Release Date: August 22, 2017Platform: PS4Developer: Naughty DogPublisher: Sony Interactive EntertainmentGenre: Action-Adventure
By the end of Uncharted 4, I had no desire to ever play another game in that series again.
Uncharted 4 was a great game. It’s just that it was great in the same way that Uncharted 3 was great (or at least very good), which was great in the same way that Uncharted 2 was great, which was great in the same way that…
You know, it really was Uncharted 2 that fully-realized this series’ potential to become the gaming equivalent of the Indiana Jones franchise. Since Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog has done an excellent job refining the Uncharted series and perfecting its formula, but in many ways, everything that the Uncharted series is capable of accomplishing was accomplished in Uncharted 2.
Perhaps realizing that they had painted themselves into a corner with the increasingly exceptional – yet familiar – design of the Uncharted series, Naughty Dog elected to do a few things differently with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
Actually, there’s a little debate concerning what, exactly, The Lost Legacy is. Is it DLC? Is a standalone title? Is it the start of a spin-off?
It’s best to think of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy as an old-school PC game expansion. What it offers is very much dependant on a game that came before – even if you don’t need to own Uncharted 4 to play The Lost Legacy – but there’s enough pure content here to justify the game’s nearly full price.
In the 10 hours or so it will take you to finish The Lost Legacy’s campaign, you will guide the familiar faces of Chloe Frazier and Nadine Ross on a journey through the Western Ghats as they attempt to retrieve an ancient tusk from a warlord named Asav. Along the way, you will encounter new and familiar faces, experience a few twists and turns, and, naturally, venture off the beaten path in the name of adventure.
While that vague summary can be partially blamed on the fact that much of Lost Legacy’s finer story points rest squarely in spoiler territory, it must be said that the game’s overall narrative isn’t quite as engaging as Uncharted 4’s.
To be fair, its shortcomings can largely be attributed to the fact that Uncharted 4 was the culmination of the Nathan Drake saga. That finale status afforded Naughty Dog the chance to capitalize on the player’s emotional investment in the series via a few key sequences. It was, in short, an “epic” story whereas Lost Legacy’s plot is more accurately described as “eventful.”
Ideally, any loss of buildup would be offset by Lost Legacy’s biggest change to previous Uncharted games: Chloe and Nadine’s leading roles. Chloe and Nadine often do help Lost Legacy’s story feel fresh even though the game’s narrative structure is fairly familiar. As much as we love Nathan Drake, Naughty Dog absolutely made the right decision by giving two of the series best side characters an adventure to call their own.
At the same time, Nathan Drake’s ghost does haunt some of the storytelling methods. Chloe has, essentially, been cast into the Nathan Drake role as she is the one constantly making quips that stem from an abundance of confidence. While that does make sense given that she and Drake always shared similarities, the characterization of Nadine in relation to Chloe’s personality feels somewhat off.
In Uncharted 4, Nadine was half-a-terminator. She was a force of nature whose charm was often a lure. Here, she is too often cast into the role of cautious observer. Lost Legacy has a habit of adjusting the characterization of our protagonists to replicate the familiar dialogue dynamics of Drake and his cohorts.
Fortunately, though, Nadine – and Chloe for that matter – often get to shine via the game’s action sequences. Pound for pound, I’d stack Lost Legacy’s set piece action sequences right alongside the best set piece moments from previous Uncharted games. That’s especially true of the opening level which stands as a glorious testament to why Naughty Dog is often thought of as the king of single-player, narrative-driven experiences.
It’s not just the level design that makes Lost Legacy’s action stand out, though. Because Chloe and Nadine both favor actual martial arts over Natha
Drake’s bar brawl fighting style, Lost Legacy’s fist fights feature a pleasant amount of tandem takedowns and other lively combat scenarios. Even basic brawls often resemble the battle between the brothers Drake and Nadine in Uncharted 4.
Sadly, it soon becomes clear that many of these scenarios are crafted to occur in very specific ways. While this is true of many of Uncharted’s fights, it’s a shame that Naughty Dog didn’t go full Arkham and allow for a greater degree of unscripted player influence during multi-man battles.
That lack of freedom is partially made up for by the game’s large levels. Most of the adventure sequences- or tomb raiding sequences, if you prefer – afford you a surprising amount of freedom in terms of navigation. This isn’t exactly an open-world game, but it is possible to actually get a little lost here and there. Given that the name on the box still reads “Uncharted,” that’s a welcome feeling indeed.
Meanwhile, many of the game’s puzzle sequences will feel instantly familiar to series regulars. There is more of an effort made to change up things like the order in which certain puzzles can be completed, but you won’t find any brain teasers here that are notably more taxing than those in previous games.
Elsewhere, Lost Legacy sports a collection of multiplayer modes that include a little of the familiar (team deathmatch-style battles) and the new (a cooperative horde mode). While it’s always difficult to test things like competitive matchmaking during these pre-release periods, those who have enjoyed Uncharted multiplayer modes in the past will find that there is simply more to enjoy in Lost Legacy. If you’ve never tried these modes before, you’ll likely find that the horde modes are, at least, worth trying out and playing on occasion when you’re itching to return to this universe.
That actually does feel like Lost Legacy’s target demographic: people who want to return to this universe and have accepted that there are aspects of the Uncharted games that will never change, for better or worse.
Lost Legacy isn’t exactly a carbon copy of Uncharted 4 from a gameplay standpoint – even minor additions like an expanded photo mode help keep the gameplay fresh – but compared to a release like The Last of Us: Left Behind, Lost Legacy doesn’t really do enough to distinguish itself from what came before by finding a way to tweak certain conventions just enough in service of telling a story that simply needs to be experienced.
Those who love the Uncharted series without reserve will find that Naughty Dog hasn’t lost a step in terms of delivering a classic experience. It’s not like this is their Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Still, those who crave something bold and thrilling that makes them feel like they felt when they first experienced the Uncharted series in its prime may wish to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
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