Oh, how we already miss Nathan Drake—a roguish type indeed, who leapt, shot and puzzle-solved through his final adventure last year in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End after nearly a decade of damn-near perfect games from developer Naughty Dog (also known for The Last of Us and the Jak series). How sweet it was, then, to hear of The Lost Legacy, a one-time DLC addition that ballooned into full-on standalone adventure starring Chloe Fraser, Drake's former lover, cohort and general badass from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 4's Nadine Ross.
When we join Chloe, she's in India searching for the legendary Tusk of Ganesh. Whether this is for money, power or some combo of both is unclear, but she's hired Nadine to act as a bodyguard (of sorts; Chloe can handle herself). We're pleased to report The Lost Legacy stands up as an all-around Uncharted experience, it just doesn't quite focus enough on the best bits of the series as to be the perfect sendoff.
First things first, Chloe might just be better than Drake. We know, we know—them's fightin' words, and our hero even says it herself: "He's charming in his own way." But whereas the beloved Nate definitely came from small beginnings (boom—Francis Drake jokes), he seems to have mostly kept the past in the past. Chloe, however, feels more human and relatable. Delving into her backstory is a quite satisfying ending to the larger Uncharted lore as many a gamer felt this loose end was an oversight right around the time the credits for A Thief's End rolled.
Turns out her dad was an archaeologist who sent her and her mother to Australia after his obsession with that selfsame Tusk of Ganesh made things “unsafe” for them. This sparked a similar obsession in Chloe, though through cleverly inserted cut-scenes and dialogue between our hero and her partner, it becomes clear that there’s darkness underneath her motives. Is it a “Screw you, dad!” kind of thing? Or is it some misguided attempt to complete his work as a tribute? Either way, it sounds awfully Lara Croft-y (and is), but is somehow far better. Even with developer Crystal Dynamics’ recent forays into Tomb Raider stewardship, and the long-overdue fleshing out of the Croft narrative, Chloe Fraser remains a far more multidimensional character. We know she has trust issues, generally looks out only for herself and fears vulnerability, expertly deflecting it with goofy jokes and snide remarks. Voice actor Claudia Black (also known for Gears of War ) continues her excellent performance from previous games, her slightly gravely timbre full of natural choices and nuanced, emotional delivery.
Still, the organic progression of the writing in Lost Legacy helps us to understand her past motives (such as growing tired of Drake's shit and defecting to the side of a Russian warlord for survival's sake). At her heart, however, she is good. Mostly. Ditto for Nadine, whom we only saw as hapless semi-villain in Uncharted 4, but who now gives us a clearer idea of why she worked with the unbearable Rafe Adler and why she's a bit more complex than we assumed. For her part, she screwed up her birthright, the merc company Shoreline, and signed on with Chloe to regain a foothold. She cares, she says, "because it happened on my watch." Laura Bailey (who rose to prominence in the VO game as Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite) brings a spot-on South African accent to bear as the military-inspired character, all at once tough and capable but withdrawn while licking the wounds of failure.
If this sounds heady or complicated or even just plain awesome for a video game, that's because it is. Naughty Dog has long straddled the fence between interactive game and cinematic-narrative tour-de-force; Indiana Jones this isn't, but why wouldn't one want to interact with a CGI-movie caliber story and gaming experience? Further, that we are given women characters who aren't represented as sexual objects or in need of male saviors is excellent. Oh sure, strong female leads have been an Uncharted staple, but it still bears repeating, especially since Naughty Dog never leans too heavily on it as a gimmick, choosing instead to simply make them awesome characters, gender irrelevant.
But no game is ever flawless (not counting Uncharted 2 , which pretty much is), and it seems that new-to-the-series directors Shaun Escayg and Kurt Margenau may have leaned too hard into elements from previous games that weren’t quite as exciting. It was much-ballyhoed that Lost Legacy would feature the largest open world Naughty Dog has ever created, and this is technically true. The downside, however, comes from the realization that there really isn’t that much to do there. Outside of a side quest that takes one all over the map and a few puzzles that rank between simple to full-on difficult, it’s mostly an excuse to reveal large amounts of expositional dialogue. For Uncharted veterans, this is forgivable or even welcomed; for newcomers, however, it’ll mostly feel like lots of driving interspersed with a few easy firefights with the bad guys. They belong to Asav, some kind of rebel who spearheaded a war in India and a fine villain because he’s, like, spooky and stuff, but an easy representative of the number one issue that’s plagued Uncharted all along: There’s not a whole mess of variety between stories and villains.
Like its forebears, Lost Legacy falls under the loop of "hero goes here, soles puzzle, dimensionless evil guy tries to stop them, gunfights ensue." It's fun, though, dammit! And hell, if Zelda can churn out the same basic game for three decades, this should be OK, too. It's best to just not think about it too much, because we're talking about gorgeous games with incredibly over-the-top set pieces that play well.
Uncharted is the memory-maker, the long-standing top of the heap when it comes to blurring the line between game and film. If nothing else, we get a closer look at characters that previously lived on the periphery of the fiction and never quite got the chance to shine. At its best, Lost Legacy reminds us why we fell in love with the series in the first place; at it's worst, it is still a blast. If this truly is the end for Naughty Dog's world of Nathan Drake, they'll go out on top with industry-defining writing and environment-building. Either way, we're just glad to see Chloe finally had her day in the sun and can't believe it took this long.
Rated M (Did we just kill 300 people?!)