Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Format: PlayStation 4
Released: August 22, 2017
Leave it to Naughty Dog to release an expansion for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End that is more substantive and polished than most “full” games that come out in any given year. The developer is practically showing off at this point with its latest offering, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, the first title in the series to not feature protagonist Nathan Drake. Instead, players control Chloe Frazer, a supporting character featured most prominently in 2009’s Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, as she seeks out the Tusk of Ganesh in the mountains of India whilst a civil war rages (incidentally, the game’s villain is a military leader participating in said civil war). The best thing that can be said for The Lost Legacy is that it delivers a full Uncharted experience, but are we reaching a saturation point with this long-running PlayStation franchise?
By now, most players are likely intimately familiar with what they’ll get from an Uncharted game: a linear action-adventure experience with incredible production values, unremarkable but solid third-person shooting, and jaw-dropping environments just begging to be explored. In that regard, The Lost Legacy doesn’t disappoint, as its central treasure hunt is just as engaging as the quest for Shambala or journey to a secret pirate colony found in previous games. While the game adheres closely to the design template established in A Thief’s End (that game’s rope-swinging mechanic is well-represented here and is just as exhilarating as ever), there are a few small additions that differentiate The Lost Legacy a bit from its numbered predecessor. The most noteworthy addition is a lock-picking mechanic that I thought would become tedious but is actually integrated so well that I could see it being used in future Uncharted titles. The reason the lock picking works is because it’s mostly optional, as you’ll encounter locked crates around the game’s environments that typically contain powerful weapons and occasionally treasure. Most of these crates are located within close proximity of enemies, creating a nice risk/reward experience as you frantically try to pick a lock without an enemy spotting you.
The real question on everyone’s mind is whether or not an Uncharted game without Nathan Drake works and to that, I’d say that while his absence is keenly felt in the early chapters, I was fine with it by the end thanks to the stellar lead performances of Claudia Black as Chloe and Laura Bailey as Nadine Ross. While The Lost Legacy doesn’t delve as deep into its characters’ psyches as Uncharted 4 did, the uneasy alliance between frenemies Chloe and Nadine ends up making for fascinating interpersonal drama, primarily because of Nadine’s role in the latter game. In Uncharted 4, Nadine was a somewhat one-dimensional antagonist but The Lost Legacy develops her into an interesting character in her own right, to the point where it feels believable to see her working with the “good” guys. Nathan Drake may not be present but Uncharted fans will still get a kick out of hearing Chloe and Nadine talk about/make fun of him periodically (also, it’s great to see a game featuring two female protagonists).
Uncharted games are recognized for their big, bombastic setpiece sequences and while The Lost Legacy doesn’t disappoint in this regard — in fact, I’d argue that its final chapter contains the best action sequence in the entire series and is worth the price of admission alone — it’s the small details that left the biggest impression on myself. For instance, an early chapter in the game puts you behind the wheel of a jeep and at first glance appears to just be a retread of Uncharted 4’s Madagascar level. However, once you start exploring a bit more, you realize that this area is fully open to explore and even contains a totally optional, massive treasure hunt that takes you to hidden locations all over the map (pro tip: you should absolutely see this side quest through to the end because there’s a great reward at the end). No other chapter in the game attempts something like this, but it’s proof that Naughty Dog is still trying to push the franchise forward in small, but significant ways.
The Lost Legacy strikes a near-perfect balance between combat, puzzle-solving, and exploration, the three pillars as it were of an Uncharted game. Much like Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy has much less combat sequences than earlier games in the series and while this may disappoint gamers who crave gunplay above all else, I appreciated the increased emphasis on platforming and puzzles. Speaking of puzzles, The Lost Legacy surprised me with just how many it has for being a relatively short game and I’d even venture to say that they’re among the series’ best. In typical Uncharted fashion, the puzzles are never frustrating, but offer just enough difficulty to stump you for a bit before having that “a-ha!” moment. Oh and did I mention that the Photo Mode is actually a ton of fun? A lot of games these days have photo modes and I’ve never really used them much, but once I found out that you can make Chloe adopt all sorts of wacky facial expressions at any time (including cutscenes!), I spent way too long photobombing my own adventure. Any game with a photo mode from this point forward needs to have a feature like this.
In addition to the single player campaign, The Lost Legacy also allows you to access Uncharted 4’s suite of online multiplayer modes, with a new cooperative challenge mode called Survival Arena. Basically, it’s a different take on Uncharted 4’s Survival mode that introduces over 100 waves of new enemy types, new modifiers, and Siege zones. You’ll also get new skins for Chloe and Nadine, as well as a new playable character in the form of The Lost Legacy’s villain Asav. By now, you probably know if Uncharted multiplayer is your jam or not and while it’s a little disappointing that The Lost Legacy doesn’t add much in the way of content, Naughty Dog has been regularly updating Uncharted 4’s multiplayer since launch, so it’s really not a big deal.
Pessimists may look at Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and deem it to be “more of the same,” which isn’t necessarily untrue. The game adheres closely to series conventions and if you’re looking for a sequel that takes Uncharted in bold new directions, you aren’t going to find it here. That being said, this is a budget title that plays like a full game, with the same high production values and attention to detail that Naughty Dog games have become renowned for. I still think Uncharted 4 is the better overall game, but The Lost Legacy is better paced and contains some absolutely jaw-dropping moments. With Naughty Dog working away on The Last of Us Part II, it’s unclear what the future of the Uncharted series holds but if The Lost Legacy is the last installment we get for awhile, it’s a heck of a way to leave things off.