Heads up: I wrote this review from my perspective as an Uncharted fan. There was more to The Lost Legacy that I wanted to discuss than how it plays or looks. Due to this desire to dig deeper, this review contains spoilers for The Lost Legacy. Please read this after beating the game. It’ll take you six to eight hours. Not long at all.
The legacy of the Uncharted franchise is anything but lost. The strength and allure of Nathan Drake’s adventures grips their audience from beginning to end. Uncharted is essential to not only the PlayStation brand, but the video game industry at large as the developer, Naughty Dog, has proven to push the medium forward.
When Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End launched last year, Naughty Dog was adamant about it being Nathan Drake’s last adventure. Sticking to their guns, A Thief’s End wrapped up Nate’s story perfectly. I was so enamored with A Thief’s End after my journey that it cemented itself as my favorite game to date (and it still is).
As Naughty Dog began to approach the promised single player DLC, the studio asked itself one question—”Could we make an Uncharted without Nathan Drake?” Thus, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was born. It is an interesting question to ask about a beloved series, especially from a studio as prolific and talented as Naughty Dog.
So how does Lost Legacy stack up to its lineage? It certainly earns the right to be considered a proper Uncharted game (sorry Fight for Fortune), but it is missing the depth and heart of the last four entries.
I think Lost Legacy can be best summed up as a melting pot of the series as a whole. It blends aspects from all four core entries to create this 6-8 hour ride. It keeps you in one location like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, there is a grandiose train sequence like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, a narrative driven by origins and identity like Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, and the gameplay structure of A Thief’s End. There is even bits of The Last of Us sprinkled about. Unfortunately, this fusion of the franchise does little to make it new or push it forward. It can feel like the newest element is solely playing as Chloe instead of Nate and, frankly, that doesn’t push Uncharted further.
Chloe is a perfect fit for an adventure. Fan favorite from Among Thieves, she holds her own with a sarcastic flare like no other. She is pursuing the Tusk of Ganesh, the priceless treasure of the long lost city of Halebidu (pronounced Hall-i-bi-doo) in India. Her father was obsessed with finding the tusk, so much so that he pushed his family away in pursuit of it.
I got major Last Crusade vibes from Chloe’s narrative beat. Normally this would have pumped me way up, but ended up letting me down. I wanted to dive deeper into Chloe’s past and her father-daughter relationship. It feels as if there is no time to dig in or let Chloe’s arc breathe. Instead, we only scratch the surface of possibility with Chloe and give her arc a similar, albeit more personal, trajectory as to the one in Among Thieves.
Part of the reason for this is the shorter play time. Developed within 15 months and priced at $40, Lost Legacy is meant to be a shorter. It has similar highs the series is known for, but Naughty Dog sacrificed character for a quicker release. I would have much preferred a longer dev cycle, a full $60 price tag for a few extra hours to explore the characters. For Naughty Dog, scratching the surface doesn’t cut it when it comes to my expectations. Sure, I know Chloe from our brief time together in Nate’s adventures, but I didn’t leave Lost Legacy feeling like I knew her all that much better for being the headliner of this adventure.
Even more disappointing is Nadine’s use throughout Lost Legacy. It is quite similar to her roll in A Thief’s End; that is, she could have not been present and the story would have stayed the same. I felt her presence was added to give Chloe someone to talk to beside herself.
I can’t begin to describe how bummed this makes me. Nadine was a intriguing side character in A Thief’s End. There was certainly more to Nadine’s character then we got to see during the search for Henry Avery’s treasure. I was hoping to explore her uncharted story (sorry), while expanding Chloe’s simultaneously. Instead, I walked away with nothing new.
I will say that I walked away with a few stitches in my side, thanks to the surprise appearance of one of the Drake brothers. Sam shows up and acts as comedic relief. The dialogue between Nadine and Sam is a treat and really brightened my day. As a huge fan of Sam and A Thief’s End, I was surprised and delighted.
All in all, the story and our time with the leading ladies felt shallow and rushed, which is a shame when I wanted to become invested in the characters. For this to climb the ranks of Uncharted, it narratively needed to be more than a spin-off with fan favorite support characters.
