Review: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is Another Remarkable Triumph from Naughty Dog
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a thrilling amalgamation of nearly everything that is beloved about the series. Yes, this essentially makes the all new standalone “just more Uncharted 4 minus Drake;” however, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it should be considered a triumph. That Naughty Dog was able to turn around such a polished and well put together title in a year is but another testament to the studio arguably being the best in the industry. Uncharted 4’s gameplay, while indistinguishable from what’s presented in Lost Legacy, is elevated in a few ways that won’t be spoiled here as they are primarily on display in the standalone’s final act. Let’s just say the glory of Uncharted 2 receives a stunning callback, or several, in this Chloe Frazer-starring adventure. But of course, like all games, this one is not without flaws.
The Lost Legacy follows fan-favorite Chloe Frazer — introduced in Uncharted 2 as Drake’s partner and love interest —- as she scours India for the Tusk of Ganesh, a quest that once fueled her father’s treasure hunting ventures. Accompanying her is series newcomer, Nadine Ross, who debuted in last year’s release of A Thief’s End as an antagonist. We’re never shown how the two initially meet, as the story begins in medias res with Chloe headed for their rendezvous point. While the franchise is certainly familiar with such an opening, it may seem a slight disservice to Lost Legacy’s narrative as a whole. Despite being rectified in the game’s final act, the bond between the two leads does not consistently uphold player interest.
The dynamic between Chloe and Nadine is by no means hostile, but the two are wary of one another. The latter views the former as merely a thief, and Chloe isn’t too thrilled about their union either, but at least she makes an effort; the same cannot be said for Nadine. And here lies the game’s most significant flaw — Nadine Ross is a hard character to like. In Uncharted 4, where she’d pop up every hour or so, kick Nate’s ass and then duck out, she was fine and fun to watch. Here, as a main protagonist, her character doesn’t work as well. These games have a buddy dynamic that few other titles can even begin to rival. Drake is the light-hearted, optimistic and witty every man’s man. Those playing opposite him, Sully, Elena, Chloe, Cutter, Flynn, and Sam, ground him, but are also able to meet his air of levity with their various personality traits.
Chloe, being slightly more serious in nature than Drake and remarkably pragmatic, doesn’t need someone to ground her, and she certainly doesn’t require an overly stoic partner. But there are moments where Nadine open ups… perhaps, allowing herself to be comfortable around Chloe. These few instances indicate that her behavior isn’t a character flaw, it’s an aspect of her personality that takes the fore when she can’t trust others. Nadine’s brilliantly written, but again she may not be the best full-game companion for a character like Chloe Frazer.
Chloe herself is even more fantastic than we’ve seen her in the past. Here her backstory is expounded upon, and we finally learn the origins of her accent. Most importantly, her Indian roots are explored in glorious fashion. She’s admirably passionate about her heritage, and it’s shown every time she talks about Hindu Gods and her father’s obsession with the Tusk of Ganesh.
Gameplay-wise, she’s not too dissimilar from Drake. However, she is far more stealthy, making the chances of clearing out an area without alerting enemies higher than its ever been in the series. A lock-picking mechanic is also introduced for the first time; it’s simple in execution and often nets access to new weapons with lockboxes strewn throughout the world. The rope from A Thief’s End returns, as do the new sliding and climbing traversal additions. Driving has returned too, feeling just a effortless as it did before. This time, though, there’s more driving to be done, meaning exploration has been raised a notch as well.
Uncharted 4, courtesy of the success found in The Last of Us, offered the largest explorable areas a Naughty Dog game has had since Jak and Daxter in the PS2 era. By the middle of Lost Legacy, the story sets Chloe and Nadine down in the Western Ghats, a huge area where the player can explore at their leisure, looking for treasures, tokens, and provides Chloe plenty of opportunities to talk in depth about the surrounding world. The tokens are a new addition, which number eleven in total; if all are found, Chloe is awarded a ruby bracelet. It’s beautiful, but is primarily to service players who want an indicator of when treasures are nearby.
Lost Legacy features a host of new puzzles as well. They’re all challenging, some more so than others, and a few are reminiscent of those in Uncharteds past.
The narrative is strong, yet opens with a slow burn — one that could potentially turn some players away. Of course, the story culminates in a showdown with a villain who’s also conveniently looking for the same treasure, except with nefarious purposes in mind. As far as Uncharted baddies go, Asav makes for a formidable threat; he’s about as imposing as Lazarevic, just not obviously so. The final boss battle isn’t blue sap-levels of stressful, but the gameplay mechanics at hand do not service the spectacular build up in the gameplay sections that precede it.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy proves the series can proceed without Nathan Drake at the helm. As the lead, Chloe Frazer becomes even more of a beloved character, thanks to an intriguing arc that depicts evident change. At the start of this eight-plus hour adventure, she’s essentially the same woman fans had come to know and love in Uncharted 2 and 3. By the end, Chloe shows tremendous character growth, and so too does Nadine. The Lost Legacy is a triumph, not just for this nearly ten-year-old series, but for gaming in general — two women of color, of Indian and South African descent, respectively, are leading ladies in a tentpole franchise. And to top it off, the game is great… as always, Naughty Dog has pushed the industry another step forward.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is in stores now for PlayStation 4.