Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Review
By the time the credits rolled on Uncharted 4, most players were likely prepared to say goodbye to the world of Nathan Drake and company. Naughty Dog made it abundantly clear that it was the end for him, and although we did know that there was some story DLC planned, the exact nature of it was a total mystery at the time. Flash forward a year later and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy has arrived as a full fledge standalone title, providing a high-profile platform for former supporting characters Chloe and Nadine to make their starring debut. It’s always a bit risky to attempt phasing out such a prominent and beloved cast while bringing new stories into the spotlight, but the folks at Naughty Dog have somehow once again managed to give personality, nuance, and depth to these characters, and the result is one of the most exciting and well-rounded games in the series.
The Lost Legacy takes place after the events of Uncharted 4, and entirely in India, with Chloe Frazer recruiting the help of Nadine ross to find and retrieve the Tusk of Ganesh, an artifact of both cultural and personal significance to her. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Uncharted game without another treasure hunting maniac racing them to the finish line. That would be Asav, a revolutionary insurgent with big and predictably dire plans for his country. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of The Lost Legacy. Asav’s performance is convincingly creepy and intimidating, but the writing fails to do anything particularly interesting with him. He’s just another lunatic with delusions of grandeur and by the end isn’t anything more than a slightly grounded version of Uncharted 2’s Lazarevic. The good news is that where this aspect of the story falters, the rest typically succeeds in providing a compelling story that manages to combine spectacle and emotion into an adventure that is wholly satisfying. The Lost Legacy may indeed about finding yet another lost treasure, but it manages to go beyond that, to explore personal legacies of families and how that drives and changes both Chloe and Nadine. Watching them grow and bounce off of each other is never dull, and the relationship built between the two transforms an otherwise unremarkable tale into something much more.
The dynamic between these two doesn’t stop at the narrative, though. Although Chloe is the playable character, Nadine is without a doubt the best ‘companion’ ever featured in an Uncharted game and an excellent template for future AI companions in video games. She will not only kill enemies for you, but provide feedback and commentary when you miss a jump or can’t find a way through the next area. Often times I found myself preparing to move an object to solve part of a puzzle, only to turn around and discover that she had already done so. It’s yet another example of how deftly Naughty Dog manages to weave gameplay with story and have the two work together to elevate the game.
Overall, the game plays very similar to any other Uncharted game. You shoot people, slide down hills, swing over gaping chasms, blow some things up, and fall off some other things. Make no mistake, this is absolutely still more Uncharted 4. Much like the improved AI, every single aspect of the gameplay feels evolved and at last fully realized. Naughty Dog has been playing with the idea of ‘wide-linear’ levels for a little bit now – that is, large open areas that have a defined start and end point but offer freedom of movement through branching paths. Never has it been better executed than in every single chapter of this game. From the opening urban streets to a thrilling and fast paced final set piece, the game manages to offer a ton of agency to the player without ever feeling overwhelming or confusing. Alleys have tons of routes and turns but eventually all of them eventually lead to the next heart pounding moment. Jungles offer both vertical and lateral options for exploration and combat. It’s an astonishing achievement in linear cinematic level design and makes each moment feel unique and unpredictable. The game also offers in one chapter perhaps the largest and most impressive environment in the series, something Madagascar in Uncharted 4 attempted to do but ended up being regarded by many as rather empty and unfulfilling. The Lost Legacy rights this wrong by sprinkling in equal parts combat, exploration, and reward, resulting in an ambitious level that will be remembered for a very long time to come. Aside from all these improvements, the core gameplay is as great as it’s ever been. Combat is still punchy and satisfying, and the dual takedowns between Nadine and Chloe are as fun to play as they look. Puzzles are creative and inspired and utilize the mythology well. Set pieces offer more interactivity and freedom than ever before, and as always are always a stunning sight to behold.
Finally, it’s important to mention is that the game ships with Uncharted 4’s fully featured multiplayer mode, including all the maps and modes that have been added since launch. This review won’t dive into an analysis of the competitive and cooperative online play, but after playing many hours of it last year I can say it’s accessible and fast paced and everyone should give it a try.