Uncharted: Lost Legacy Hands-On: Naughty Dog's Expanded Sandbox Features Echoes of Breath of the Wild

Uncharted: Lost Legacy is the biggest, most open experience the series has offered to date.

Analysis by Brock Wilbur, .

When the Naughty Dog team introduced the world to Uncharted 4, they made some big promises. Among these were an extension of story-based DLC that they may have accidentally forgotten about. It's okay—2015 was a long time ago.

Now the team has cobbled together something that was supposed to be checking off a box, and instead has spiraled into a project so much grander in scale. What once was supposed to take the form of a Last of Us: Left Behind style addition built gameplay mechanics that required a sandbox much bigger than the game it was building upon. Directors Shaun Escayg and Kurt Margenau initially sought fill in the gaps of the Uncharted story, but having wrapped up Nathan Drake's adventure, and the journey of those closest to him, it seemed counter-intuitive to go back in time and try to add anything to those tales.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy features a new protagonist in Chloe Frazer, who has been in the series since the second game. As a driver and treasure hunter in her own right, Frazer was an easy replacement for Drake, although her motivations operate much differently. Frazer has always lacked Drake's hero complex or ego, preferring to pick self-preservation over completing a job for the sake of proving everyone wrong. She has no problem bailing on any gig or any ally, leaving her with a less than sterling reputation.

Along for the ride as her permanent side-kick on this adventure is returning character Nadine Ross. In A Thief's End, Ross was the leader of the Shoreline private military company, but she has since lost control of the organization and is now seizing the opportunity to work as a freelance killer. Believing that this adventure could bring redemption for previous sins, Ross agrees to work under Frazer, even though she's not used to forfeiting the leadership role. During a civil war in the Western Ghats of India, the protagonists aim to retrieve the Tusk of Ganesh which could empower a brutal dictator to take control of the region.

First detail of note: this expansion builds on the sandbox-like Madagascar sequence from Uncharted 4. But in doing so, it manages to deliver the same action and narrative immersion as a linear set-piece Uncharted adventure. You're given a map (in place of Nathan's diary) and a vehicle that doubles as a weapon / puzzle solving device, and then you're set free. This is the Breath of the Wild of the Uncharted franchise and boy howdy does it work.

It's a whole new world out there.

Some intro story missions set you up for a lead-in to this open, expansive location with an overwhelming amount of potential danger to immerse yourself in. All the while, much like Breath of the Wind, you can see the various towers and end-points of major quests rising up over the horizon and beckoning you to take on an adventure you're not quite prepared for yet.

Building on that Zelda reference, your horse is also one of your closest allies here. And by horse I mean your 4x4 all-terrain vehicle, which can run over enemies or the wench on the front can be used to pull doors open or navigating waterfalls. It feels like the upgrade the Arkham series got when the world reached a size requiring a more powerful way to navigate such a sprawling map.

Aside from some excellent puzzles that hearken back to the franchise's glory, and a lock-pick minigame that's surprisingly fun, you're not in for many other big gameplay shifts. At least not for your player character. But what your AI teammate brings to the table is a breath of fresh air. Game director Kurt Margenau told us that the challenge the team faced was how to create a complex relationship between your two protagonists that naturally evolves through the course of an open world adventure, while allowing both of their characters and their relative strengths to live in the forefront of both the storytelling and the gameplay.

So here's how that plays out.

While controlling Frazer, Ross will follow you into any situation. If you approach guns blazing, Ross does the same. If you start doing stealth takedowns, Ross will mimic you. If you enter into a hand combat scenario, Ross will join you in a combo beatdown. But the more time you spend with your companion, the deeper these bonds go. I'll admit a level of skepticism about a team of dudes writing a female relationship that evolved naturally throughout an open-world adventure, but consider me a believer after my time with Lost Legacy.

There's something specific and polite about their interactions. When traversing the landscape via car, you'll dig into each other's backstory. If you decide to jump out of the car to explore, you'll apologize to your partner, and upon re-entering the car later remind them what they were in the middle of discussing so the conversation can continue. Choosing to do more optional side puzzles unlocks more information to exchange, creating an undeniabe natural back-and-forth that is one of my favorite takeaways from the entire experience.

What else is there to say about my hands-on? A lot of very Uncharted experiences, that I could choose to engage with or run away from at any time. I ran out of ammo during one sequence that pitted me against a number of enemies, and using a mix of environmental advantages and Batman-like patience, I quickly felled the small army, with my new best friend doing her share of the heavy lifting. I also saw beautiful vistas that I took pictures of with my phone because they were just straight-up cool to look at (but often revealed a new path for my adventure). There was also a series of collectible challenges that the creators promised opened up opportunities for a gameplay extension that went beyond what they've ever previously done with the series. I also love vague collectible mysteries, and of course started my playthrough going directly for these challenges.

The guns and grenades feel good, the world is full of intrigue that pushed me to want to explore every last inch, and the dynamic and human relationship between your protagonists does some exceptional work -- the kind that Naughty Dog is known for.

Uncharted is alive and well, albeit in an entirely new format, which sacrifices nothing in the name of progressing beyond a narrative that seemed entirely built on a single character. Both functionally and theoretically, it is an opening up of the world, and it serves to be the most interesting invite to explore this world since the second outing. It feels like Uncharted but it also sets an expectation for what this series does next that will be hard to top.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy releases on August 22nd.

