Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is getting close to its release on August 22nd, and I just sat for a sizable amount of time with a preview build of the game, savoring the flavor brought to the series by this new adventure.
To be more precise, the flavor is “new” only in part — one of the main features of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is the return of Chloe Frazer, paired with a rather unlikely companion: Nadine Ross.
The two ladies are definitely uneasy allies, changing the dynamic of the interaction between playable character and AI-driven companion rather radically.
We’re used to the Drake brothers plus Sully from Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and, while their relationship wasn’t always smooth, here we’re on a whole different planet.
Chloe and Nadine work together out of pure necessity, not exactly because they like each other: while Chloe is a shifty adventurer with more than a bit of sarcasm and tricks up her sleeve, Nadine is a pragmatic and no-nonsense military-lady with an edge sharpened by the events of the previous game.
While their basic interactions during their common adventure are pretty similar to what we saw with Nathan and Sam Drake, their dialogue is extremely different, fueled by a relationship that often feels like a bomb is ready to explode in both of their faces. Whether this will change in the story, I don’t know (and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you), but I found their back and forth even more interesting and enjoyable of what we experienced in Uncharted 4.
The focus of the preview build I tested was the open world-ish area named the Western Ghats in India (you can check it out in some 4K screenshots, and thirteen minutes of gameplay). Those who played Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will feel right at home due to its relative visual similarities with the Madagascar area.
Yet, the Western Ghats feel much more expansive than Madagascar. One of the reasons behind this is that the map is much bigger, but there is another very relevant factor: in Madagascar you had a certain degree of freedom of exploration, but in the end you still had to beeline though a series of linear checkpoints.
In the Western Ghats there are still large structures that you have to visit and explore in order to progress the story, but you can do so in the order you prefer. Add to that many secondary points of interest, and this comes much closer to open world gameplay where your choice of direction actually matters.
Of course, I’m using “open world” in a quite liberal way, as Uncharted: The Lost Legacy most definitely isn’t an open world game. This level of freedom of exploration is limited to the specific Western Ghats area, but this is the closest the Uncharted series ever got to that concept.
Another very relevant element is that the Western Ghats area definitely feels like one of the most beautiful we have ever encountered in an Uncharted game. If you climb the tower in the middle, no matter which way you turn, its lush vegetation, complex ruins and charming vistas will take your breath away.
Moment-to-moment gameplay doesn’t stray too far from Uncharted 4, with spectacular set-pieces, breathtaking platforming at terrifying heights, pitched firefights and familiar stealth.
Chloe is just as effective as Nathan at taking out enemies with an assault rifle or silently from a batch of foliage, while Nadine is as deadly as you’d expect her to be on the normal difficulty level.
The grappling hook introduced in the previous game is also back, and just as efficient both in traversal and battle.
Actually, I found some encounters in the Western Ghats generally more challenging than most from the original game, with enemies extremely well positioned to cover most angles of approach. Creative Director Shaun Escayg told me that the team did not intentionally ramp up difficulty, so it probably depends on approach and situation, but be prepared for a spanking if you get into fights willy-nilly.
While charging in gun blazing is doable, especially if you took some time to mark your enemies and establish some situational awareness beforehand, personally I felt that a more stealthy approach (when the situation permits that, of course) is both more effective and satisfying, especially thanks to Nadine’s deadly backup.
As a fan of Chloe’s since her introduction in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, I have to tip my hat at the design of her new character model. The team preserved her overall looks and feel, but managed to both update her to current generation visuals, and give her new and perfectly fitting touches. While her expressiveness was multiplied since the PS4 era, she still definitely feels like the Chloe we know and love.
Certainly, her relationship with Nadine feels like it will be the centerpiece of this new story. Will their uneasy alliance solidify and grow into a friendship? Will they completely break apart in the final catfight of the ages? Or maybe they’ll accomplish their goal and simply go their separate ways?
Honestly, I have no idea, and I can’t even easily determine which one of these possibilities is the one I’d really like to see. This is normally a good indication of the fact that I’m playing with two characters with a lot of potential and charisma. I simply can’t wait to see what will happen. The promise of another Naughty Dog storytelling masterpiece is certainly visible in the parts of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy that I tested.
Unfortunately, we have to wait another month to see the outcome. Will the fox outsmart the tiger, or with the tiger overpower the fox? Maybe their talents will join and create a lethal (and extremely enjoyable) mix of awesomeness. The more I think of the possibilities, the more anxious I get to play this game.
Ultimately — while the jury is still out for the final verdict — Uncharted: The Lost Legacy feels worthy of being its own chapter, and might have successfully transformed from a DLC as it was originally intended, to the crowning jewel of the beloved Uncharted franchise.