Welcome to The Backlog! Because Time makes fools of us all, my goal for 2018 is to spend the year playing the games I’ve purchased but never played. Thank you very much, Steam/PSN/Xbox Live holiday sales.
For all its technical marvels, I wasn’t much of a fan of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I couldn’t ignore the gaping holes left by the departure of franchise creator Amy Henning and Greg Edmonson, who was responsible for creating the rousing soundtrack scores for the first three games. Neil Druckmann turn at telling a Nathan Drake story was a deep and mature character drama that worked for The Last of Us, but I come to Uncharted specifically for it’s heavy pulpy, Indiana Jones style of storytelling. A Thief’s End put too much focus on the interpersonal drama of an aging Nathan Drake struggling to come to terms with growing out of the business of treasure hunting. That in itself is not a bad story to tell. However, I’m far more interested in exploring fabled ruins instead of lying to my virtual wife about my whereabouts. I want to explore tombs and ancient ruins. I want to battle with unscrupulous mercenaries working for larger than life villains. I want to walk into a room and interact with ancient structures that are part of a larger and impossible mechanism. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, a campaign add-on for A Thief’s End, is exactly what I wanted Uncharted 4 to be and then some.
Now that Nathan Drake has traded in his gun holsters for a home on an island paradise, it’s up to Chloe Frazer to be bitten by the treasure hunting bug. She’s partnered with Nadine Ross, the mercenary antagonist that hounded Sam and Nate, in search of the Tusk of Ganesh. This mythological artifact has connections to the story of Ganesh losing his tusk while defending his father’s temple. The quest also has a personal connection to Chloe: the search for the artifact proved to be an obsession for her father, one that eventually and unceremoniously claimed his life. To make matters difficult, Chloe and Nadine must cross paths with Asav, an insurgent leader who is leading a civil war against the Indian government and has his own designs for the treasure.
At $40, The Lost Legacy is as robust as any other adventure in the Uncharted franchise. I found that it addressed all the complaints I had with Uncharted 4–too many cutscenes, too many uninteresting traversal sequences, and slow pacing–and as a result, it’s a much better Uncharted game than its predecessor. The Lost Legacy goes back to what made this franchise spectacular: exploring forgotten and untouched lands, uncovering a rich mythology, making death-defying leaps of faith, and watching the characters engage in colorful banter in their downtime. Because the game is running on Uncharted 4 tech, it plays a lot like what you’d expect. You’ll navigate tunnels, cliff faces, walls, and other structures to activate a series of levers and switches that open doors and passages to the next area. Along the way, you’ll deal with Asav’s well-armed insurgent army, either taking them head on or picking them off one by one through stealth kills. The nice thing about combat is that you won’t be punished if you decide to just “go loud” and mow down mercenaries with a collection of modern weapons.
Because The Lost Legacy is built atop Naughty Dog’s PlayStation 4 foundations, it should come to no surprise that it an incredibly beautiful thing to look at. I played the game on a regular PlayStation 4 and a non-4K TV and it still managed to frequently take my breath away. The team responsible for recreating parts of India, from war-torn streets to a massive waterfall punctuated by massive monuments to Ganesh, did a fantastic job with infusing each location with a sense of place as if these mythical ruins have been there forever. The graphics are especially amazing during the game’s open world sequence. Set inside India’s Western Ghats, the player has free reign to explore a lush environment populated by beautiful trees, flowers, streams, and waterfalls. It’s almost impossible to get a bad view of the area where ever you stand. A new collection quest, photo spots, feels engineered by the developers to make sure the player stops to appreciate the jaw-dropping vistas. The special effects are just as amazing, especially in regards to weather effects. There’s a point in the story where Chloe and Nadine get into a heated argument which occurs during the backdrop of a rainstorm. When the pair come to terms, the clouds break a little to reveal a bright, warm sun that casts its rays of light on both characters in time with their reconciliations. It’s a really cool and subtle effect that has a really cool impact on the scene. I could go on and on, pointing out all the cool details and effects that make every scene a mind-blowing delight.
Pretty though the game is, the real star of the show is the main characters. If Naughty Dog intends to keep going with the Uncharted franchise, then I demand that they continue to feature Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross. Both women have a natural chemistry with each other (a wild thing to say about two digital avatars!) which serves as a great reminder of how the studio pioneered character animation and mo-cap with their voice cast. Nadine experiences a graceful and natural character development over the course of the seven hour adventure, ending the story as a completely different person than she started. Chloe herself gets a lot more depth as well thanks to the revelations surrounding her father (which doesn’t feel shoehorned at all) and has picked up a thing or two from Nate when it comes to witty one-liners. I was initially concerned whether or not Nadine could carry herself in the game–she did spend A Thief’s End beating the crap out of Nate and Sam at every turn–however, those worries were quickly washed away the moment she appeared on camera. Laura Bailey and Claudia Black deserve so much praise for their performances. They’re both just so damn good at their jobs!
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a sheer delight of a game and one that brings back the Amy Henning spirit of the series. This expansion is snappier, more interesting, and does a much better job of pulling the player into its mythology than A Thief’s End tried to do. Again, my memories of Uncharted 4 are fuzzy (I could probably stand to replay it after all this time) but I have no problem saying that this is the best Uncharted has been since Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
Title: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: $39.99 (Physical & Digital)
Console: PlayStation 4
Purchased or Received for Review? Purchased
Where to Buy: Amazon, PlayStation Store