It’s more Uncharted, and that’s a very good thing
Developed by: Naughty Dog
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE)
Released: August 22, 2017
Originally developed as DLC for Uncharted 4, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was later converted to a stand-alone title when Naughty Dog realised there were more adventures to pursue. With Nate’s story neatly wrapped up in Uncharted 4 you might be wondering, “Do I need more Uncharted? Am I craving more Uncharted?” And “Are there even any more stories to tell?” Well, the answer to all of these questions for me was a resounding “YES!” If you are a fan of the series then Uncharted: The Lost Legacy will be right up your alley. The Lost Legacy is more of the same hit action-packed summer blockbuster we’ve come to know and expect from developer Naughty Dog, albeit on a much smaller scale. Don’t let the fact that this is a $40 game deter you. All the fundamentals of an Uncharted game are present and accounted for in The Lost Legacy and I couldn’t be happier. It’s more Uncharted, and that’s a very good thing.
Past Uncharted adventures took us to the lush jungles of the Amazon, the brisk, icy cold peaks of the Himalayas, the unforgiving endless expanse of the Rub’ al Khali desert, and finally to the vast wilderness of Madagascar, while globetrotting through all these regions one constant remained, the lead of our adventure was a man named Nathan Drake. For Uncharted’s first stand-alone venture, and for the first time in the Uncharted series, Nate takes a backseat and this time around the spotlight is directed on fan favorite, Chloe Frazer, and Uncharted 4 baddie, Nadine Ross, two incredible characters in some desperate need of more exposition and background.
The story of The Lost Legacy is pretty straightforward, Chloe has her eyes set on the “Tusk of Ganesh,” a mythical artifact belonging to the ancient Hoysala Empire. Her search takes her to war-torn West India where she learns a crazed warmonger, Asav, is also in search of the Tusk. To increase her odds of procuring the artifact, Chloe makes an unlikely alliance with mercenary and ex-Shoreline head, Nadine Ross.
Chloe and Nadine’s partnership begins in a very awkward place – they don’t trust each other, referring to each other only by their last names, they are constantly bickering, motives are questioned, and loyalties are constantly put to the test. They clearly have faith in each others skills or they would have never agreed to form this mutual partnership to begin with, but their differing professions and even more different attitudes towards the job constantly send them butting heads. Watching the relationship between Chloe and Nadine blossom throughout your adventure is the driving force of The Lost Legacy and Naughty Dog once again displays a masterclass in character development. Chloe and Nadine are complete polar opposites, Chloe is more improvisational while Nadine is more logical. Both are smart, cunning, and extremely witty allowing them to play off each others dialogue really well.
Throughout your journey into the Western Ghats of India, Chloe and Nadine bond through shared experiences. The characters can’t help at times but remark on the stunning beauty of the world around them (Chloe even takes pictures from time to time), otherworldly ruins, wildlife, enemy encounters, or even just their personal lives. In fact, most of the narrative is told through these little side conversations that occur while you traverse India, riding in the Jeep, or when you hit a landmark, rather than cutscenes. These optional conversations offer a ton of insight into the characters so try not to miss them! There is one scene in particular that I would never wish to spoil for anyone, but it is truly something special and I wish for all of you to experience it for yourself.
Naughty Dog is simply brilliant at making the world the third character of their games. The setting is a standing presence perpetually commanding the players attention at all times. The art direction in this game is what has become expected, stunningly intricate and detailed, sprawling landscapes as far as the eye can see, a world filled with little knickknacks for the player to gander at. I spent about 10 minutes in the prologue just observing the items in the shops and perusing the merchants stalls. In my observations I also got a taste of what was in store for this adventure when I witnessed armed soldiers on every rooftop. The setting and the tone of the world is established within the first few precious moments of the opening scene. India is a land seeping to the brim with beautiful culture, a culture that is under constant threat of being extinguished.
At night, the streets turn into an active war zone, families running for shelter, people getting ripped from their homes, and thrown into the backs of Jeeps never to be seen or heard from again, the nonstop quakes and movement of earth, and rubble from the constant airstrikes. Then there is the eerie semblance of what is to be perceived as what a ‘normal life” once was in the city. Bike shops with their doors forever shuttered, shrines of Ganesh with offerings of spoiled food, and even a little stuffed bear just left out in the open with its friend nowhere to be seen, everything frozen in time. Bullet riddled walls of buildings, dilapidated houses, lives stopped and seizing in an instant, a moment in time captured for all of eternity. The insurgents constantly refer to this once vibrant city as a “shit-hole” but it was them and their vile leader who transformed the beautiful city into what the player sees today. All of this exposition just through visual storytelling, all of it used as a means to foreshadow the barbaric rebel leader, Asav. The enemy this time around isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill Uncharted villain, no, Asav is a villain grounded on the real life tyrannical monsters of today.
Naughty Dog touts the Indian Western Ghats as being the single largest open space the studio has created, I just wish there was a bit more to do in this massive lush environment. A definite step up from what was accomplished in Uncharted 4, the Western Ghats has multiple landmarks and tasks to complete, all of which can be accomplished in any way or order feasible. Chloe makes use of a map that acts as Nathan Drake’s journal did in past Uncharted titles, she draws and scribbles and marks all over this thing and impressively all these scribbles are visible in-game while Chloe is static in the game world, it’s a little detail but a detail nonetheless that I thought was pretty impressive and took note of. Word to the wise, FINISH THE OPEN WORLD COLLECT-A-THON!!! Besides the fact that gathering all 11 Hoysala Tokens is an awesome way to explore the Western Ghats in its entirety, there are some interesting and rewarding puzzles to solve, and a reward that needs to be in some form or another in all future Uncharted titles going forward.
