Editor’s Note: Images below contain spoilers for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
Naughty Dog has an impressive track record for producing some of the best video games over the past decade and is responsible for some of PlayStation’s most visually striking experiences. From the survival horror of The Last of Us to the breathtaking Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the Santa Monica based developer shows no signs of slowing down with its latest release, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
Originally intended as a downloadable expansion to Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy was later expanded and promoted to a standalone release at a reduced cost. It’s shorter than the other entries in the series (taking eight hours or so to finish), but it’s also a fully developed, satisfying adventure packed with the exciting action and memorable characters we’ve come to expect from an Uncharted game. Sure, it’s a formulaic adventure without apology, giving anyone who’s played the original four games a distinct sense of déjà vu, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling. Yes, every shootout and every set-piece in Lost Legacy seem directly lifted from a previous game, but thankfully, Naughty Dog has a rare ability to turn a by-the-numbers summer blockbuster with seemingly cookie-cutter sequences into something majestic. It’s as stirring an epic as Hollywood has ever produced and without a doubt, one of the best things about Lost Legacy is its visuals.
The plot is pretty sparse. Chloe and Nadine set out to find a lost city and a mythical treasure known as the Tusk of Ganesh: a sacred artifact of a lost Hindu people. Along the way, they face many obstacles – both emotional and physical – and the biggest threat is a local warlord, Asav, who won’t stop at anything to get what he wants. Naturally, everyone has ulterior motives beyond mere greed when hunting for the treasure, but it’s still a treasure hunt nevertheless. What makes this adventure come alive beyond its somewhat cliché set-up, however, is its location.
Despite the familiarity, Lost Legacy does still navigate uncharted territory and this time the globe-trotting adventure takes us to India’s Western Ghats with its high hills, deep valleys, massive waterfalls, mountain grasslands, dense rain forest, and gorgeous Hindu ruins. Uncharted games have always looked good, but the latest installment is often breathtaking and within the boundless purview of visual splendor, Lost Legacy unravels an adventure worthy of a big screen adaptation by the legendary David Lean.
Right from the first chapter entitled “The Insurgency”, you’ll be struck by the game’s sheer beauty. The early moments of Lost Legacy do a great job of setting the stage as Chloe and Nadine make their way through a war-torn city accented by glaring neon signs and bright, warm colors. It’s a dark, mysterious place, where danger lurks around every corner and the ladies mostly move in shadow through the claustrophobic streets while avoiding the attention of patrolling soldiers.
From there it doesn’t take long before the duo venture across the Western Ghats, which run parallel to India’s long and picturesque Western peninsula. The Ghats is not only extremely scenic but also provide the best ambiance for any of the Uncharted games, not to mention a refreshing change of scenery. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll learn that the area is one of the world’s ten “Hottest biodiversity hotspots” and has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species. Needless to say, there’s a lot to discover and stretching 1,600km along India’s west coast, the Ghats is also home to tigers, leopards, the elusive black panther and the world’s largest population of wild Asian elephants. Naughty Dog knows this, of course, and even included a side quest in which Chloe and Nadine must rescue a baby elephant trapped beneath some rubble – arguably the most touching and original scene in the entire game, punctuated with the hilarious photo Nadine takes of Chloe posing next to the herd.
The biggest change between The Lost Legacy and previous games in the series lies in the Western Ghats. Touted by Naughty Dog as the biggest single level the team has ever built for an Uncharted game, the Ghats find the studio flirting with open-world gameplay giving players the freedom to tackle multiple objectives across a large map. For the most part, it’s successful, conveying the illusion of choice and a sizeable area of rivers, ruins, ancient temples, flooded catacombs, mountains, and mud-filled valleys to explore. But it’s the attention to detail that really impressed me when comparing the game’s visuals to real-life photographs I found online. In an interview with Gamasutra, art director Tate Mosesian spoke about how the game’s memorable structures, locales, artifacts, and obstacles are the result of carefully studying real-world referents. Obviously, they took liberties in changing and inventing certain things, but the long tedious process and hard work paid off in spades – and even after four games, the designers still found a few ways to make the climbing, puzzle-solving and action moments feel fresh.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is peppered with iconic moments including the game’s finale which deserves a special shout out for how thrilling it is. It’s as well-written and entertaining as ever, but between the parkour-inspired movement, stealth attacks, on-rails action set-pieces, and environmental puzzle-solving, the game would be nothing without its art direction. After all, it’s the environments for the most part that make the adventure a challenge, not the A.I.-controlled goons standing in your way.
Here are a few screenshots from some of my favourite moments in the game.
Ricky DBeautifully framed, this image shows how the art directors make good use of filling up the background, middleground, and foreground of each frame. I particularly love how the developers positioned every character in this shot, keeping the camera fixed behind Chloe, who remains dead center while waking down the narrow corridor. Naughty Dog is fond of low angles, usually keeping the camera shot eye-level to the main character in the scene.