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.
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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