Originally published on Trevor Trove on August 27, 2017
TL; DR(eview) – While it’s great getting to see a couple of Uncharted’s strong women take the lead in this story, their “Odd Couple” dynamic doesn’t feel as fun to play as some of Uncharted’s past pairings. Naughty Dog’s India is beautiful though and the 6-8-hour adventure is well worth the time for any Uncharted fan, especially if you enjoyed the mechanics of Uncharted 4.
One of the downsides of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was that the story’s focus on Nate and his long-lost brother Sam meant that there wasn’t room for all of the characters we’d grown connected to since the series began. The most notable absence was that of Chloe Frazer, who debuted in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and quickly became a fan favorite, returning to help Nate and the gang in Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. But when it became clear that she was going to get her own adventure here in The Lost Legacy, that softened the blow.
Paired up with one of the main antagonists from Uncharted 4, Nadine Ross, Chloe is on a quest to find the fabled Tusk of Ganesh, a treasure of the Hoysala Empire of India. As with all Uncharted adventures, Chloe and Nadine are in a race to locate the treasure before an opposing party does. Here they are in a race against Asav, an insurgent warlord hoping to find the Tusk to fund and/or inspire his military rebellion. Asav is on a mission to cleanse and purify the bloodline of India, which serves as pretty standard fare for the pulpy action villain, we expect from an Uncharted game. There’s a slight personal connection between him and Nadine referenced throughout the game, but with both characters being more stoic than emotional in nature, it doesn’t really fuel the conflict all that much.
The pairing of Chloe and Nadine in an interesting dynamic for the Uncharted series. With Chloe as the free-wheeling treasure hunter and Nadine and the firm mercenary, their interplay is easily the most “Odd Couple”-esque of the pairings we’ve had in Uncharted. In the past, we’ve always had wise-cracking Nathan Drake paired up with allies of a most similar character, be it his longtime partner Sully, the on-again-off-again romantic interest Elena, or his returning brother Sam. One of the reasons Chloe became such a beloved member of the franchise was her ability to go toe-to-toe with Nathan in Uncharted 2. With all of that history, the more standoff-ish relationship between Chloe and Nadine doesn’t quite feel like past Uncharteds. Chloe effectively serves as the Nathan stand-in, cracking jokes throughout, but Nadine isn’t in this to make friends. She’s only interested in her cut of the adventure’s profit, so she can reclaim her Shoreline mercenary unit, which abandoned her following the events of Uncharted 4.
As with any “Odd Couple”-type story, Chloe and Nadine, of course, warm up to each other throughout the adventure but when we’ve been so accustomed to the character dynamic having that lived-in feel of old friends going on an adventure, The Lost Legacy’s interplay feels out of place. Not since the original game or the Vita’s Golden Abyss, have we really been exposed to an Uncharted dynamic of two characters meeting and getting to know one another through the adventure. But even both of those cases, Nathan had more of a buy-in from the newcomers, with Elena excited to tell the story of El Dorado and Marisa Chase following in her grandfather’s footsteps. The standoffish-ness between Chloe and Nadine isn’t something you often see in the pulp action genre because it’s more fun for the audience to have skipped all of that character work and come into the story with a dynamic already established. Having the characters distrusting each other for the first two-thirds of the adventure might be great in another story, but it feels very out of place with the kind of story that Naughty Dog has created in the past.
As for the characters themselves, Chloe gets the most fleshed out character work here. As the more emotionally forthcoming of the two, we get to learn a lot about what motivates her and her personal connection to the story being told. Unfortunately, because she is more reserved from the start and because this is pretty much just another job for her, we don’t get as much from Nadine. Because we’re not playing as Nadine, her choices to keep herself guarded from others like Chloe means she also keeps herself guarded from us, the player audience. That’s not to say she doesn’t have her moments though. There were multiple moments throughout the story, especially in some of the game’s small optional conversations, where I found myself quietly chuckling at some of Nadine’s weird quirks and interests, especially as they relate to the variety of animals you can encounter in the game.
