Adventuring through my backlog of games, one game at a time.
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Played On: PlayStation 4
Most Uncharted games have represented a big step forward in both gameplay and story-telling from Naughty Dog. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is only a step sideways. But when you’re still on the same level as Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, that’s not at all a complaint.
The Lost Legacy stars Chloe Frazer, Drake’s once partner-in-thief who was conspicuously absent from the otherwise all-encompassing finale that was Uncharted 4. Her absence is never really explained, as The Lost Legacy takes place after Uncharted 4 along with her new partner, Nadine Ross.
Nadine was the secondary antagonist in Uncharted 4, initially providing a fun hate-at-first-sight relationship with Drake that included multiple MMA-style beatdowns. She was blunt, serious, militant, and wholly unlikable.
Much of that has changed for The Lost Legacy, as both women are given much more depth and nuance. Chloe was barely anything beyond a sultry Lara Croft knock-off, while Nadine abruptly walked away from the end of Uncharted 4 with very little recourse.
This time around we get to explore Chloe’s past, including chasing the ghostly trails of her late archaeologist father, and see her step up from being a “selfish dickhead,” as quoted by both of them, to mounting a daring, action-packed rescue mission to save thousands from a bomb.
Nadine is likewise much more likable in this game. Her gruff exterior contrasts nicely with Chloe’s much warmer and quippier attitude. Naughty dog excels at writing and characters, and handles these two just as well as the main Uncharted cast.
There’s a specific scene that really stands out for me. Nadine is slowly warming back up to Chloe after she feels betrayed about the surprise inclusion of Sam Drake into their deal. After climbing to the top of a large cave and looking out, Nadine reaches out and playfully pushes Chloe back into the water. Both of them laugh, and I, playing Chloe, have to literally climb back up the cave wall. It’s a brilliant moment of character development, and these effective moments are sprinkled throughout the adventure.
The story is centered entirely in India, with about three-quarters of it within a jungle tileset that may as well be the exact same lost island set piece as the latter half of Uncharted 4. While I enjoyed the breath-taking vistas, sun-dappled waterfalls, and hidden caverns and temples, it definitely felt like a retread. This is one occasion where playing an Uncharted game directly after the last one actually felt like a hindrance.
The actual gameplay hasn’t changed much from Uncharted 4, either. This isn’t Uncharted 5, but a spin-off (and a lower price point as well). Chloe does all the same fun things as Nathan Drake, including stealth takedowns, solving puzzles, leaping along cliff faces, swinging from grappling hooks, and mowing down legions of baddies like a trained soldier.
The one interesting deviation is a much longer chapter at around the one-third to halfway point that provides a miniature open-world to explore.
In chapter 4 Chloe and Nadine are given a 4×4 jeep and a decent-sized chunk of land mass to explore. The goal is to travel to three separate ruin sites, clear them out, and activate levers to open up the way forward. There’s also a substantial side quest involving collecting scattered tokens, which are thankfully highlighted on the new map once you find the door they open. The reward is a treasure piece that makes a ringing sound every time I near treasure, which is a bit of a blessing and a curse.
That chapter was a lot of fun, and like the rest of the game it was perfectly paced. My desire to explore and tackle the different bundles of baddies, traps, and platforming puzzles was perfectly satiated in the 2+ hours it took to complete it. Afterwards I was also glad to move on and return to the shorter, more linear, narrative-focused chapters for the rest of the journey.
At around eight hours The Lost Legacy is far shorter and more evenly paced than Uncharted 4 (even shorter than Uncharted 2 and 3). The spin-off framework serves it well, yet the overall quality doesn’t suffer at all. It takes the same basic formula as all the games before it. It’s the least innovative Uncharted game, but also the most refined example of what an Uncharted game is: swaggering treasure-hunting adventure with the perfect mixture of puzzles, exploration, story, and big action set pieces.
It turns out Naughty Dog doesn’t need Nathan Drake at all (though brother Sam provides some welcoming comic relief toward the end). I’m five games deep and have yet to tire of the Uncharted formula; if anything seeing The Lost Legacy successfully elevate side characters into stars has renewed my interest in the series all over again.
- The voice acting, character designs, environmental art, and overall production values are absolutely top notch, everything you’d expect from an Uncharted game.
- Both Chloe and Nadine are much improved characters and well worthy of the mantle of Uncharted leading stars.
- Sam Drake’s late addition to the plot is a fun surprise, and his feud with Nadine is very enjoyable for fans of Uncharted 4.
- The puzzles are particularly diabolical – in a good way, such as a sliding block puzzle involving light, shadows, and ramps.
- The mini open-world design of chapter 4 is a wholly new design that melds perfectly with all of Uncharted‘s gameplay systems.
- The final chapter is a glorious recreation of the infamous train level from Uncharted 2, but better.
- The quick time event final boss fight is archaic and a bit jarring. Not every damn video game needs a final boss fight, people! A nasty holdover from Uncharted 4 that didn’t need to be repeated.
- The jungles of India look very similar to the lost island setting of Uncharted 4, though I still enjoyed the overall level designs.
- Some of the platforming segments are tedious, particularly one involving switching train tracks towards the end.