Uncharted: The Lost Legacy started out as a promised piece of single-player DLC for 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. In the year and some change since that game was released, this once smaller-scale project grew into the thing that it is now: an entirely separate game rivaling the scale of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. With some of the franchise’s support characters now leading the charge, The Lost Legacy manages to move beyond its humble DLC roots and become the sixth proper Uncharted game in the series. The key remaining question being whether or not it lives up to the quality of the other five.
First of all, it’s important to note that Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is priced at a more budget-friendly $40 US. And while the price will certainly drop over time, the game is positioned as a smaller adventure compared to Uncharted 4. Also, with only a year of development from start to finish, the end package manages to become a real achievement from the team at Naughty Dog in terms of ambition.
That said, don’t come into the game expecting a revolution in gameplay or storytelling. This is very much the Uncharted you know and love, and sticks very closely to the visuals and mechanics of Nathan Drake’s final adventure last year. The improved flexibility in climbing and movement that came with the jump to PS4 is intact in this game, and the combat feels just as sharp as it did in A Thief’s End. Graphically, The Lost Legacy is just as beautiful as its predecessor, and as such, manages to be one of the best looking games on the PS4. Any possible visual improvements over Uncharted 4 were too small to notice. I replayed a couple of chapters from A Thief’s End around the time I played The Lost Legacy and they look very similar, as expected.
In short, the fundamentals of the game are basically unchanged. If you liked Uncharted 4, then you will almost certainly like The Lost Legacy as well.
Shorter But Wider
The biggest improvement over Uncharted 4 and the rest of the franchise is the greatly improved flexibility in gameplay, specifically in the geographic width of certain sections. Where Uncharted 4 had its lauded Madagascar level that allowed for many different approaches and paths, The Lost Legacy doubles down on that idea in one of its chapters as well; though on a bigger scale. In this chapter, the player is given three key objectives in a wide area of India’s Western Ghats that they must complete in order to progress. These objectives all riff on the same idea in interesting ways, each emphasizing the three key Uncharted mechanics (climbing, shooting, and puzzle…ing) to varying degrees.
On top of that fresh, non-linear flavor is something entirely new to the franchise: meaningful, substantive side missions. This same broad level contains roughly a dozen collectibles unique to that area. Each of these collectibles has a wholly unique puzzle, trick, or challenge to overcome in order to obtain, and once they player has all of them, they’re awarded an in-game item that actually improves gameplay. While this concept is one of the oldest in the book for video games as a whole, it’s noteworthy in this instance because of Uncharted’s history of laser-focused linearity. Ultimately this level is the most unique and by far the most interesting section of the game, and it alone is worth the price of admission.
The B Team Becomes the A Team
Key to any Uncharted game are its narrative and characters – The Lost Legacy is no exception. Headlining this adventure are the two most important women to the series who are not named Elena. The playable character is Chloe Frazer, who has previously been a sidekick in Uncharted 2 and 3. The story focuses around her and her struggles with her family as well as her Indian heritage. Nadine Ross, one of the characters that antagonized the Drake brothers in Uncharted 4, is also along for the ride. Together these two characters – played by their returning actors Claudia Black and Laura Bailey – carry the short-but-sweet plot to the end.
While the gameplay of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is the best it’s ever been for the series, the story, unfortunately, is not. Which isn’t to say that it’s bad, though it certainly left something to be desired. The first half of the game is quite slow, and has almost no plot beyond the basic introduction of the characters and tiny scraps of backstory that we get through dialogue between Nadine and Chloe.
Once the wide-open Western Ghats level is over, however, the story starts to pick up momentum. An interesting return of a character spices up the story even more, though I won’t spoil it. All told, by the time the credits roll the story feels very true to the pulp fiction, treasure hunting spirit: get the treasure, defeat the baddie, and make some friends along the way. And while this game does take place after Uncharted 4, the series’ over-arching story is left untouched – whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, is up to the player.
The Burden of Expectations
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is in a rather unique position for the series that brings a lot of questions with it. Uncharted 4 was released just a little over a year ago, and was marketed (rightly so) as the end of Nathan Drake’s story. That game ended feeling like a very fitting send-off for the series, at least for the time being. A typical 3 hour single-player piece of downloadable content on top of that would do little to change that feeling of resolution. But The Lost Legacy grew to be much bigger than that, and took on a scope exceeding the typical purview of DLC as we’ve come to know it. Understandably, the game has now been presented as the next full Uncharted adventure, which is true in a sense, but the expectations of innovation that come with each new full game in a franchise could not possibly have been met in this game.
I hesitate to fault The Lost Legacy for this, but it feels very relevant to any discussion of its place in the franchise. From a more standalone perspective, this game is truly excellent, thanks to great gameplay, striking visuals, and strong performances. But as a game in the Uncharted series, it feels as though it has very little uniqueness going for it. Even its greatest moments are not new to the series – they’re old ideas, just executed better. On top of all this, the aspect of the game that should be the most unique among its series’ peers, the story, feels very very familiar, even among games in the franchise. So while none of what I’m describing should necessarily be considered a flaw, it’s important because series’ regulars and series’ newcomers will have different reactions to the game they’re playing – more so than would be expected.
A Quick Note On Performance
Given The Lost Legacy’s shortened development schedule, it’s not particularly surprising that it’s a little more rough around the edges in terms of technical performance. Occasionally, objects would have bizarre physics, a fact that was only emphasized when the player character would come in contact with them. And since all the cutscenes are in game and flow seamlessly together, if Chloe’s rifle strap is sitting a foot off her shoulder in game, for example, then it will be in the cutscene too. These kinds of things are clearly not game-breaking, but they certainly work against any sense of immersion. Where performance issues become more serious, however, was a certain segment at the end of the game in which the frame rate plummeted to single digits for several seconds at a time. It’s difficult to say whether this was a fluke or not, as nothing obvious in the game seemed to have triggered it, but it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on purchasing now.
In sum, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is bigger, better, and more impressive than it has any right to be for a $40 game developed in one year. At roughly 9 hours long, as well as access to Uncharted 4’s multiplayer and survival modes, the game is a phenomenal value. However, long-time fans of the series may find the lack of innovation to be somewhat disappointing. Technical issues also put a bit of a hamper on the experience, though in the long run, Naughty Dog’s commitment to quality shines through to give a great experience.