A major problem I had during this act was the sense of total immersion in the open world was robbed from me. Bushes, plant life, and even moving bodies of water that clearly look as though Chloe could walk right through unimpeded are put in place as obstacles that not only delay exploration but also at times bring the game to a stifling halt where I went “Fuck exploring! I’m just gonna progress the story.” A dreaded, avoidable shame when the best parts about the Uncharted series are its exploration. It ruins the momentum and overall feel of the game when player controlled Chloe fumbles around aimlessly for a minute or two in foliage that she would otherwise have no problem traversing whatsoever! There needs to be a bigger focus on making it painfully obvious to the player what areas are accessible and which are not.
The gameplay for The Lost Legacy is your standard Uncharted affair of a action-adventure platforming with third-person cover-based shooting and stealth blended in. Platforming still consists of maneuvering the character (in this case Chloe) around obstacles that impede progression through levels. While gameplay is composed of the same running, jumping, shooting, climbing, picking, shimmying, driving, winching, swimming, and grapple hook swinging from the previous title with one addition, Chloe brings a new skill, lockpicking, to the table. Scattered around the world are lockboxes filled with goodies such as more powerful weapons, explosives or treasure just begging for Chloe plunder. To pick a lock simply move the left analog stick around in a circle until the DualShock 4 vibrates or you get a visual cue (an arrow pointing you in the correct direction) telling you to stop, repeat the process until all pins to a lock are opened and “voila!” lockbox cracked! Another new addition is C4. C4 acts the same as a grenade in the sense that it creates explosions, but the explosions caused by C4 are more controlled. The player can place the C4 in a desired location, or even on an object, and after a fast cool down time, press down of the D-pad to detonate it. This allows for better strategizing during skirmishes, especially when heavily armored enemies are involved. The addition of Silence Weapons helps immensely when planning out a stealth operation. There are also new destructible walls that hide away goodies and are sometimes the only viable way forward.
I wish they had found some way to address some of the most annoying and at times soul crushing action in the series, the picking up of ammo and weapons. Both are still mapped to the same button and a lot of the time Chloe will just snap back and forth through a weapon you do not desire rather than picking up ammo. This was and still is a really frustrating oversight when playing on Crushing. Almost as much as Nadine’s atrocious AI.
The bane of my existence, the partner AI is GOD awful for most of the game! I played the game on Crushing difficulty and on sequences that I would normally have no problems dispatching the enemy hoards, I found myself missing shots because my AI controlled partner would run right into my shot preventing me from hitting my actual target…the enemy. You should not be running at max speed into an AI supported partner and they just don’t take the hint to move out of your way! That just should not happen. Having to physically walk around my partner is an unnecessary hitch in gameplay that made me want to throw my controller against the floor. The AI should know when and where the player wants to go and move accordingly.
Just like all previous entries in the franchise, The Lost Legacy ain’t bad on the eyes. Constantly stunning at 1080p on the base PS4 and even while capped at 30fps, characters movements feel organic while colors are strikingly vibrant and textures pop. Clothes move and wrinkle around characters bodies, characters get muddy and grimy when they fall in mud and then clean and wet when they step in water. When Chloe gets a little roughed up, she becomes disheveled, she sweats, and her hair sticks to her skin. Another little detail that was not lost on me. Naughty Dog has done it again with the incredible lengths they are willing to go to achieve draw distances that seemingly go on forever. Throughout my entire playthrough the only hiccup I had was in the Western Ghats, for some reason the world just broke apart and disappeared. It didn’t break my game and I didn’t have to do a reset but I did have to wander around a bit before the game returned to normal.
I would be remiss if I stood here talking about how gorgeous The Lost Legacy was and didn’t mention a feature that has been an Uncharted staple since it hit PS4 back in 2015 with The Nathan Drake Collection, photo mode. All what you need to do is look up The Lost Legacy on social media to see the astonishing (and sometimes hilarious) works of art the community has generated in photo mode. Naughty Dog has added more poses, more facial expression, logo overlays, and even more filters and the community are going to town! You could literally spend a whole day just playing around in photo mode trying to create the ultimate shot.
Final Verdict: Buy It! Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a remarkable new start for the series while still embracing and celebrating everything that has come before it. Chloe and Nadine hold their own and their presence emphatically commands respect and asserts them as the headliners with no want or need of Nathan Drake coming out of retirement any time soon. These women are here to stay! Despite the new lead, the series remains the same at its core, an interactive action movie, with powerfully written characters, stunning art direction, and some of the best visuals offered on a console. If you have ever played a previous title in the Uncharted franchise then you’ve played The Lost Legacy and you know what to expect: massive set pieces, dynamic characters, and a wonderfully constructed world. With the core story ranging from around 10-20 hours max to complete, The Lost Legacy feels more like a full retail game rather than a discounted $40 one. Sooo…when can I be expecting that Sam Drake and Victor “Goddamn” Sully spinoff featuring the return of our boy Cutter?
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is available now exclusively on PS4/PS4Pro and was played on a standard PS4 on Crushing Difficulty for this review.