For help with Lost Legacy, head over to our Uncharted: The Lost Legacy guide hub.

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Comments 6

  • Avatar for VotesForCows #1 VotesForCows 6 months ago
    This sounds so good that it might actually get me back into Uncharted. I skipped the 4th after failing to enjoy the 3rd at all.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #2 Ralek 6 months ago
    @VotesForCows UC 3 was pretty terrible, no doubt about that. Honestly, UC 4 is better, but it still feels somewhat stale, and really, I never could shake the feeling I was playing a very extensive and incredibly polished tech-demo for the Playstation 4 system.

    There were some genuinely good character moments and incredible setpieces/ vistas though, but looking at the whole picture, the sensation of these were dulled by rest of it. Not at all bad, just not as special as most reviews made it out to be. Most of it we've already seen in previous UC games, and hence there was a strong sense of repetition and been-there-done-that.

    Anyways, if Lost Legacy really takes it cues from BotW, then I'm actually pretty excited. BotW imho was the first open-world game, that deserved that moniker. Unlike AC, which was interface driven, or Rockstar games, which were character/story driven, BotW was actually driven by it's ... open-world. The made exploration and 'searching stuff' fun + I acutally really like the voice acting, the fact that Link is still a silent protagonist as well as the fact that Zelda finally has personality, with internal conflicts and all ^^

    Plus the level of consistency in BotW was quite staggering. If you thought you should be able to go somewhere, or do something, because the rules of the world, as you discovered them, should allow for it ... well, then 90% of the time, you totally could do that.

    For an open-world game, the game also had incredibly few glitches. All those Studio-Ghibli-inspired characters were also great :-) Not that I assume UC to take any inspiration here, as it'll probably continue to take itself way too serious (they should bring back some more Indiana-Jones'esque levity).
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #3 VotesForCows 6 months ago
    @Ralek You make a compelling argument for BotW - its on my "someday" list, whenever I manage to afford a Switch!
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  • Avatar for Ralek #4 Ralek 6 months ago
    @VotesForCows You really should, I was sceptical at first as well - which btw made it easy for me to wait for the 1st DLC incl. the Master Mode before I got started - but after playing it for an hour or two I was totally hooked.
    I genuinely think that Zelda BotW is not a great game do demo, or even less to be sold on screenshots, trailers or streams.

    Speaking of which ... if you can play in Master Mode, turn the interface to 'Pro' (gets rid of the minimap), and definitely try to avoid any spoilers: The less you know about the game, and less preconceived notions you have about it, the more of a blast you are going to have.

    Steer clear of guides, absolutely don't google 'how to get the master sword?' or anything like that. The game has all the answers, and a few shrines aside, that demand some serious'ish mental acrobatics, it is totally willing to give it you, if you are willing to look and listen for them.

    I think that's really worth stressing: It's not a game primarily driven by its story, but that does by no means imply that you cannot totally hurt your experience playing it with any kind of spoiler you are exposed to. Discovery is the name of the game here. I mean, if you are 120 hours in and you feel like you explored everywhere, and you feel like you want to check and see what you've missed along the way ... sure why not, but other than, I would totally shun anything specific about the game.

    Anyways, what I actually wanted to say was that you can also play the game on the Wii U. From what I've read it plays virtually identically, with a minor bump in resolution and audio quality on the Switch (when docked).
    Although ... if you had a Wii U, you would probably be aware of that anyways ^^ I will say though, that sitting outside on your patio or whatever, during one of these summer nights right now, and playing Zelda BotW ... that's really cool. It kinda made the Switch 'click' as a concept.

    If you like Zelda (and don't have a WiiU), I think BotW is actually enough to justify the system. I don't say that lightly, but I do think it's good enough and it's big/ long enough as well. It might quite possibly be Nintendo's best game yet.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 6 months ago
    @Ralek Thanks man. Traded the Wii U in long ago sadly. Will definitely play BotW at some stage - never enjoy a Zelda game before, but this looks like its right up my alley! Nice to see your passion for it too, that's always a good sign.
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  • Avatar for Ralek #6 Ralek 6 months ago
    @VotesForCows Glad to hear I managed to put it on your radar for sure (maybe I should ask for a commission from Nintendo ^^)!

    I think I'm so passionate about BotW because of my initial reaction to the game, which went along the lines of ... 'great, now they are going to turn Zelda into the next AC. The last thing Zelda needed was being forced into an open-world, for no other reason than to be able to put "open-world" on the back of the box".

    At that point, I was basically done with the game, and it was actually one of the few Zelda games I could have picked up Day1 (because I was no longer a toddler or child ^^), and I didn't because I thought I would hate - because generally speaking, I'm no fan of stuff like breaking weapons for example either.

    I couldn't have been more wrong about the game though. Once I moved beyond by preconceived notions, and opened my heart to it, so to speak, I had a blast, more so than with anything since Ocarina of Time really.

    Since then, I've come across many who seem to have had the same initial reaction I just described, but for what ever reason, never managed to move beyond it. That actually makes me feel bad for them, and I kinda want to change their mind.
    I think part of it is the hype, I mean, the game cannot possibly live up to it, right? We've seen it all before, countless times really, and not just with games either.

    I don't know it's like The Dark Knight or something ... it's just another comic book movie, a super hero movie, another Batman movie ... it cannot possibly be that good, right? Well, I think most people would agree now that it really was good, despite just being another open-world ga.... I mean super hero movie :-)
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