What began as a concept for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End DLC evolved into a substantial and important continuation for Naughty Dog’s mega successful cinematic action-adventure franchise, the result of which is Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Not the most exciting or unexpected title for what is essentially a spin-off, but a fairly appropriate one seeing as it works to round-out and focus on a beloved character from the previous games whose backstory would be lost otherwise. That’s quick-witted Chloe Frazer of course, moving away from Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan with a refreshed story that doesn’t at all feel unnecessary or, even worse, like tokenism.
And story really is the only substantial change here – well, that and the map (more on that later) – at least the one that’s most apparent from our brief time spent with the game ahead of its August 23rd release. Chloe is joined on-screen by Nadine Ross, who fans will remember as the secondary antagonist in A Thief’s End. The South African mercenary is obviously filling the role of Victor Sullivan here, with Naughty Dog not willing to disrupt the tried and testing formula of having a deuteragonist to help push the story forward. The important thing here is that Chloe and Nadine seem to have a great dynamic on-screen, maybe on that’s a bit drier than Drake/Sully, but charming nonetheless. The writers are making the wise decision to use these already familiar characters and flesh them out a bit more, adding proper backstories to reiterate The Lost Legacy as a legitimate standalone title and not just an expanded DLC pack.
Chloe leads the charge in the hunt for the Golden Tusk of Ganesh, a historic treasure part of the Hoysala Empire. A rival hunter, Asav, serves as the antagonist here although he was not at all present during our time with the game. For Uncharted fans this isn’t really anything new, but sticking to more or less the exact same beats that have always held this franchise up isn’t a bad thing at all. Immediately noticeable is the similarity between this and Uncharted 4, moving and feeling very much the same with its fluid, expansive gameplay – and yes, the jeep is back with all its rock-climbing capabilities.
Set pieces are dazzling, as are the details within. In terms of life, the jungle is fairly flat aside from human enemies, but the function of what’s actually on the screen is undeniable. From the degradation on the towers of Western Ghats to the lighting effects, the game looks and moves like a AAA title should, with the added benefit of a much larger map, an expanse clearly discernible from the many picturesque vantage points around the map, like an imposing rusted tower which you should – you don’t need to – climb in order to mark certain points of interest on your map.
There are a few subtle changes to the successful Uncharted formula as well. Instead of a journal Chloe has a smartphone, which as far as we can tell is primarily used for snapping photos of various clues and bringing them up later. Chloe is also a gun at lockpicking, and while Uncharted shy away from the more detailed and challenging act of lockpicking that some other games dabble in (eg, Dying Light and Bioshock) it’s a welcome mechanic that doesn’t take up too much time and nets you some neat supplies along the way.
Puzzles are still very much the bread and butter of Uncharted, and from our time it seems Naughty Dog have only improved on this aspect. Some of the puzzles – especially the ones we attempted – were painfully easy, but the enjoyment enhanced by terrific cut-scenes, excellent animation, and results that are actually interesting and don’t feel like blobs of exposition.
Combat is another element that’s been kept very consistent with previous games. The range of weapons is still fairly limited, and the subtle differences red-shirt enemies is unimaginative (those shotgun dudes with extra layers of armour are still pretty damn difficult, especially when you’ve run out of grenades), but combat is fun, smooth and just as open as the environment. Enemy AI is excellent and provides a worthy challenge, balanced out by the fact that Nadine’s AI is quite impressive as well, making Sully look bad in comparison.
More of the same isn’t at all a bad thing when you have a game like Uncharted 4, a title that truly felt like the best possible way to progress, and maybe even end, the franchise. The important part is that this feels like a vital way to continue the series while also pushing it forward considerably, expanding the universe and doing so by not throwing in an expanded DLC, but making a complete AAA title that should keep Uncharted fans more than satisfied.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is launching in Australia exclusively for PlayStation 4 on 23 August 2017 for a recommended retail price of $54.95 AUD.