REVIEW【Uncharted】: The Lost Legacy 2017-09-04 11:11:13
Nathan Drake’s days of adventuring are over. As we watched him hang up his holster and rope to begin a new chapter in his life, Naughty Dog’s scribes doubled down on the message of “it’s over.” Video game protagonists rarely walk off into the sunset, but Drake’s farewell is as definitive as they come. Naughty Dog wrote Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End as a conclusion to Drake’s story, and it ended on a poetic and satisfying note. To bring him back in starring role would be foolish. It really is over. Is Drake’s name synonymous with Uncharted? He’s wonderfully charismatic and endearing, but we now know he isn’t the lifeblood of it.
The Lost Legacy is every bit as riveting and accomplished as any Uncharted title. We learn that the heart of the adventure trumps everything else, and can extend to any character.
Chloe Frazer fits into the starring role admirably, but never once is written in a way where you feel she is replacing or replicating Drake. She’s just as playful, but she’s wired differently; she’s more than the untrustworthy hustler we briefly got acquainted with in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Figuring out who she is takes time in The Lost Legacy, partially because she’s incredibly guarded, but also because you are getting to know her in the midst of an adventure.
Chloe is nearing the end of a heist she organized with Nadine Ross, the former paramilitary boss turned treasure seeker from Uncharted 4, who is in many ways the polar opposite of Chloe, pragmatic and fixated on results. We are left wondering why they are together for a little too long, but satisfying answers eventually arrive. As the confusion melts away, Chloe and Nadine settle into a nice (yet somewhat turbulent) groove, and end up being a fascinating duo to track. They’re funny, terse, and wonderfully unpredictable in both their actions and words – their chemistry works even as they frequently butt heads.
Chloe and Nadine are in hot pursuit of the Golden Tusk of Ganesh, which they believe is located in the long-lost ruins of the Hoysala Empire located in India’s Western Ghats, another part of the world Naughty Dog turns into a scenic work of art for players to explore. The duo are soon at odds with an insurgent rebel leader named Asav, who initially appears to be just another madman who loves treasure, but is later revealed to be far more dangerous and cunning than anticipated. Asav moves the narrative needle just as much as the heroes, and the story soars from the uncertainty of his actions.
I just wish Naughty Dog wouldn’t have felt the need to reference the Drakes so often – a distraction that frequently entertains and can be interesting, but is placed more in the spotlight than is needed and diminishes Chloe and Nadine’s ownership of the adventure.
The Lost Legacy was originally intended to be a bonus episode for Uncharted 4, but ends up being a legitimate sequel that is every bit as fully featured as any of Drake’s adventures – it’s just a little shorter. I would never say any of the Uncharted games are too long – they always leave me wanting more – but this new entry demonstrates brevity works just as well, as the journey feels more urgent and streamlined.
The Lost Legacy’s gameplay is a direct continuation of Uncharted 4, hanging its hat firmly on the same grapple hook, stealth, and open-world exploration Drake used. Outside of a lock-pick mechanic – which can deliver high intensity when used in areas where enemies are on patrol – Naughty Dog doesn’t introduce much that can be classified as “new.” As I worked my way across India’s lost ruins and gorgeous jungles, I never felt the gameplay needed a shot of something different. The spectacle is always so huge, and the next discovery is always so enticing that I didn’t think about the actions that got me there – other than they are fun and reliable.
Although the gameplay mechanics fit like a well-worn glove, Naughty Dog still has a few tricks up its sleeves. The puzzle contraptions that were invented to hide the Golden Tusk of Ganesh are challenging, clever, and again all about spectacle. Two of these puzzles rank among my favorites in the series – one dealing with platforms and swinging axes, and another that uses silhouettes in a fascinating way. I’d even say these slower gameplay moments are more impressive than the series’ signature setpieces, where everything explodes and collapses. Yes, Lost Legacy has plenty of that, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
Given just how fully featured this adventure is, Lost Legacy could have easily been Uncharted 5. Where Naughty Dog goes next is anyone’s guess, but I would love to see Chloe and Nadine return for another hunt, as they’re every bit as engaging as the Drake family. They make a hell of a team.