Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

 

Factfile
Developed by: Naughty Dog
Released: 2017
Format played: PS4

Ruminations

The first outing without Nathan Drake as lead protagonist, the Uncharted series steps into new territory, quite literally as we get the chance to explore Hindu legend across the lush jungle environments of India against the backdrop of a civil war.

Our man may be missing but the faces on display still ring familiar as Chloe Frazier from Uncharted 2 and Nadine Ross from Uncharted 4 take centre stage.

What’s Changed

The Lost Legacy started out life as DLC for Uncharted 4 and this is evident throughout. Graphics, sound and gameplay mechanics are all untouched from the main adventure. Which means that the staple diet is unchanged; climbing, shooting, exploring and more climbing remain the order of they day.

Indeed the opening couple of levels could be ripped straight out of any of the last couple of games. After Chloe and Nadine plot to steal some hidden goodies from the mercenary Asav, chaos ensues in an adrenaline soaked race for life as you leap over gaps, slide down buildings and clamber over streets signs against the backdrop of a hail of gunfire. It’s a thrilling start but one reminiscent of the prison escape from Uncharted 4.

Familiarity continues as you move into the fourth chapter, a sprawling play space that sees the jeep from Uncharted 4 makes a reappearance, complete with grappling hook for completing simple puzzles. Meanwhile a conveniently left piton once again aids you in the all too familiar climbing.

Later set pieces are truly breathtaking, measuring up to the standards of the very best in the series. An intense jeep chase, a kamikaze run through a train, a shoot-out with snipers, RPG firing goons and a helicopter. Each is superbly executed. And yet each has the distinct odour of the familiar about it, harking back to some of the great scenes from previous Uncharted titles.

But where familiarity may in some cases breed contempt, here it acts as the launch pad. Back to that 4th chapter with the jeep. Sure, it bears some base similarities with its parent but scratch a little deeper and new treasures are discovered, quite literally. It is the largest single play area yet attempted in an Uncharted game, offering freedom in how you tackle its array of puzzles. Indeed it even offers an optional side quest, a first for the series, the award for completion a handy prize but the satisfaction of completing the puzzles, at least on your first play through, reward enough.

Critics may, perhaps fairly, decry some aspects of the Lost Legacy as Uncharted: The Greatest Hits, but I prefer to take a more positive view. Yes, there is an element of ‘been there, done that’ to some of the set pieces but in the moment, carried along by the story and the characters, it matters not a jot. After all, this is not a full blown sequel, it is an expansion of an existing game world with a price point to match. Those expecting revolution (or even evolution) in gameplay will come away disappointed but those who appetite remains unsated will find plenty to sink their teeth into here.

In some ways this actually feels closer in spirit to the original Uncharted. Sure, it shares a common engine with Uncharted 4, as well as liberally borrowing gameplay mechanics. But the focus here is very much on the fabled MacGuffin. For all its genius, Uncharted 4 directed the focus of the game on the interpersonal relationships of Nate, Sam, Elena and Sully. For stalwart fans of the series it was a deep, emotional story with a fantastic action-adventure bolted on. As Nate’s swansong, it struck the perfect note but it can make it a harder game in some respects to just dive into.

Lost Legacy on the other hand harks back to Romancing the Stone or Raiders of the Lost Ark territory. Two mismatched characters in a race against the clock to get to the artefact before the bad guys do. It is simple story telling, executed to perfection, the leaner running time offering a brevity that allows the action to zip along. The focus is very much on adventuring too. Gunplay remains a part of the game, including a couple of intense fire fights, but it is a secondary part of the experience. The narrative drives you forward and you are consistently rewarded with astoundingly beautiful locations, bonkers puzzles and even photo ops with monkeys. If Uncharted has to some extent been a blend of Tomb Raider meets Gears of Wars, this leans much more towards Lara Croft than Marcus Fenix.

Besides, Lost Legacy has one final ace up it’s sleeve.

Wait, no Nate?

It is perhaps only natural that the first couple of levels feel a little weird. After all, we have spent four games getting to know Nate, Sully and Elena. It takes some getting used to before you adjust to a new protagonist.

But adjust you will and it soon becomes clear that not only was it the right decision to retire Nate but this new pairing has scope for further adventures of their own. Your time is spent as Chloe, with Nadine offering able support throughout. And against the backdrop of the adventure, it is a true delight to watch the relationship between these strange bedfellows develop. As the narrative unfolds, conflict is created which sparks a deeper reveal of who these characters are, effortlessly bringing them to life.

Nadine remains a kick-ass heroine but beyond the gruff exterior lies a woman with a point to prove. Chloe meanwhile is a fine counterpoint to Drake, offering an emotional softness and sensuality but never afraid to toss out a witty one liner when the situation merits. Indeed the script crackles with wit whilst never treading on the toes of the relationship story it is trying to tell. These are characterisations that move beyond their relatively one-note presentation in previous games, fleshing them out into fully rounded individual, relatable characters with whom you build an affinity as you go with them on their journey.

And as an added bonus, a familiar face even shows up towards the end of the game to help take down Asav.

Bottom Line

A superb addition to the Uncharted canon, Lost Legacy provides a template for future instalments, proving beyond doubt that there is life after Drake.

With Uncharted, Naughty Dog have created a supreme sandbox and regardless of who’s toys you get to use, it’s one you will always want to come back to play in.

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