Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is in a somewhat awkward position. Originally intended to be a relatively minor chunk of DLC, The Lost Legacy morphed into a standalone expansion nearly the size of a full Uncharted game. At the same time, developer Naughty Dog have been telling fans they’re done with the Uncharted series, at least for the time being. So, is Uncharted: The Lost Legacy the beginning of an exciting new female-led chapter in the series, or more of a fond farewell? Whatever the case may be, expectations for The Lost Legacy are much higher than for your typical budget-price add-on.
Does Uncharted: The Lost Legacy live up to series’ lofty pedigree, or is it brought down to earth by its origins as a quickie expansion? Grab your hiking boots, it’s time to explore Naughty Dog’s latest…
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4)
Following Nathan Drake’s swansong, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy switches its focus to stalwart supporting character and sometimes love interest, Chloe Frazer, who teams up with Uncharted 4 antagonist Nadine Ross to find Indian McGuffin, the Tusk of Ganesh. Both women have been tweaked a bit since we last saw them – we’re now informed Chloe is half Indian, despite it never really being implied in the past, and Nadine is more pleasant in general. Sure, she’s still tough, but she’s mellowed since playing the villain throughout much of Uncharted 4.
The Lost Legacy’s plot is a simple one – Chloe and Nadine race to find the Tusk before Asav, a soft-spoken warlord who hides his psychotic nature behind a front of nationalism. The game does serve up one twist, and it’s a relatively good one, but aside from that, there aren’t many surprises. Which isn’t to say The Lost Legacy is poorly written – the game skillfully adds new depth to Chloe and Nadine’s characters, developing their unlikely friendship in a believable way. Chloe’s casual snark and Nadine’s straight-laced seriousness make for a perfect personality clash, but Naughty Dog is careful not to overplay the conflict or turn either woman into a caricature.
The appeal of Chloe and Nadine is bolstered by Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s truly gorgeous visuals. This game is a breakthrough in rendering attractive people in a realistic way. Between Chloe, Nadine, and Asav, there’s pretty much always somebody sexy on screen, and none of them look like Ken or Barbie dolls. The variety of subtle facial expressions Naughty Dog has pulled of here is pretty astounding. Oh, and it goes without saying, but the environments surrounding these wonderful characters models are just as impressive.
In terms of gameplay, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy doesn’t add all that much to the formula. You’ll scale an endless array of perilous walls and cliffs, swing on ropes, drive jeeps, engage in some limited stealth, then just shoot everybody when you screw up. You can now pick locks (a good skill for a thief to have), and use a climbing piton to scramble up cliffs when convenient handholds aren’t available, but otherwise it’s all rather familiar.
Thankfully, The Lost Legacy improves on almost all the stuff it reuses. Climbing could get a bit repetitive in Uncharted 4, but here Naughty Dog manages to keep it varied and engaging, challenging players to scale giant statues of Ganesh and Shiva and other improbable structures. Of course, those trademark Uncharted roller coaster action scenes return, and this time they’re more thrilling, and less frustrating, than ever. Unlike past games in the series, you’ll rarely, if ever, find yourself dying repeatedly because you’re not quite sure what the game wants you to do. The Lost Legacy does a great job of communicating its goals even as its knocking you around like a ping pong ball in a dryer.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy begins and ends with your traditional linear stages, but the lengthy middle portion of the game lets you freely wander India’s lush Western Ghats mountains. This is similar to the Madagascar area from Uncharted 4, but significantly upgraded. The Western Ghats are better laid out, more fun to explore, and packed with tons of stuff to investigate and collect. Of course, there’s no actual reason to do sidequests or collect treasure – there’s no money or XP to be gained – it’s all for your own personal edification.
This illustrates the one real flaw of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy – the game sometimes trips over its own feet trying to be accessible. The Lost Legacy creates an enticing open-world area full of things to do, but is afraid to add the RPG elements that would make any of it mean anything. The game’s stages are carefully and intricately designed, but if you get lost for even a couple minutes, it will just tell you where to go. Get stuck on one of the game’s entertaining Zelda-style puzzles, and it will immediately start peppering you with hints.
Naughty Dog ought to have a bit more confidence in their game design. Few developers do a better job of leading the player through a stage without making them feel like they’re being led. Even in The Lost Legacy’s open world area, it’s somehow always very clear what you need to do. Perhaps that’s why all the additional hints feel unwelcome – they’re simply unnecessary. But hey, a game’s in a good place if it’s biggest flaw is “sometimes it tries a little too hard to not frustrate the player.”
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy clocks in at around 8 to 10 hours, which is comparable to the earlier games in the series, and a perfectly satisfactory length given the game’s $40 price tag. Really, I’d say around 10 hours is the Uncharted sweet spot, and The Lost Legacy is one of the series’ best-paced yarns.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy doesn’t venture far from the series’ well-worn path, but that’s okay. This is a fantastic greatest hits collection, and Naughty Dog’s total mastery of this specific style of game design is remarkable. Uncharted is criticized for being popcorn entertainment, but there’s an art to making a good blockbuster – if most triple-A games are the interactive equivalent of a disposable Michael Bay movie, The Lost Legacy is a finely-crafted Spielberg classic.
Simply put, I had more fun playing Uncharted: The Lost Legacy than I have any other new game this year. I blew through most of the game in a single sitting, because I couldn’t put it down. If this truly is Naughty Dog’s last Uncharted game, consider the series’ legacy secure.
Score: 5 out of 5 stars
This review was based on a copy of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy provided by Sony.