Naughty Dog seems to make it a habit of raising their own bar with each Uncharted release. Last year's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End marked the conclusion of the series' main protagonist in one of the most impressive games released on the Playstation 4, and also one of the few titles to receive a perfect score on this site. One of the most impressive aspects of the game was the way in which it naturally offered the new gameplay mechanics in ways that weren't shoehorned or forced upon the player; instead, they came sensibly within the context of the story. For instance, we were given a backstory level into Nate and Sam's past, in which Sam teaches Nate how to use a rope to climb - which in turn evolved into the use of the grappling hook. There is a reason I'm drawing attention to this aspect within the critique of Naughty Dog's latest release, Uncharted: Lost Legacy.
Uncharted: Lost Legacy serves as a spin-off title of sorts. The game takes place roughly 6-12 months after the events of Uncharted 4. Earlier ideas regarding the game had thoughts of using Nathan Drake as a side-character, which was ultimately abandoned, especially since his arc was wrapped up so nicely. Other ideas were to tell stories of Sam Drake, or Victor 'Sully' Sullivan, or a person who will simply go by the name Cassie to prevent any spoilers. Like Nate, these were all ditched and instead we've been given an adventure surrounding Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross. Nadine was formerly a deuteragonist in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and someone who I felt could have been explored a bit further. Chloe had a major role in Uncharted 2, and in brief spurts throughout Uncharted 3, but hasn't had any attention since. In that regard, the decision to cover these two characters in their own story was needed.
Lost Legacy takes players on the hunt in search of the Golden Tusk of Ganesh - a legendary artifact from the Hoysala Empire. The main antagonist is a ruthless warmonger by the name of Asav, who is on the hunt for both the Tusk and for Chloe and Nadine - both of whom stole a key necessary for the whole excursion.
Unfortunately, the story seemed rather lackluster compared to previous Uncharted games. Asav seemed like a comically bad antagonist that was more of a device to push the plot and offer a sense of suspense. Comparing this to Rafe Adler from Uncharted 4 - you can absolutely get a sense of his reasons, his motives and goals. Outside of that, the progression of the overall story still captured me in a similar way to the previous Uncharted games. One of the most prominent differences between Lost Legacy and past Uncharted games, is that rather than focusing on key historical figures like Henry Avery or Marco Polo, it instead focuses on a historical region and its surrounding culture and philosophies. There's a major focus on Hinduism and its associated mythologies which are scripts I'm somewhat familiar with from World Religion courses, and it was wonderful to revisit in more detail with Lost Legacy. Seeing the beautiful architecture of the Hoysala Capital, the grandiose statues of Shiva, Ganesh, and Parashurama were some of my favourite moments in the game.
Surprisingly, its slowest point was the prologue, which took us through a sluggishly linear trek through war-torn Indian city, to eventually take us to Asav's high-rise. The progression and linearity all felt like leap backwards from the sprawling environments in Uncharted 4 and its myriad ways in completing a level. Thankfully, this was a fairly quick introduction, but still, compared to past Uncharted games where the Prologue really set the tone for what was to follow, this really didn't give me the same jaw-dropping feeling.
One of the more impressive additions to Uncharted: Lost Legacy was the inclusion of a semi-open hubworld once you enter the Western Ghats. It gives you a taste of openness as you are free to go about the next few chapters as you see fit; the map has several temples you need to get to, to unlock the next part of the story, and it's entirely up to you as to how you want to complete it. This was a terrific step in the right direction for the franchise as a whole, and a level design with an emphasis on freedom of choice is certainly one I hope they revisit with future installments.
The core gameplay is for all intents and purposes a straight cut-and-paste of Uncharted 4. This comes with its host of positives and negatives. The positives being that Uncharted 4's core gameplay is by and large the most refined of all the Uncharted games. Shooting and melee combat all feel fluid; climbing animations look incredible and the subtle interactions with the surrounding environment is always a treat to see. The downside is that, unlike Uncharted 4, there was never really context with regards to these mechanics and instead the game assumes you're familiar with Uncharted 4 and therefore don't mind that assets were reused. I'll go back to my original example of the grappling hook; where the mechanic was both established and woven into the context of the story, here it's just automatically included and the game doesn't really establish anything. Similarly, the driving segments felt the exact same as Uncharted 4 - with slopes of mud that were hard to drive up, doors or passages that needed to be pulled down with the winch. Again, the addition of a winch was actually part of Uncharted 4's dialogue, as Nate shelled out the extra money to afford a jeep with a winch, and Naughty Dog supplied the conversation between Sully, Sam and Nate as to why Nate felt he needed one. Here, it's included without any reason other than the fact that you need it for deliberate gameplay segments. It's these specific moments where Lost Legacy loses a bit of its identity as its own and feels more like a reskinned Uncharted 4.
Similar to how Nate looked in Uncharted 4, you can definitely tell Naughty Dog wanted to establish an aged look for Chloe as well, with detailed hands showing wrinkling, crow's feet and baggier eyes. That being said, there was a conscious effort to retain her same presence she had during the previous games, as fans have held her in such a high regard since her debut in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
The visuals as a whole seem to use the same engine that Uncharted 4 used, and continues on with Uncharted 4's omission of pre-rendered cutscenes, with all cinematics done in real-time. With Uncharted 4, this brought about a groundbreaking sense of seamlessness between gameplay and cutscene. However, there's a noticeable difference in quality when comparing the real-time cutscenes here versus Uncharted 4. It's definitely more believable that these are real-time, whereas in Uncharted 4 there were moments that truly blurred the line between pre-rendered cutscenes and real-time cinematics. Despite that small gripe, the actual levels look fantastic, and as mentioned before the Hoysala architecture, the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, and the mythological sculptures of the Hindu deities look spectacular. The game performs seamlessly at 60 frames per second.
Overall, Uncharted: Lost Legacy is an admirable spin-off title to a formidable series; however some of its glaring flaws hold it back from ascending to the same levels of greatness. I very much enjoyed Chloe as the main character, but Asav was a largely forgettable antagonist. And while the game sought to establish its own individuality with new, fantastic level designs like the Western Ghats hubworld, it took equal steps backward in heavily borrowing elements of Uncharted 4 which often ended up feeling far too familiar for its own good. Despite these gripes, there is still a charming adventure to be had, complete with intuitive, albeit simplistic puzzles and wonderful vistas to behold.Uncharted: Lost Legacy was reviewed using a PS4 Digital Code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Beautifully detailed architecture added to the overall immersion.|
|Carefully thought-out puzzles, albeit fairly simplistic in design.|
|The semi-open Hubworld of the Western Ghats is truly one of the more impressive moments the game, and the series has done. I hope to see more like it in the future.|
|The gameplay mechanics were essentially stripped from Uncharted 4, and lacked the same context that A Thief's End certainly portrayed.|
|Asav is a largely forgettable antagonist, which is a shame since Adler in Uncharted 4 was quite memorable.|