Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Originally touted as the first singleplayer DLC for the Uncharted franchise but later evolving into a larger standalone release, The Lost Legacy is an interesting departure for the series. For many, it needed to answer a burning question: can Uncharted survive without its signature wisecracking, swashbuckling protagonist, Nathan Drake?
Well, the answer is yes it can, thanks to old Nate’s replacement being series regular Chloe Frazer, a woman who is equally adept at wisecracks and swashbuckling.
The Lost Legacy pairs Chloe with Nadine Ross, a semi-redeemed villain from Uncharted 4, as they travel to India to recover an artifact known as the lost Tusk of Ganesh. The story is the standard Uncharted affair, where the leads are racing against an unhinged warlord for the treasure and many chuckles/gun fights are had along the way. What can we say, warlords really love their trinkets.
The Uncharted games are renowned for their focus on narrative and their top-tier performances, and Chloe and Nadine are no exception. The duo prove themselves more than capable of delivering the kind of witty banter during awe inspiring action that Uncharted fans come to expect. They also do well in the more serious moments, both having deeply personal reasons for embarking on this quest. And in a medium where non-gratuitously sexualised female characters are sorely lacking, through Chloe and Nadine developers Naughty Dog have provided a shining example of how they should be done. Granted, some of their conflicts are because of their respective feelings about a man, Nathan Drake, as well as each having father issues, but more often than not their interactions are to do with their feelings regarding each other, rather than the men around them.
Sadly the rest of The Lost Legacy’s narrative doesn’t hold up as well. For example, the aforementioned warlord’s motivations for pursuing the Tusk of Ganesh are pretty weak, at least at first (no spoilers here). He wants to use it as a symbol to rally the people of India to his cause in an ongoing civil war; a civil war that is raging for reasons not really established which makes it hard to appreciate him as the villain. True, in Uncharted games the villains usually aren’t the strongest of the characters, but their motivations are generally more defined than this.
The other aspect of the narrative to fall a little flat is the ancient mystery the characters are trying to solve: that of what happened to the Tusk of Ganesh. On multiple occasions throughout The Lost Legacy’s seven hour campaign did I stop and wonder what was so special about the Tusk other than that it was valuable, and the answer was not a whole lot. Yes it’s been missing for centuries, yes the player is following clues to its location, but the mystery surrounding it wasn’t overly compelling.
Previous Uncharted games have been about following clues to the locations of valuable things, but they were involved with other intriguing tales. Like wondering what Marco Polo found in Shambhala to frighten him away in Uncharted 2, or what happened to the pirates who founded their own society in Uncharted 4. In The Lost Legacy, most of the ruin exploration is littered with exposition about the myth of Ganesh losing their tusk, which as a mythology lesson is interesting, but it doesn’t serve as much else. Learning about what the Tusk symbolised doesn’t carry the same gravitas as wandering through the pirate city ruins, uncovering the tale as you find each of their bodies.
But hey, the ancient Indian ruins found along the way make for some awe inspiring locations in which to have jaw dropping action set pieces, and that’s the main thing for Uncharted.
But enough about the narrative, because The Lost Legacy brought some changes to the series’ stapled gameplay style. Well, sort of.
Putting Chloe in the starring role isn’t the only deviation from the Uncharted norm undertaken by The Lost Legacy, the game also dips its toes into the open world genre. And I mean that almost literally, because while some of The Lost Legacy takes place in a large open map with multiple objectives, that’s really as far as it goes into the open world format. There aren’t any sprawling side stories, random encounters or NPCs to interact with like what is typically found in open world games. It’s essentially an expansion of what we saw in Uncharted 4’s Madagascar level, where there were several different points of action but not a whole lot to do during the in-between travel.
In The Lost Legacy however, all the points of action can be visited in the player’s order of choosing, as well as there being several light-puzzles scattered about the place acting as side quests. Much like I said in my review of Uncharted 4, this approach is very much the Metal Gear Solid V method of open world design, a linear framework allowing varied solutions. And for the most part it works, successfully maintaining the pacing while handing more of the reigns over to the player, but it doesn’t quite have the intricate gameplay to back it up. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Uncharted’s gameplay style, but it’s much better suited to frenzied gun battles or orchestrated stealth sections rather than open scenarios, as it doesn’t allow for a whole lot of variety.
When approaching an enemy encampment, there’s really only two options: kill everyone in a loud gun fight, or kill everyone quietly. Gunning for the latter option can be frustrating given that Naughty Dog haven’t updated the game’s mechanics to allow players to lure enemies off their patrol paths, or move their corpses out of sight. They have introduced a silenced pistol to help make silent kills, but it’s only found in certain sections in locked weapon crates, so it isn’t a consistent option. As a result, much like in Uncharted 4, more often than not a stealthy approach would end up resulting in going loud anyway.
What I’m getting at here is that if Uncharted wants to head down this linear-open-world game route in the future, it needs to adopt the layered levels of gameplay freedom a game like Metal Gear Solid V does, not just the framework.
Anyway, the open world stuff is only the first half of The Lost Legacy as it soon abandons it to go right back into the usual linear Uncharted style we all know and love. There’s plenty of quips, vistas and epic set pieces right up until the end, and it’s great. Especially the explosive finale, which, while incredibly ridiculous, was awe-inspiring to play and is right up there with the rest of the series’ highlights.
Oh, and even though it goes without saying, The Lost Legacy is stunningly gorgeous to look at. Uncharted 4 was a marvel to behold last year, and The Lost Legacy has continued that trend. The game runs at a rock solid 30fps on both PS4 and PS4 Pro, and all without any clear compromises in terms of detail. And the level of detail is off chops, from the luscious greenery to the intricate stonework, even down to the stray strands of hair sticking to Chloe’s sweat drenched face. While other games like Horizon: Zero Dawn have cropped up to show off some pretty impressive graphics, The Lost Legacy reminds us that Naughty Dog are still some of the best in the business, particularly in the console realm.