Last week, I was invited to join Scott Lowe (Senior Communications Manager, Naughty Dog) and a handful of fellow curious journalists at the Sony Headquarters in Sydney. We were lured by the promise of 45 minutes of hands-on gameplay with Naughty Dog’s upcoming title, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
I had dabbled with Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and thoroughly enjoyed Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, so was keen to see what Naughty Dog would deliver with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. The bait was successful. I didn’t even have to scale the façade of a building or solve any complex puzzles to get hands-on with the game.
But what were we grappling with- was it a fully-fledged game or some glorified DLC?
“When we [Naughty Dog] announced [in August 2015] we would be making our first every story DLC for Uncharted, we were thinking something along the lines of The Last of Us: Left Behind, which was a couple of hours of additional story that fit directly into the core narrative of the Last of Us,” explained Scott Lowe. “But we soon realised that the story we wanted to tell couldn’t really fit into a short DLC chapter. What we realised we were envisioning was a true Uncharted game.”
And with that, we jumped straight into the middle of The Lost Legacy.
Keen-eyed observers (and even those with Uncharted in their peripheral vision) will notice that media assets for The Lost Legacy have a discernible lack of iconic Uncharted lead, Nathan Drake.
“The challenge that we faced was that Uncharted 4 really was the conclusion of Nathan Drake’s journey,” explained Lowe. “We really felt that there was nothing we wanted to or really could say that hadn’t already been said in the core story. So we had to find a new story to tell, and we had to figure out whether we wanted to either create new characters or bring back existing ones.”
Ultimately, the decision was made to bring back Chloe Frazer (from Uncharted 2 and 3), and Nadine Ross (from Uncharted 4)- a friend, and a foe (respectively) of Nathan Drake.
Of all the available characters, why these two?
“Chloe is the picturesque Uncharted hero in many ways. She is a skilled treasure hunter, she can fight or talk her way out of any scenario, and she is a bit of a swindler- her moral compass is a bit blurry at times. She also values her own well-being over all else, and she is unafraid to cut her ties and leave a job if it gets too tough.”
In Lost Legacy, Chloe must enlist the help of Nadine to track down the Golden Tusk of Ganesh- an artefact from the ancient Indian Empire of Hoysala. Nadine is the former head of Shoreline (a mercenary company from which she was ousted following the events of Uncharted 4) and is desperate to regain control of the company. In Uncharted 4, she proved to be both a threat to Nathan Drake both physically and intellectually.
Both women had significant roles in the previous games, but their personalities and histories were never fully explored. Bringing back Chloe and Nadine provides players with familiar faces, while also giving Naughty Dog enough scope to play with characterization, in-game history and inter-character dynamic. It’s a clever move.
At this hands-on preview, we were thrown straight into the Western Ghats level.
“The Western Ghats builds upon the wide linear design philosophy we developed in Uncharted 2 and fully realized in Uncharted 4 with the Madagascar level,” explained Lowe. “This is the largest playable environment we have ever created in the course of the studio’s 30+ years, so we are pretty excited about it. The 4×4 is back to help navigate this massive, sprawling environment.” He warned us that traversing the environment by foot would not be advisable given that we only have 45 minutes with the game. Honestly, it looks so stunning that I could have spent 45 minutes walking around looking at the scenery.
“This vast region is filled with puzzles, combat encounters, discoverable areas and treasures. A space this large provides players total freedom to do what they like in any order.”
“Lost Legacy has a greater emphasis on puzzles [than previous Uncharted games]. We have larger scale puzzles in Hoysala fortresses, but also smaller scale puzzles that are part of the moment to moment exploration,” explained Lowe. “We have created really emergent gameplay opportunities but also this sense of adventure and scale.”
Within the time frame, I was able to complete a variety of puzzles including a circular sliding puzzle that had my neurons firing and another that required speedy terrain traversal using grappling hooks. Naughty Dog really has mastered the art of designing puzzles that are difficult enough to make you feel smart or skilled, without making you feel frustrated.
Throughout these puzzles, especially those that required climbing and grappling, it became clear that Chloe Frazer was essentially a female reskin of Nathan Drake. Ultimately, I felt that this was probably better than having a protagonist with a fundamentally different playstyle or skillset to Nathan Drake, as familiarity of gameplay and ease of environmental traversal is crucial to the Uncharted experience.
Chloe does, however, bring a new skill to the franchise- lockpicking. This makes sense given that she is a master thief. Using the lockpicking ability, players are able to unlock supply crates that are scattered throughout the game. These give players access to new weapons, explosives, and other gear.
Lockpicking requires players to move the left joystick slowly and methodically until a vibration and click can be heard. It is rather simplistic but is ultimately the best representation of lockpicking that could be achieved within the constraints of the game. It is also immensely stressful to execute while in combat.
“There are several spots in the environment where you will encounter Asav’s (the antagonist of Lost Legacy) men,” warned Lowe. “You can go in gun blazing, use stealth, or skip it entirely if you so choose.”
As an unplayable character, much of Nadine’s worth comes from her usefulness in combat. “She is designed to be a helpful ally. We want you to feel like she is contributing and realistic and that you and she are in sync.”
Nadine proved to be one of the more useful AI combat partners I’ve ever come across. She would take cover, perform stealthy takedowns, and shoot enemies rather accurately. She operated neither independently nor as an attachment.
Naughty Dog is so far delivering everything I had hoped for with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It is a worthy successor to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End- maintaining the high-quality visuals, sense of scale, and gameplay mechanics. The story is completely new, but true to the Uncharted ethos- entirely fictional and influenced by historical elements of the regions visited. The Lost Legacy is to Uncharted 4, what Blood and Wine is to The Witcher 3. It is the additional content you so desperately craved, but were afraid would ruin the original experience. Fear not, Naughty Dog has delivered more of the same. And it’s fantastic.