Please be aware, this article contains minor spoilers
An Uncharted game without Nathan Drake: sounds slightly odd, doesn’t it? Like a Super Mario title deprived of horny (literally and figuratively) antagonist, Bowser or a new iteration of Final Fantasy absent summon monsters, over-sized weapons, and gravity-defying hairstyles.
Yet, as Uncharted: The Lost Legacy proves, there’s life after Nate.
In Chloe Frazer, The Lost Legacy possesses a protagonist who’s every bit as good as Nathan Drake; a character who’s more than capable of providing the focal point for this entertaining, compelling, and visually stunning game.
Set shortly after the events of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, The Lost Legacy revolves around treasure hunter Chloe’s search for the priceless ‘Tusk of Ganesh’; an ancient Hoysala artifact that her father devoted his entire life to finding.
Unfortunately for Chloe, in true Uncharted fashion, an insidious, sadistic rebel leader named Asav is also seeking the relic, forcing her to enlist the services of straight-talking, hard-kicking mercenary, Nadine Ross, as backup.
It’s a well-written and intelligently structured narrative that, though brief, features the usual cocktail of witty dialogue, amusing one-liners, and dramatic scenes, punctuated, as always, by a selection of expertly crafted action set pieces that push the player’s suspension of disbelief to the breaking point.
However, as engaging as the story is, there are an awful lot of parallels between it and previous Uncharted titles in terms of tone and style, if not content, which gives rise to an inescapable sense of déjà vu.
Chloe’s sentimental connection to the Tusk via her father, for example, mirrors the link between the brother’s Drake and captain Avery’s treasure in A Thief’s End. Likewise, Chloe’s transition from covetous treasure hunter to selfless savior toward the end of chapter 7, is almost a carbon copy of Nate’s character arc in Among Thieves.
Consequently, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy tells a tale that, though undoubtedly enjoyable, doesn’t feel quite as fresh or original as its forebears.
Where the game really shines, however, is in the characters of Chloe and Nadine, and the relationship between the two.
Chloe’s habitual wit and charming demeanor, which is due as much to Claudia Black’s comic timing and acting ability as it is the quality of the script, might not be wholly new for an Uncharted protagonist, but her pragmatic, initially mercenary outlook provides a refreshing change of pace from Nate. She’s a natural protagonist that possesses all the requisite attributes to lead the series going forward.
Similarly, Nadine offers something a bit different as a side-kick. Where Sully would reply with a flippant remark, Nadine’s responses are stern and to the point; where Elena might favor caution, Nadine opts for a direct and combative approach. And, while there’s no excuse for giving the part of a black South-African woman to a white American, it’s only fair to say Laura Bailey puts in another very strong performance as the Drake brother’s former adversary.
But, just as the mixture of gin and tonic produces a whole that’s far greater than the sum of its parts, the combination of these two vastly different characters gives rise to something truly sublime.
Still feeling each other out and deciding whether they can trust one another in the early stages, their relationship matures over the course of the adventure; uncertainty quickly giving way to mutual respect. It’s an entirely different relationship from Nate and Sully’s father-son dynamic, based, as it is, on reciprocal affection and years of shared experiences.
However, thanks to the quality of the writing and performances, by the end of the game, Chloe and Nadine’s bond feels perfectly plausible, despite the speed with which it’s developed. Indeed, so natural and effective are they as a duo, it would be almost criminal for Naughty Dog not to reunite them in future installments.
As far as gameplay is concerned, meanwhile, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy shares more in common with the narrative than the characters. That’s to say, there’s little to distinguish it from previous titles in the franchise.
This is most notable in the parkour and cover-shooting elements, which remain as imperfect and fiddly as they were back in 2007. On multiple occasions, I found myself cursing the game because Chloe either failed to jump in the direction intended or took cover behind the wrong piece of scenery during a firefight, making it difficult to capitalize on the game’s stealth opportunities and even a little frustrating at times.
Nor has there been any substantial refinements to Naughty Dog’s puzzle formula or enemy AI. All but the rather tricky shadow puzzle in chapter 5 can be solved with minimal effort, while hostile NPCs continue to move in a jarringly unconvincing manner and, worse still, fail to perceive Chloe’s companions, no matter how conspicuous they are.
That’s not to say The Lost Legacy’s a chore to play. Despite the aforementioned problems, which are as much a result of the game’s provenance as anything else (it was originally slated to be a standard DLC offering, rather than a stand-alone title), there’s plenty of fun to be had, especially with the inclusion of Uncharted 4’s robust multiplayer content.
There are even a few small innovations that help to improve the overall experience, such as Chloe’s lock-picking skill which serves both as an effective method of distributing rarer gear and distinguishing her character from Nate and co., and the Queen’s Ruby Bracelet which, when obtained in chapter 4, dramatically simplifies the process of collecting the numerous optional relics that are littered throughout the game.
It’s just that, after years of playing through the same old scenarios and completing the same old challenges, the series is crying out for an update to its core mechanics.
Visually speaking, there’s little if anything to criticize. Though that should hardly come as a surprise given that The Lost Legacy is easily one of the most beautiful games ever made.
From the evocative depiction of an embattled Indian suburb that’s borne the brunt of Asav’s insurrection, to the vibrant, verdant Ghats region and the abandoned tombs that lie hidden therein, The Lost Legacy is brimming with gorgeous panoramic views and poignant vistas, all of which are brought to life by Naughty Dog’s masterful use of lighting.
So breathtaking is the scenery, it’d be almost impossible to reach the end of Chloe’s adventure without having spent an hour or two ensconced in the game’s photography tool first.
That being said, certain aspects of the sound design aren’t great, specifically, the shooting and explosion sound effects which sound uncharacteristically cheap when compared to the superlative visuals. Be that as it may, the ambient noise – chirruping birds, collapsing masonry etc. – is extremely impressive, setting the scene flawlessly whether Chloe’s touring the jungle in her rented 4×4 or exploring the remains of the Hoysala throne room, and the game’s soundtrack is decent, though not particularly memorable.
All in all, anyone who feared for the future of the series because of the absence of Nathan Drake can rest easy. The Lost Legacy is a brilliant game that proves Uncharted still has a lot to offer.
- John Websell