What began as Uncharted 4’s DLC has evolved into a standalone adventure that marries the linear set piece action of the original three games with the scope and technical grandstanding of the fourth. But does the new lineup of adventurers click?
The theme of ‘legacy’ in Uncharted as a series has been a rather prominent storytelling device, with the driving force behind Nathan Drake’s obsession with treasure hunting itself being inspired by his alleged connection to Sir Francis Drake and his legacy. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy continues that theme, not just in title, but in its cast, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a continuation of the franchise’s legacy as well. Drake’s story is told, but the franchise carries on without him while still maintaining the legacy he helped Naughty Dog create.
Undeniably, The Lost Legacy borrows a lot from Uncharted 4. It is still a part of it, after all. The shooting, climbing, swinging, and sliding mechanics from that game are all intact, with the only notable differences being subtle ones. Because The Lost Legacy feels like a proper Uncharted game, it’s easy to forget that this is essentially DLC, albeit one that’s now standalone too. That’s a major positive in terms of what The Lost Legacy does as a standalone game, but anyone seeking much new in how Uncharted plays will feel a touch disappointed. Luckily, the core of Uncharted 4 is a good place to revisit. Combat is punchy, traversal is comfortable, and the Indian jungle and its secrets are absolutely gobsmackingly gorgeous.
The Lost Legacy sees series favorite Chloe Frazer take the lead, accompanied by Uncharted 4’s secondary antagonist, and former head of private militia Shoreline, Nadine Ross. Chloe has travelled to India in search of the legendary Tusk of Ganesha. Standing in their way is ruthless war profiteer Asav, a man entirely sold on his own self-importance. Chloe and Nadine are reluctant partners, with Chloe needing Nadine for her tactical knowledge, and Nadine needing Chloe for the payoff. As this is set after the events of Uncharted, Nadine has her own mistrust of any associate of the Drake brothers but needs money after losing her business partner and her leadership of Shoreline. So, early on, the tone is standoffish, despite Chloe’s best attempts to lighten the mood.
The dynamic between the pair is important if the Lost Legacy is to succeed on its own terms. After all, fans want Uncharted to provide epic action set pieces and quick-witted adventure, and that’s certainly on show in the Lost Legacy. But this can’t be the exact same action soup as Drake’s adventures, otherwise it may as well be the same thing with a different-looking lead. Thankfully, while there are forms of series-based repetition in The Lost Legacy, Chloe and Nadine’s dynamic is not one of them, and in turn is its best asset.
On the surface, Chloe is cocksure, and ready to dive into trouble, which echoes our previous leading light, but Chloe as a character is a better fit for somebody who will dispatch goons in a heartbeat. She sees it for the necessary evil it is, she brings along a trained killer in Nadine, and there’s no navel-gazing romanticism about what she does: She wants money, and she happens to be a bit good at the thievery game. Whereas Drake is embracing a legacy that may not even be his, Chloe acts in spite of her own. She has the capacity for empathy, of course, and in The Lost Legacy it is shown frequently, a tender, fiercely protective side that her small role in the previous adventures simply didn’t give enough time to explore. Chloe distorts the moral compass in a realistic manner, considering what she does. She is not afraid to kill or sacrifice if the moment calls for it, but at the same time, she’s learned over time that you can put your trust in people and have loyalty to them too. The selfish edge seen in Uncharted 2 has softened with time, but it most certainly is still present.
Nadine, previously little more than a serviceable badass without much character definition, is close to emotionless when we’re reunited with her. I say ‘close to’ because Nadine does ‘annoy’ a fair bit. The strain of mistrust still raw in her after the events of Uncharted 4, working with Chloe, and needing to work with her, clearly eats at her. She wants nothing more than to redeem herself for what happened to Shoreline on her watch, and Chloe offers her that chance.
As the story progresses, and Chloe and Nadine learn more about each other as people, they open up and form a bond of sorts. They get to see themselves in a different light, and conversely, the player gets to know and embrace characters outside Drake, Sully, and Elena. Chloe and Nadine are fantastic leads, entirely worthy of carrying the torch if Naughty Dog chooses to do so.
The story itself lends to the weight of the leads, even if it feels a little slow to get warmed up despite a quicker overall pace. While again, on the surface it’s Uncharted through and through, with mistrust, deception, action, death-defying, and the odd quiet moment of reflection that Uncharted 4 brought along to the party, it’s when you delve into the details, and you come back to those themes of legacy in a brand new way, that The Lost Legacy stands on its own merit. Chloe’s attitude to treasure hunting is entirely shaped by the way her father went about it. She saw a man driven to obsession by the desire for discovery, and she both admired and feared that about him. She’s not trying to escape the legacy left for her, rather follow it in her own, more efficient way.
Nadine’s has been taken from her, Shoreline out of her control, her reputation in tatters, she’s trying to reclaim and rebuild her personal legacy. Both these personal tales intertwine with Asav and his desire for the Tusk of Ganesha.
Asav is a touch holier than thou, insistent that it is his divine right to have the Tusk by any means necessary. He’s a calm, unassuming man, but he holds a smart, tough side that makes him a formidable adversary. Three very different ideas of how people want to be seen, and how they see themselves. It ties together nicely, and among the sparks of wit and unsubtle undercurrents of hostility, we get to see humanity in characters previously confined to the background of Nathan Drake’s adventures, and a villain with a more grounded idea of megalomania.
Away from the characters and their intertwined story, Uncharted needs big set piece moments and elaborate puzzle rooms, and The Lost Legacy delivers handsomely on both fronts in the six or seven hours it takes to get through it. Both suffer from seeming like a greatest hits collection of past games to a certain degree, yet they also build upon them, and in the case of certain set pieces, they usurp the originals.
There’s hand-to-hand combat that feels more dramatic and impactful thanks to Chloe and Nadine’s more direct, focused way of fighting, with lots of shoving, grabbing, and throwing added to the fisticuffs. It alone makes one or two of the late game set pieces pop as it’s combined efficiently with more dramatic overtones. Elsewhere, a return to a highly revered type of Uncharted set piece is handled in such a wonderful way, throwing in several types of combat alongside jumping, QTEs and climbing precarious places, that it evolves the original idea and makes it exciting all over again. It might be a touch derivative, and you can’t help but think ‘ah, this is like that bit in Uncharted …,’ but theses moments remain compelling and a sight to behold and experience.
The puzzles are a healthier mix. Yes, some are almost ridiculously close to previous ones (there’s a shadow manipulation puzzle in particular that feels way too familiar), but others are more inventive and fresh whilst sticking close to what you’d expect of Uncharted.
It was easy to be skeptical of an Uncharted without Nathan Drake going into The Lost Legacy, yet by the time the very poignant final moments arrived, all doubt had long been removed. Yes, it starts slowly, yes it borrows a lot from its predecessors, but The Lost Legacy is very much its own game and a continuation of the Uncharted name. The brevity of this adventure makes for a leaner, punchier time, with much of the game approaching the layout of a classic Uncharted rather than the sprawl of Uncharted 4. The dynamic between Chloe, Nadine and others sings, and there’s a scene right at the death that, to me, suggests Uncharted is very much still alive and in good hands for the future. Nathan Drake may have created the legacy, but this proves he doesn’t have to carry it forever.