Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Review — A Delightful but Somewhat Familiar Adventure
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy proves that the franchise can continue onward without Nathan Drake even if it doesn't reach the same highs.
After finishing Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End last year, I was ready to see the series be put to rest for some time. To me, and I’m sure many others, these games have always hinged upon its main character, Nathan Drake, who received a well deserved and fitting ending to his story arc at the end of the last game. Even though I think the Uncharted series is made great based on more factors than just the protagonist, I knew it would be hard for me to accept a new character in Drake’s role without directly comparing and contrasting the two. I hoped that some time and distance from the franchise would allow me to be more welcoming to a new treasure hunter.
When Uncharted: The Lost Legacy debuted at PlayStation Experience last December, I was equal parts excited and hesitant to see how a standalone title without the focus on Drake would feel. After playing it, I have come away quite positive while also having a strange sense of déjà vu. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a fantastic game on its own merits but when looking at it within its larger franchise, it instead feels like a greatest hits compilation of what we’ve already seen.
This time around, we find ourselves playing as Chloe Frazer, one of the series’ main supporting characters who was seen in both Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Joining Chloe for almost the entirety of her adventure is Nadine Ross, one of the co-antagonists introduced in Uncharted 4. The uneasy alliance that has been formed between these two women serves as the centerpiece to the narrative that unfolds in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. While they are working together to find the sacred Tusk of Ganesh, there’s an overwhelming sense of hesitancy from both characters in the game’s opening hours.
From the beginning of The Lost Legacy, something feels a bit amiss. The first few minutes of the game feel awkward as there is far too much exposition crammed into one tight space. Rather than establish where we are in the world and ease into Chloe’s life and the the game’s conflict — something that I adored about Uncharted 4 — we are instead haphazardly thrown into a foreign land with a character we haven’t seen in quite some time and are forced to play catch up. While I understand The Lost Legacy is meant to be a shorter game, it didn’t keep things from feeling rushed at the start.
For the characters themselves though, both Chloe and Nadine are incredibly well written and again serve as proof that Naughty Dog is virtually unmatched when it comes to narratives in video games. Despite Neil Druckmann not working on this spin-off, the dialogue is just as snappy, sarcastic, and witty as we have come to expect from the characters in this world.
Through this clever writing, we also get to know a bit more about each of the two women throughout the course of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s almost eight hour campaign. With Chloe, we learn a bit more about her past which sheds additional light on why she’s in the treasure hunting business and, more importantly, why finding the Tusk of Ganesh is a personal adventure for her. For Nadine, we learn more about what happened to her after the events of Uncharted 4 and come to realize why she would accept a job like this one in the first place.
While we do learn a good amount about each character while traversing the mountains of India, I couldn’t help but feel like it still wasn’t enough. Maybe it is due to The Lost Legacy’s condensed nature, but I still never felt an emotional connection to to either Chloe or Nadine at any point in the game.
Specifically, Nadine continues to be a hollow, one-dimensional character which is how I viewed her after completing Uncharted 4. Her inclusion in The Lost Legacy doesn’t make much sense outside of Naughty Dog obviously having the desire to do more with her character. It’s just a shame that they didn’t take her to anywhere new this time around.
Serving as the antagonist in The Lost Legacy is a an Indian rebel leader by the name of Asav. This new baddie is introduced early on in the game and for the most part, his character is shrouded in secrecy. The Uncharted series, despite having some of the most recognizable and beloved characters in gaming history, has always been known for its rather weak villains and, unfortunately, Asav doesn’t do much do break that mold.
Due to Asav having such a secretive past, it’s hard to understand some of the reasoning behind his motivations. He makes claims about himself throughout the game, many of which I wanted concrete answers to, but those answers never came. The best I can say of Asav is that I think he had potential to be a fantastic villain; but once again, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s shorter nature stifled him from being memorable.
As for the location, India provided a great and gorgeous new location to get lost in. A new picture mechanic in The Lost Legacy — essentially an in-game collectible — allows you to take photos of some of the more stunning vistas that you will come across throughout your trek. During these moments, it’s not a bad idea to take a screenshot of your own to store on your hard drive. While I have a PS4 Pro, I do not have a TV yet that is capable of running games at their highest resolution but boy, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy really made me want to run out to the store and buy a new set immediately.
