Initial Release: 22 August 2017
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy leaves a lasting impact, one which will make you wonder whether the series even needed Nathan Drake in the first place.
There’s a lot to be said for the way a game is marketed. Price point, developer comment and speculation all play into the expectations of the gamer and this factor can make or break even the best of games. Since it was announced, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy has had very mixed messaging indeed. Initially described as a DLC (in the vein of The Last of Us‘ Left Behind DLC), the way the game was pitched towards gamers and the press alike changed over time. The most recent view is that Naughty Dog intend for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy to exist as a standalone full game, with its own voice and feel. What you eventually get out of the game will depend on your expectations then, as The Lost Legacy is so close to being a full Uncharted experience, showcasing a best-of experience of everything that makes the series so special. Ultimately though, it’s this game’s focus on the quieter moments which make it stand out against what we’re used to. The action is more of the same, but the stakes are higher this time around and the emphasis on character development even more so. Because of this, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy leaves a lasting impact, one which will make you wonder whether the series even needed Nathan Drake in the first place.
From the outset the game projects the feeling of being a different beast entirely. Set completely in India, it offers up a more contained package, one which gives a sense of a studio having fun with the series they created. Much of the game’s charm comes from its two main characters Chloe Frasier and Nadine Ross. We’ve seen these characters before of course but they’re different, deeper than before. Chloe finds herself on a voyage of self discovery tied to her Indian roots and her Father. Nadine on the other hand, is still reeling from the events of Uncharted 4, desperate to prove herself in a final shot of redemption. The interplay between the two is truly electric. Things start off as frosty as you might expect but quickly the pair develop a chemistry unlike anything we’ve seen before in the Uncharted series.
Much of this is carried by the stellar motion capture performances. Chloe is brash, stubborn and sardonic down to the bone. Even the act of turning the character around demonstrates this in a subtle yet painstaking attention to detail. Nadine too is completely enthralling as the tough yet likeable rogue who winces as she gains respect for her partner. With Naughty Dog being the studio that they are it can be easy to overlook these details as being par for the course at this point but here it really should be commended just how impressive the visuals are. It’s the smaller touches which cement the studio as the head of their class, the flicker of lightning in the distance, the way the moonlight bounces off of the rooftops of a heavily populated Indian town. There’s an extra level of detail this time around, probably due to it being a smaller, tighter experience. To be honest I found that the action got in the way of a genuinely gripping story. I know it’s a necessity at this point but shooting has never been the series’ strong point. The set-pieces are admittedly exhilarating though. In particular the final sequence aboard a train is pure Uncharted erotica, stringing together the best parts of previous games into one quick, effective level. Chloe handles almost identically to Nathan Drake, save the addition of a few new mechanics like photography and map marking. I guess there’s no need to fix what ain’t broke but I could’ve done with some abilities which were specific to Chloe.
Thankfully, action makes up a relatively small portion of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, with a hefty amount of time spent exploring the game’s gorgeous environments. About halfway through, the game introduces an open world area which allows the player to tackle objectives at their own pace and in any order they want. This area really shines due to its selection of tombs, puzzles and secrets, each of which presents level design at its finest.
The main reason that you absolutely have to play this game is for its story. At face level, it’s standard Uncharted fare, an ancient artefact, a power-hungry baddie and plenty of crumbling ledges but look closer and you’ll find a grounded tail of friendship and resilience against all odds. Watching the girls’ relationship evolve throughout the game is gripping and is the crux of what drives the story along. The big bad, Asav, is a little murky in his motives but thanks to a great performance and formidable fighting style, he steals every scene he’s in. In terms of surprises, there are a few familiar faces which turn up and a truly beautiful moment involving a creature in the woods (that’s as spoilery as I’m gonna get, think the giraffe in The Last Of Us)
By spinning out from the main series and focusing on the things which make it great, Naughty Dog have proved that we don’t need Nathan Drake to have fun. Quite the contrary actually. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy boasts the series’ best story and most engaging protagonists. Despite the mixed messaging, the game succeeds at being a full-fledged Uncharted game in its own right and blows expectations out of the water in terms of DLC. The gameplay is the same old but the deeper devotion to character development couldn’t be more refreshing. The ending gives hope for more of these smaller, side-stories in the future, and if that is indeed the case then it’s a very bright future indeed.
Verdict: 9 out of 10
A review copy of the game was provided by Sony