When it comes to Naughty Dog’s games, there are broad strokes that players have come to expect; engaging characters, bombastic set pieces, and slick visuals that put whatever hardware their game is running on to the test.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy represents a different platform for the studio to express themselves – something which they’ve tested in 2014’s standalone expansion for The Last of Us. Their latest 6-to-8 hour outing might be relatively short, but it has all the hallmarks of a classic Uncharted adventure.
The game drops players right into Chloe Frazer’s latest treasure hunt. She and returning character Nadine Ross team up to find an ancient Indian artefact, and take down the moustache-twirling villain Asav. The story is interwoven between cutscenes and high-octane action sequences, but it’s mostly about shooting guns and punching bad guys in the face.
Given the game’s short length, this is welcome – there aren’t any soppy, maudlin segments like those that plagued Nate’s adventures in the previous games. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is short, sharp, and to the point.
That’s not to say there isn’t any character depth here, or that Chloe and Nadine’s relationship doesn’t grow. We get glimpses into their pasts, providing enough ground-work to support future games starring the duo. Chloe becomes more than a money obsessed, puckish rogue, while Nadine must come to terms with her personal failings. Some of these changes come thick and fast in the last act however, as the game stumbles over itself to wrap up the story.
The game also shines a light on the male-dominated stories that have made up the bulk of the franchise – and, the medium itself. It’s witty, and cutting, and the type of representation the franchise needs. It’s also light-hearted at times, poking fun at the tropes or mechanical quirks that have underpinned much of the series.
But the biggest character is the setting. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy takes players to India. While the environments are gorgeously rendered, it’s the commitment to cultural details that make it stand so firm. Your journey sees you diving into ancient ruins, where you’ll be recalling the drama of the Hindu pantheon to help solve puzzles. The game focuses on a culture and religion that rarely appears in western media, and it’s great to see.
Speaking of puzzles, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is chock-full of them. None of them are very mentally taxing, but the set-up and presentation surrounding them is fascinating. Some require the use of multiple perspectives, while others require you to plan steps in advance. Unfortunately, the game all too frequently falls back on disc sliding puzzles, or variations thereof.
Punctuating these are the more familiar gameplay elements, which remain unchanged from Uncharted 4. When you aren’t scrambling up ledges before they narrowly fall out from under you, you’re throwing out your grappling hook and swinging across deep chasms, or sliding down muddy embankments. These sequences and actions afford the environments a sense of scale, making the relatively short journey still feel epic in scope.
When you aren’t navigating an environment that’s trying to kill you, you’ll be dealing with dudes that are trying to do the same. You’ll be sneaking through tall grass, looking for enemies to violently pickoff, but in the end most encounters gravitate towards firefights. Unlike Uncharted 4 however, a lot of these engagements are – thankfully – easy. Cover is ample, and weapons plentiful.
Some of the free-form encounters in the game’s main hub zone can be clumsy though; enemies flank in unexpected ways, around lines-of-sight that haven’t been as carefully curated as the main scenario. These are optional however, and won’t detract from the main narrative should you choose to ignore them.
If you are willing to wade out into the jungles of the Western Ghats though, you’ll stumble across small side activities. These are quite lonely, as they require you to leave your AI companion behind to solve puzzles. One of the best parts of Uncharted is the banter, and Lost Legacy is no different, but this feels like a missed opportunity. That’s not to say the game is bereft of these organic, endearing conversations; they pop-up during your jeep rides between destinations, and they’re as cleverly written as ever.
Whatever small missteps that Uncharted: The Lost Legacy does take, are drowned out in the fiery explosions of its set pieces. They’re forgotten, amidst the humour and humanity of its cast, and the witty banter they share. Chloe and Nadine are proof that Uncharted can exist – and thrive – without Nathan Drake.
Keith received a digital copy of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy from PlayStation NZ for review.