Some of these many locations that you will come across in India feature many of the common elements from Uncharted games that returning fans will be used to by now. From lining up shadows with images on a wall to solve a puzzle, to climbing up the side of a large figure carved into the side of a mountain, many of the tasks you accomplish in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy feel almost a bit too familiar.
The standout new location in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy sees Chloe and Nadine driving through the Western Ghats. This portion of the game plays similar to the Madagascar section of Uncharted 4 where you are given a Jeep to freely drive around a semi-open area. To date, the Western Ghats serve as the largest level in any Uncharted game to date, but therein lies my problems with it.
To me, Uncharted games are at their best when they are focusing you down tighter levels. Sure, I like being able to have some room to play around in within these environments, but I’ve never been a fan of the vast spaces like what we see with the Western Ghats in The Lost Legacy. That said, this larger environment mainly serves as a means of focusing you into three smaller forts so my complaints with it are rather minimal.
Despite my typical distaste for these vast spaces, the one implementation within the Western Ghats that I really appreciated was an added side quest. Yes, you read that correctly: a side quest in an Uncharted game. To make use of this larger play space, Naughty Dog added a really enjoyable, completely avoidable mission that sees you running around the open portion of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy in search of a handful of tokens.
Upon completing this quest, you are rewarded with a new item that helps grants you an added new ability throughout the rest of your playthrough. All in all, I relished this bonus objective and thought it was cool to see Naughty Dog experiment with the what has been a series of linear games. While I’m not sure if something like this would play well in all Uncharted games, I found it to be a cool addition to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
As I briefly mentioned, most of the other portions of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy play out as you would expect from any other game in the franchise. Gunplay, climbing, and even the rope swinging mechanic introduced in Uncharted 4 should all be familiar to those who have played past entries. A new lockpicking mechanic is thrown in randomly this time around but it doesn’t add much to the core experience. A couple of new weapons like the silenced pistol also shake things up a bit more and allow you to utilize stealth a bit better than in Uncharted 4, but other than that, there’s nothing new to see here.
If you’ve ever heard me talk about my love for Uncharted though, you can almost guarantee that I let it be known that my favorite part from every game is the action-packed set piece moments. From the train sequence in Uncharted 2, to the capsizing boat in Uncharted 3, it’s these moments to me more than anything else that encapsulate what an Uncharted game is. With Uncharted: The Lost Legacy however, I never found any of this noteworthy moments.
Now, that’s not to say that Uncharted: The Lost Legacy doesn’t have any large-scale action sequences because it certainly does. However, what ends up being the game’s central moment matches up much far too similarly to a set piece moment from a previous entry in series — maybe even one that I already mentioned. This disappointed me as I was greatly hoping we would see a new moment that would stand alongside some of the others that I previously mentioned.
Even as I say this though, I understand that the time in which The Lost Legacy had to be developed probably didn’t allow the team at Naught Dog for much experimentation. To remind those who may have forgotten, this game began as a standalone piece of DLC that blew up into something much larger. When I think back on this, I can’t help but be impressed with the visuals and attention to detail that was put into this game in what I would assume is less than two years of development time. While some sections of the game may feel a bit rehashed, what has been created is still incredibly enjoyable and more impressive than a large portion of other games in the triple-a space.
And with that said, I have to say that the game’s final boss really isn’t good. Much like the final boss in Uncharted 4, the fight centers around pressing buttons at key moments to counter your opponent and for me, the timing would never work. Now, maybe the answer is that I just suck at video games, but I found no discernible difference between when I would try press the counter button and fail compared to those when I would press it and succeed. It was a shame that the biggest moment of the game came down to a simple process of trial and error, but I got through it eventually and was rewarded with a pleasing ending cutscene.
While I won’t mention them in this review due to mild spoilers, there are a handful of other moments throughout the course of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy that put a large smile on my face. With this in mind, if you’ve played the other entries in the series then you’ll be pleased by both the mention and appearance of certain characters.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy makes for a fun but brief journey while still boasting the same level of high quality that we have seen in past entries. While I would’ve loved to see more original content in this standalone journey, The Lost Legacy at the very least proves that the Uncharted franchise can still provide us with countless other adventures with Nathan Drake out of the picture. Despite not knowing when, where, or what the next Uncharted game will be, The Lost Legacy gives me hope and makes me excited to see what comes next in this series that I so enjoy.