Review – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

img_0217When I first heard that Naughty Dog was developing an Uncharted semi-sequel without its leading character, Nathan Drake, and that it was coming out only one year after Uncharted 4, I (a self-proclaimed Uncharted super fan) was nervous. Uncharted, as I’ve written and spoken about at great length here at Mega Dads, is my favorite franchise of this and the last console generation. Much of that love stems from my connection with the characters and their story. I’ve formed such a bond with Nate, Elena and Sully, all of whom had a picturesque sendoff in what was last years Game of the Year for me. I worried about what an Uncharted would look like without the pull of those characters. I wondered if that was something I even wanted at all. So having now completed this latest game in the franchise, how do I feel about an Uncharted post Nathan Drake?

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A Lost Identity

Lost Legacy lives in a tall shadow for sure. The franchise has always had to endure comparisons to Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider, but now it has to prove that it can outshine its own predecessors as new protagonist Chloe Frazer aims to bring Uncharted somewhere new. While Lost Legacy succeeds in establishing Chloe as a strong lead capable of carrying her own franchise, this still is very much the Uncharted you’re used to, for better or worse.

In the first couple hours of this game it is impossible to escape the fact that this is the very same framework as Uncharted 4. It plays the same, it feels the same, it even sounds the same as Chloe wisecracks with your AI buddy (this time the role is filled by Nadine Ross, who is also pulled directly from Uncharted 4). It all feels so familiar, and that nervous apprehension I had about if this game was a good idea sticks around until a funny thing happens: Chloe and Nadine’s relationship with each other throughout the game goes from frosty in the beginning of the tale to endearing as the game itself begins to expand and stand on its own. Whether it’s by design or not, you as the gamer begin to take to Chloe and her adventure right along with Nadine as the game progresses, and by the credit roll my bond with this game and these characters was strong.

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A New Adventure

Story has always been a sticking point for this series. The adventures we’ve taken in Uncharted games have ranged from supernatural silliness to metaphorical pirate plunders, but the backbone has always been in the character development for me and that is mostly the same here. There’s a villain with an army of thugs in pursuit of a lost city and a mythical treasure, and it’s all well and good. But it mainly serves as a foundation to develop Chloe and Nadine as a team and ultimately to broaden Chloe as a lead. There’s some really interesting backstory stuff with Chloe and her father that will tug on any parents heartstrings, and also a couple of cool nods to Uncharted’s history in here too for good measure including an awesome cameo that had me fist pumping towards the later chapters.

Ultimately the plot itself pales in comparison to Uncharted 4’s rich tale of responsibility and closure, which is not entirely unexpected but still it’s hard to ignore, especially with the game playing so similarly. The game also makes a bizarre introduction to the plot by dropping you straight into the middle of the adventure mid-stride. As the game begins Chloe is already in the midst of the adventure and there is little to no set-up to get your bearings. It’s pretty much off-you-go from the outset and the game never really rewinds to set up the tale. It’s an odd choice and the game makes an attempt to justify that decision towards the end but it never really makes sense as to why you couldn’t just start from the begining. Ultimately though it’s the moment to moment where Lost Legacy shines. The writers at Naughty Dog are masters at relationships and dialogue because you feel these characters so strongly. There are so many layers to Chloe and Nadine that I just want to keep peeling for hours and hours. The story also has several amazing action moments that harken back to my love of this franchise in all the right ways. In the end I was more than ready to sign off on more adventures with this duo.

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Naughty Dog. Naughty, naughty dog!

While Uncharted’s presentation always impresses, I was surprised by how many little glitches or ticks this game had. The open-world area in chapter four in particular has a fair amount of bizarre boundaries that remind you that this world isn’t truly open at all. Knee-high plants provide invisible walls, three foot drops become instant death because it brings you out of the bounds of the level, and enemy AI seems completely blind as your partner can run within two feet of enemy patrols without an alert. These are all very basic game bugs that are the norm for 3D adventure games, but it is NOT something one expects from Naughty Dog, and I was surprised to see reoccurring blemishes. Not a big deal, but certainly worth noting.

Beautiful Treasures

Perhaps the strongest item in my ‘plus column’ is the art design. This game is one of the most visually striking games I have ever played. Countless times throughout my play through I had to stop and marvel at the jaw-dropping attention to detail given to Naughty Dog’s version of India. From mossy caves tucked behind waterfalls to statue adorned treasure rooms, you will not find more painstakingly crafted environments in gaming today. Guaranteed. Lost Legacy couples this with the best photo mode I’ve seen in a game yet complete with a bevy of filters and sliders to give you the best shots. They even allow you to set the angle of the sun in your shots so you can get the perfect sunrise coming over a cliff, or set up the ultimate backlit silhouette of your heroes. All of the screens in this review were taken by me in-game using the photo mode. Lost Legacy is a work of art and I commend each artist who worked on it for a visually stunning experience.

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Paradise Found

In closing I would say while this game will not change anyone’s mind on the series because of how close the core of the game stays to formula, it is an impressive feat to show longtime fans like me that there are conceivably many adventures ahead in the world of Uncharted. The game is certainly not of the caliber of Uncharted 4, but I would say this more compact adventure ranks up there right alongside 2 & 3 for me. There is a lot of heart in these characters and Naughty Dog’s craftsmanship of the best in action adventuring is as on point as ever. As a final note I will say that the end of Chloe and Nadine’s adventure (without spoiling anything) is probably the best action sequence I’ve ever played in the series, and in a series whose set piece moments are it’s pedigree, that is a high bar to clear. I sincerely hope Uncharted will continue in the future, and I wasn’t sure that was something I’d ever say after saying goodbye to Nathan Drake. But if Chloe and Nadine ever set off on a new adventure I will be the first to pack my bags to go right alongside them.

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