The latest “Uncharted” game is a thrilling blockbuster set in an exotic place. It’s full of explosions and adventure and long lost civilizations. Sound familiar?
Indeed, “Uncharted: The Lost Legacy” sounds an awful lot like every previous “Uncharted” game. What that description doesn’t tell you is how sharply executed and delightfully concise “The Lost Legacy” is. It’s a short story set in the “Uncharted” universe.
It turns out that the short story format is a fantastic way to extend the otherwise concluded “Uncharted” series.
In 'Uncharted: The Lost Legacy,' you play as Chloe Frazer -- a returning character from the main 'Uncharted' games. She's teaming up with Nadine Ross, from 'Uncharted 4,' in search of an artifact known as the 'Tusk of Ganesh.'
Chloe isn't just a stand-in for series star Nathan Drake. She's appeared in previous 'Uncharted' games, and this time the game's story focuses on her, her background, her father, and her relationship with Nadine. The two aren't necessarily 'friends' in the traditional sense; Chloe's hired Nadine for her mercenary skills in search of the Tusk of Ganesh.
Where 'The Lost Legacy' hooked me narratively was in the back-and-forth between Nadine and Chloe. Their friendship evolves slowly throughout the game, literally forged in gunfights and death-defying leaps.
Previous 'Uncharted' games starred Nathan Drake, a dashing, snarky, Zack Morris type. Many people love Nathan Drake, but I am not one of those people. Chloe and Nadine are much more interesting to me as characters.
Chloe, for instance, had a father who was in search of the artifact that she is now on the hunt for; Nadine used to work with the story's main antagonist. Though Chloe bills herself as a 'common thief,' she's clearly got some emotional attachment to the artifact she's after. Nadine, meanwhile, is seemingly running from a past that she can't escape.
How this plays out in their ongoing conversations -- not in expository 'cutscenes,' but while driving or walking around -- is what kept me hooked in to 'The Lost Legacy.'
Those are some pretty good-looking elephants, right? There are endless moments like this, where I caught something that just looked almost too impressive. These elephants, for instance, are just too realistic. It kinda freaks me out, honestly. Most players won't even notice! Why pay so much attention to something so small?
The strength of the 'Uncharted' series is in its developer's attention to detail. From character animation to off-hand dialogue to the hundreds of ornately detailed environments scattered across the franchise, Naughty Dog lavishes the 'Uncharted' series with attention. And each game is more impressive than the last. 'The Lost Legacy' continues this...legacy. (Sorry!)
For example: Chloe carefully pushes aside clothes on a clothesline while she walks past. The clothes don't flop over in a solid block, and Chloe puts up her arm to carefully move the clothes that are in her way. It looks simple, but it takes a tremendous amount of work to make that happen. It's also the kind of small detail that most players won't notice was done expertly, though they'd certainly notice if it were done poorly.
Outside of the first 'Uncharted' game, the main series entries were lengthy affairs. 'Uncharted: The Lost Legacy' bests them all in its concision and pacing.
Without a doubt, 'The Lost Legacy' is the best entry in the 'Uncharted' series to date.
-It's got a killer opening (that I won't spoil here),
-It immediately gets you into an open-ended, gorgeous world that's constantly fun and interesting to interact with.
-It feels the best, in terms of character control, of any game in the series. Sneaking around enemies is especially robust.
-It comes with zero baggage. If you don't know anything about previous 'Uncharted' games, that's fine. It's a perfect one-off adventure.
I never found myself bored or frustrated with 'The Lost Legacy.' If anything, I had to continually remind myself to move forward instead of staring at the outrageously beautiful world Naughty Dog built.
'The Lost Legacy' takes place in the 'Western Ghats,' a real mountain range in India. It's a lush region that -- whether accurate or not -- is depicted beautifully in 'The Lost Legacy.'
'The Lost Legacy' is full of dense jungle, rapidly-flowing rivers, muddy hills, and long-forgotten structures. The comically impressive graphical quality of the game -- over and over and over again -- is almost overwhelming. 'The Lost Legacy' basically looks like nothing else on a game console, perhaps excepting the similarly gorgeous 'Horizon Zero Dawn' and the previous 'Uncharted' game.
You may recall that 'The Lost Legacy' was announced by Sony as an expansion to 'Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.' It was later converted into a standalone project, albeit a smaller project than a full-on sequel. Sometimes, moves like this aren't justified in the end project. Happily, in the case of 'Uncharted: The Lost Legacy,' it beyond delivers as a standalone game.
Though 'The Lost Legacy' is smaller in overall length, its concision is a tremendous strength. There's almost no fat in it -- a compliment I can't extend to the last few 'Uncharted' entries.
More than anything else, 'The Lost Legacy' comes across as a way for the 'Uncharted' series to keep moving forward without Nathan Drake.