Ultimately, I walk away from Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s story wanting to go on the next adventure that Chloe and Nadine have, much more than this first one. The dynamic between the two at the end of the story is simply a much more enjoyable one than their dynamic at the start. It’s not that it’s a bad story at all. It’s just not as engaging a story for a player as it would be to have joined our heroes, already over these hurdles and acting thick as thieves.
Alright, I certainly wasn’t expecting to write an entire essay on the character dynamic of this game versus the other Uncharteds so let’s move on to the gameplay. Unsurprisingly, based on the fact that this was originally conceived as a single-player story expansion for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy mostly recycles the gameplay mechanics of Uncharted 4. The climbing, shooting, and driving all feel more or less the same. The rope and piton mechanics that were introduced in the previously installment return as well, with the rope being used to very effectively showcase some of the game’s breathtaking level design and visuals.
Naughty Dog has made a point of highlighting the open-world area that one of the game’s chapters takes place in. The Western Ghats area is, indeed, fun to explore for a Naughty Dog game but isn’t littered with objectives in the same way that a similar space would be in something like a Ubisoft game. For me, the more interesting aspect was that the handful of objectives in this area can be tackled in a variety of orders, with the dialogue adjusting to reflect the changes. It’s a small thing, and it’s pretty easy to see where the “this is a dynamic change” moments are on a second or third playthrough, but it adds to the idea that you are controlling the direction of the story all the same (especially in a franchise as historically linear as Uncharted). Unfortunately, that really is only one chapter of the game, with everything before and after it pretty much back on the rails.
The Lost Legacy might have some of my favorite puzzles of the series with two, in particular, jumping to mind. One involves jumping around a series of platforms as statues reposition themselves with each jump. Jump on the wrong platform at the wrong time and a statue will cut you down with an axe. The other puzzle was effectively a shadow-box puzzle where you move items around a 3×3 grid and try and orient them so that the shadows they project on the walls line up with the murals painted there. Neither one proved to be too difficult but they both forced me to look at the game and the environments in a new way. And a last word on the puzzles of the game: it is very tongue-in-cheek when the characters comment on the puzzles. Much like the line in A Thief’s End where Nathan responds if the adventures are always like this with a knowing, “no…well, sometimes…yes, yes they are” kind of answer, Chloe and Nadine comment as the player might with nods like “no more crates” or “these things always seem to come in threes.” It’s a wink to long-time fans of the series, but it also manages to force the team to identify some of these other puzzle types rather than another “okay, I’ll boost you up and wait for you to drop a crate” kind of puzzles that previous games became over-reliant on.
Just like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, The Lost Legacy has some incredibly beautiful level and world design. Looking over the cities or landscapes of India feels absolutely breathtaking. And the game knows to highlight many of these moments, adding in a new collectible for photo opportunities throughout the adventure. As you come across some of the game’s incredible vistas, Chloe will take out her phone and snap a picture that you can always go back and swipe through.
Additionally, the level design of one of the late game sequences, which I won’t spoil here, might be among my favorites of all of the Uncharted games because of just how expansive it feels. It isn’t likely to get a ton of praise because it is somewhat reminiscent of similar moments from previous games but it actually seems like it is built as a combination of some of those highlights, and left me utterly impressed by the scope and design that had to have gone into it.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is more Uncharted (specifically, more Uncharted 4). And if you don’t absolutely need wise-cracking Nathan Drake as your protagonist to enjoy an Uncharted game, you’re probably in for a good time. The mistrusting dynamic between the two main characters for much of the game detracts a little bit from the story enjoyment, compared to other installments where the relationships are more or less established. The pacing lags a bit at times, especially if you try and search every nook and cranny of the “open-world” level of the game and bring the plot to a halt for an hour or two, but if you had the complain that A Thief’s End outstayed it’s welcome, you might prefer this smaller entry.