Exploring the Western Ghats of India plays out just as you would expect for an Uncharted game. Every mechanic from A Thief’s End is present, along with a couple new ones. This is the same third person shooting you should come to expect from Uncharted, whether you love it or hate it. The rope, sliding, climbing, puzzles, and side conversations are all accounted for. Chloe does have the ability to pick locks, which is a short and snappy task. Inside crates are occasionally treasures and usually more powerful weapons, including the new silenced pistol.
I was launched to hear the silenced pistol would be a mainstay this time around, but seeing it in action, I wish it stayed away. The pistol works great: It does its job. My issue is that the overall gameplay wasn’t designed with full stealth gameplay in mind. There is no way to lure guards closer or into the tall grass for a quick silent kill that no other enemy will see. It even felt like guards actively stayed away from stealth-enabled areas. This left me with the option of killing them in the open or ignoring the silenced pistol all together.
The games were never designed for total stealth, even with the inclusion of tall grass. The pistol felt like trying to cram the wrong puzzle piece in to complete the picture. Hopefully in their next game, Naughty Dog designs the combat around the possibility of total stealth *cough cough*.
Lost Legacy includes the largest area created by the studio and it is quite early on in the game. You’ll be driving around the Western Ghats to three locations to find clues to Halebidu. There are a few combat encounters at key locations, but mostly the area consists of driving around the area. There is a side quest of sorts that you can engage in. It adds 11 small areas of interest to your map to find small keys to discover a nifty treasure. This quest certainly gives you more to do in the large space, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was big for size’s sake. Uncharted has always been a linear experience. Even when Naughty Dog implemented a wide linear structure in A Thief’s End, the goal was always forward with little-to-no backtracking. This time around I was making a big routed path and always checking my map to make sure my goal was never far away. Keeping my head in the map is not the way I want to explore an Uncharted game.
I would much rather be ogling over the insane visuals Naughty Dog cooks up. I don’t know how they do it. The Kennel’s attention for detail is only rivaled by that of Rockstar (and my vote goes to the dogs). The Western Ghats and Lost Legacy as a whole took my breath away. Its jungle aesthetic is immersive and dense, much like what I imagine a real jungle is like. And I know I just complained about keeping my head in the map during the Western Ghats portion, but Naughty Dog is a pack of tech wizards. Look at the black magic they pulled off. Basically, Naughty Dog art is the best art and I cannot wait for more in The Last Of Us Part II.
Now let’s talk about that train sequence.
Over-the-top set pieces are a essential pillar to Uncharted. They are so key that Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception both feature iconic sets on their covers. It is no surprise then that Lost Legacy has a couple scattered throughout the adventure. The grand finale involves trying to stop a train. Sound familiar?
It’s not just stopping a train though. It’s jumping from car to car to get to further ahead in a caravan, while knocking out the drivers and crashing motorcycles. Have any déjà vu?
At first glance, the final moments of the game felt like a greatest hits of set pieces (where’s my burning chateau Naughty Dog?!) and that feels a like the easy way out. I felt a tad gypped. It may have even made development a smidge easier since they had done similar moments before. Then, as I slammed on the gas to out run motorcycles trying to herd me to my doom so I could hop on a runaway train, my sense of entitlement faded away and the awe sunk in. Naughty Dog melded the train and the caravan. The technical marvel hit me as I realized I could leap from speeding train to a speeding 4×4 to grapple onto a crane dangling off the side of the train. This is, by far, the most intricate, dynamic set piece Naughty Dog has created to date. It may be familiar, but I’ll be damned if it is not as impressive as its origins.
I feel like my sentiment toward the train sums up my attitude toward the whole package. Lost Legacy is familiar, but man, it sure is impressive. With such a short development time and knowledge that a bulk of the studio is working on the next full game, it might be easy to brush this game aside as “B” team work. Naughty Dog doesn’t do “B” team work. This is a Naughty Dog game and this is definitely an Uncharted game.