake’s, but if you’ve played any of his adventures, you’ll feel right at home controlling Chloe. Jumping, climbing, wall-running, and rope-swinging, everything feels like you remember it–which is to say, smooth, easy, and excellent. Chloe’s only real signature move is her ability to lockpick, which primarily comes into play when you stumble across a locked trunk of supplies in the wild. The lockpicking is neat in theory, but it’s fairly boring in execution–rotate the left stick until you feel the vibration, then repeat. I can’t say I would’ve wanted it to be more complicated, but as it is, it doesn’t add much to the experience.
The nitpicks I have with the controls are carryovers from the other titles. It’s always been odd to me that these incredibly athletic characters can’t jump onto low and accessible rocks. I know it’s the developers cordoning you off from areas you aren’t supposed to access, I just wish there were a better way to do it. So much of Uncharted is about traversing the environment, and on a few occasions, I confused what is essentially background scenery for the critical path, which led to some frustration. Fortunately, Nadine is very helpful when you get lost. She frequently points out where you need to go and how to get there if the game senses you’re stuck.
As with the rest of the controls, the gunfights feel the same, as well. Seeing as how top-notch pick-up-and-play gun fighting is something Uncharted is known for, this is a good thing. You only control Chloe, but Nadine does a great job of holding her own, too.
Speaking of Nadine, she feels pretty alive. Naughty Dog continues to enhance its AI, and Nadine acts like a useful partner instead of a drag. One small but significant enhancement on the AI side deals with Chloe and Nadine’s frequent conversations. In games with AI partners, when the characters are engaged in dialog, I tend to hang back, knowing that if I get into conflict, they’ll cease talking and I’ll never get to hear what they have to say. Lost Legacy has a really smart way of handling this. When characters are rudely interrupted by angry rebels looking for a fight, as soon as the fight is finished, the characters simply resume their conversation, while acknowledging they were interrupted. More companies need to pay attention to little details like these.
“This is Naughty Dog at their AAA best.”
Something Naughty Dog still needs to pay a bit more attention to is the puzzles. There are very, very few puzzles in this game that don’t simply involve turning a picture until it looks correct. As such, you’ll spend a lot of time spinning images around in order to progress. One puzzle in particular wore me down. You’re required to move a handful of objects around a 3×3 grid. These objects cast two different shadows on the walls, which display two different pictures. You simply need to position the objects so the shadows align with the pictures. It doesn’t sound complicated, and in theory, it isn’t. But controlling the pieces requires you to run around the room, lifting levers, and what should have been a one-or two-minute endeavor ended up being a 10-minute ordeal. Yes, I accept the possibility that I am just terrible at Uncharted puzzles. However, even if I were a pro, the setup of this puzzle drags it down.
Softening the blow of my apparent puzzle ineptitude is the fact that every environment in this game is gorgeous, from the opening Indian marketplace to the war-ravaged streets to the jungles filled with temples and fortresses. This is Naughty Dog at their AAA best. The game, of course, comes with the requisite photo mode, which I’m terrible at using, but photographically inclined players will get a kick out of it. Animation is consistently great, as well. While it’s not a leap over Uncharted 4 (which makes sense, given the game was originally planned as single-player DLC), it doesn’t need to be. Uncharted 4 is already stunning.
You’ll have plenty of sights to take in since The Lost Legacy brings with it the largest single area in Uncharted history. Now, it’s not The Witcher 3-big, but Uncharted-big, for sure. This area gives you access to true sidequests – a first for the Uncharted. Traveling around and completing all the optional puzzles not only gives you some interesting story beats and fun conversations between Chloe and Nadine but provides a reward that completionists will find comes in handy.
The audio experience isn’t quite as soaring as the graphics. The music is good, don’t get me wrong, but the themes don’t reach the same sonic heights as the previous games. The voice and motion acting, on the other hand, are as good as ever. The main actors all turn in memorable performances. Naughty Dog has gotten their storytelling style down pat, and it’s a joy to experience.
When you’ve finished the story and found everything you want to find, the multiplayer should provide you with further challenges. Don’t be confused; this is the same multiplayer found in Uncharted 4. The one addition is a new Survival Arena mode, which brings 10 new waves for one to three players, along with warlord battles and special rule modifiers. I can’t comment on this section though, as the mode remains offline until launch.
Bottom line; this is real Uncharted. It may not have been written and directed by Neil Druckmann, but it bears his fingerprints. After this first step in a new, Nathan Drake-less direction, I’m eager to see where Naughty Dog takes us next.
*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
- You won’t miss Nathan Drake
- Action is as intense as ever
- The world is simply beautiful
- Unprecedented freedom to explore
- Puzzles are a little bland
- Some story conflicts resolved too tidily