I expected to see more Uncharted in Sony's PlayStation future, but I never expected to see another full adventure so soon. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was billed as the last outing of Nathan Drake and the game sent Naughty Dog's answer to Indiana Jones off in high style. While Drake and his erstwhile family may be done though, there's still room in the Uncharted universe for more adventure.
I want to set expectations straight from the beginning. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy was originally planned as narrative downloadable content (DLC) for Uncharted 4, but as Naughty Dog toiled away on the project, it became clear that it was a bit bigger than regular DLC. So, now it's a standalone release, killing the original Uncharted 4 Season Pass and coming in at a cool $40.
Instead of focusing on Drake, Elena, and Sully again, The Lost Legacy instead picks up after the contemporary events of Uncharted 4. Our hero–wait, do Drake and his ilk count as heroes? Our protagonist this time around is Chloe Frazer: love interest of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and partner-in-crime in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. She's joined in her adventure by Nadine Ross, mercenary and former antagonist in Uncharted 4. Together, the pair are on the hunt for the Tusk of Ganesh in India's Western Ghats.
Uncharted has always been a series concerned with legacy and family, and The Lost Legacy is no different. While Nadine is along for the ride, hoping to gain enough money to set her mercenary unit Shoreline back on track, this is Chloe's story. Despite the Australian accent (care of voice actress Claudia Black) and last name of Frazer, Chloe is actually of Indian descent on her father's side. He too was on the hunt for the Tusk; he disappeared in his final expedition, but the bug stayed with Chloe.
Frazer and Drake were very similar characters in Uncharted 2, making Chloe a natural fit for this role. She's openly after the Tusk for the money it'll net her and Nadine, but there's more under the surface. As you leap, hide, puzzle, and shoot your way through The Lost Legacy's ten-plus-hour adventure, Chloe begins to open up to Nadine. Not only do the pair strike up a convincing friendship, one as compelling and fun as Nathan and Sully, Chloe also begins to realize chasing the Tusk is bringing her close to achieving her father's dream. It's Chloe's story, but it's a very Uncharted one.
Mechanically, this isn't a huge departure from Uncharted 4, which makes sense given its genesis as DLC. Chloe can run, jump, and shoot just like Nathan Drake, though she has two additional skills. She has a set of lockpicks, allowing her to unlock chests around the map via an analog and vibration-based mini-game. She also steals a climbing piton straight from Tomb Raider, allowing Chloe to anchor herself onto porous rock with the press of a button. (Chloe even feels like reboot Lara Croft sometimes. I swear, in many respects, the line between Uncharted and Tomb Raider is getting thinner and thinner.)
If you're looking for Uncharted 5, I think you're overselling yourself on this game, though it is as long as some of the earlier Uncharted games. What you have here is a few linear, action-filled chapters bookending a lengthy Chapter 4, where the game throws you out into India's Western Ghats to wander.
It's the same idea as Uncharted 4's Madagascar, but given a more space and more love. You have the Jeep which facilitates your traversal across the region, but otherwise, you're given a map with a few markers on it and told to find your way. There are a few puzzle areas needed to unlock the final wall to your progression. Outside of those objectives, there's patrols to defeat, tokens that unlock something special, and a host of various hidden treasures. It's a great area, giving the game some breathing room and actually feeling like exploration for the first time in the series' history.
I should say something about the graphics, because Naughty Dog is still killing the game. Lost Legacy is gorgeous and if you told me that someone sold their soul to make these graphics possible, I'd believe you. The screenshots in my part of the review are all native capture from my PlayStation 4 Pro, converted into JPGs for size. It's a beautiful, beautiful game, full of life and color. Naughty Dog has also seemingly improved the facial animation, as Chloe and Nadine are a delight to watch.
Lost Legacy is an Uncharted game through and through. If you liked Uncharted 4, you'll probably like this. If you didn't, Lost Legacy's leaner presentation may be a boon to you. Outside of the lengthy middle chapter, it doesn't really overstay its welcome. It gets in, expands on one of Uncharted 4's experiments, and gets out. If you've played Uncharted before, you've done the shooting, you've climbed the walls, you've ran through ancient structures as they fall down around you. It won't surprise you. The Lost Legacy isn't any different in that respect, but what it does, it does well. And that's good enough for me. If Chloe and Nadine are the future of the franchise, we're in for a great ride.
Uncharted: Lost Legacy stops short of being a novel sort of game. Here I am in the series' umpteenth rendering of a jungle, only it's now more gorgeous than ever before. I'm here with Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, a half-Indian woman and an African woman, respectively. It's hard not to marvel at their naturalistic, tense dynamic—something that feels real for two women who are from opposite ends of the world from one another.
It's hard not to marvel that this is an Uncharted game, arguably a franchise dominated by parading white men as the focus, now starring two women of color. Two minorities. Two people that should be better represented across all games to begin with.
But it's all undercut by the fact that the actresses portraying these two women of color are white. That's a hard thing to ignore in a game about two women; one of whom is coming to terms with her cultural identity, the other her family's troubled legacy. Their identities are central to their characters. And yet, Naughty Dog's tipping their hat to diversity in visuals and story alone, and not paying the same favor forth behind the scenes and in the performances where it honestly matters most. It's the same as casting Emma Stone as a partially-Asian woman in Cameron Crowe's Aloha. It shouldn't happen.
Nonetheless, this is the third time we're seeing Chloe in an Uncharted game, and the second we're meeting Nadine. For Lost Legacy, this is the first time they're both the star. Nadine's given redemption for being a villain in the prior game (even if she peaces out at the end). Chloe is given more depth as a character, previously acting as only someone to serve as the complete opposite of Elena in terms of love interests in Uncharted 2, and was just kind of around in Uncharted 3. She was notably absent from Uncharted 4: but no longer.
Uncharted 4 suffered from a lot of things. The weight of having a new writer behind the scenes. A retconned brother for the excuse of having Troy Baker in another game. It boasted open spaces that unfortunately felt empty and aimless, just wider corridors to slowly trot across with not much to discover in-between. The result was a game that was far too long with odd pacing to boot; it was the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull of Uncharted games, disappointing some long-time fans like myself as a result.
Uncharted: Lost Legacy at least recaptures some of that early Uncharted magic, but contains it into one central area and breathes new life into it. Chloe and Nadine don't always have a friendly dynamic—after all, Nadine's literally a contracted, paid companion—but their friendship grows and strains over the course of the game naturally. Nadine's in it for the paycheck. Chloe's in it for something greater.
At this point in the Uncharted series though, it's hard for all its bigger set pieces to not feel familiar. In Lost Legacy you do familiar things plucked right out of a frenetic action film. You shoot a lot of baddies. You run along a moving train. Things crumble beneath you. You climb impossibly large structures formerly hidden in plain sight. You loot treasure. You rope swing across deep crevices. The balanced pacing is key to Lost Legacy, reckoning more in common with Uncharted 2 and 3 than its slower successor.
Lost Legacy does a lot to establish its characters in its less-than-ten-hour adventure. We see Chloe and Nadine's relationship go through ups and downs. We see them gab in the car about how pleasant it is to be on such a quest alongside another woman for a change (thieving seems to be a male-dominated industry, as evidenced by past Uncharted games). Nadine talks about all the times she was underestimated and dealt with sexism when she was the head of Shoreline, a private military for hire. One man, Nadine tells Chloe, refused to work with her and wanted to speak to the "man in charge." How did she react? "I broke both his legs," says Nadine. Chloe laughs. #JustGirlyThings.
Sometimes the dialogue, like the exchange above, felt a little bit too on the nose. A little bit too "girls being girls, but look we're tough." Luckily, once Lost Legacy dips from its spacious open area (which, to note, feels far more focused and enjoyable to actually explore than the "open" spaces in Uncharted 4), those moments are fewer and less frustrating. Lost Legacy sheds the "look we're girls!" image, and blossoms into something grander.
Still, it's such a shame about the lack of diversity behind these characters. I can't help but feel like there's a bad taste in my mouth because of it, even if their performances are technically "good." It just could have been better, felt more empowering even, to have actual women of color voice and mocap these heroically flawed people.
Oh well. Maybe Naughty Dog will get it right next time. Maybe they'll learn that diverse virtual faces alone aren't enough. We need more voices too.
For help with Lost Legacy, head over to our Uncharted: The Lost Legacy guide hub.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy doesn't reinvent the series. It takes one idea, the open-world area from Uncharted 4, and expands on it. Otherwise, this is an Uncharted game from top to bottom, with all the action and adventure that entails. Nathan Drake and Sully may be gone, but Chloe Frazier and Nadine Ross are more than able to fill their shoes.